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53 Studies on
Chopin Études 1
Konstantin Scherbakov (piano)
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Jacob Ter VELDHUIS (b. 1951) Complete Solo Piano Music
Saudade (2012) [5:55]
Klarsichtdise Mozartkugeln (2008) [1:03]
Sound (2012) [1:06]
Merry Xmas (1997) [6:05]
Postnuclear Winterscenario No.1 (1991) [10:37]
Where the Heart is (1996) [11:18]
Toccata (1988) [12:06]
Honky Tonk Blues (1999) [2:01]
Views from a Dutch Train (1992) [10:23]*
The Body of your Dreams (2003) [8:40]
Off & On Situation Blues (1999) [1:53]
Piano Concerto No. 2 ‘Sky Falling’ (2009) [18:29]**
Pianoboek 1 (1979) [10:15]
Pianoboek 2 (1986) [19:56]
Intervallen (12 Studies for Piano) (1988) [12:32]
Jeroen van Veen (piano), *with Sandra van Veen (piano)
Ronald Brautigam (piano)**
Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic/Thierry Fischer**
rec. 2010, 2012, 2013, Van Veen Productions (Studio 1) & Concertgebouw Amsterdam (Concerto). BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94873 [71:13 + 61:18]
Jacob Ter Velduis, widely known as Jacob TV, has been called “the Andy Warhol of new music”, and with his reputation for hard-hitting anti-war and anti-religious fundamentalist stances and political commentaries, he is an artist to look out for. This release is a collaborative effort with pianist Jeroen van Veen, who has been performing Jacob’s music since 2001. His style can be said to be a mixture of minimalism, jazz, classical and electronic sampling effects which can achieve striking and memorable results.
The gentle Saudade which opens CD 1 is however representative of a number of more reflective pieces in this collection, described as expressing “a deep emotional state of longing”. More animated is the little Klarsichtdise Mozartkugeln written for a piano completion, and with nowhere to hide in its transparency of line it is perfect for the purpose. Sound takes the voice of John Cage, the piano tracing the rhythms of a few brief and good humoured statements, the text of with is printed in the booklet. Merry Xmas is a slow, sparse piece with little in the way of commentary from the booklet, while Postnuclear Winterscenario No.1 is more expectedly bleak. This is a piece which has taken on a life of its own in various arrangements, but all with “the same mood in common: speechlessness about war and devastation,” a speechlessness which at times shares some affinity with the soundworlds of Morton Feldman.
Where the Heart is introduces a “huge hammer” as part of the equipment required, but this is only dropped on the floor at the end of the work, so expectations of Mahlerian drama are dashed, with not even the sound of the dropped tool to look forward to at the end. This is however a good piece, with a grand build-up and some potent minimalist features. Toccata is a superb work, responding to sounds of nature and exploring resonance through increasingly intense pointillist activity, while Honky Tonk Blues is a terrific funky workout. Views from a Dutch Train also kicks off with groovy rhythms, the antiphony of two pianos adding an exciting extra dimension and representing the variety and repetitions of view between left and right windows.
The Body of your Dreams introduces one of Jacob TV’s signature techniques, following the rhythms and moods of voices edited onto tape. In this case these are from a “cheesy advertisement for a weight-loss product.” Think of something like Steve Reich’s Different Trains, but with added drum effects and layering and treatment of the voices, integrating them in different ways, adding humorous touches and subtly treated rock-music aspects. The tight co-ordination between recorded sounds and piano is of demonstration quality. Off & On Situation Blues concludes CD 1 in a comparable but more compact way, in this case using voice samples from “cocaine-addicted prostitutes who were guests on a Jerry Springer show.”
CD 2 brings us work with full orchestra, the Piano Concerto No. 2 ‘Sky Falling’. The title is a metaphor for the uncertainties of life today, from financial crises to war. It also describes Jacob’s response to Ronald Brautigam’s performances of Mozart: “to me it was as if the sky had opened.” The composer describes his use of the orchestra as neo-classical, and the work is a mixture of Americanisms and features which approach drama, but always undercut themselves through a kind of cinematic bonhomie. This eclectic push-pull results in effective and highly approachable music but a rather unusual concerto. We’re all for unusual here, and this is a work with plenty of substance both overt and hidden.
Pianoboek 1 and Pianoboek 2 are both rich sources of different styles, from repetitive to romantically expressive, with some ‘new objectivity’ in between. These are all fairly brief, though many generate more interest than if they were merely piano studies. They would of course easily fulfil this function for anyone seeking to explore beyond the usual fare. The final work, Intervallen is subtitled ’12 studies for piano based on 12 intervals’. These are miniatures in a similar vein to Bartók’s Mikrokosmos and, aimed at amateur pianists, are another useful resource with some nice musical twists to keep any student interested.
Supported by OxArt, a society with an interest in the arts as a communicative language, this is a very fine production with Jeroen van Veen’s usual high standard of performance and recording. Jacob TV’s music has a Dutch flavour, but also manages to escape parochial greyness through its breadth of influence and through its creator’s authenticity and unpretentious directness. This is a collection which will reward anyone prepared to seek it out.