Written for organ and soprano. Commissioned for Ruud Huijbregts.
Bright Lights is inspired by the story of St. Catherine of Alexandria, who as chaste and devoted young Christian woman was persecuted and put to death under the reign of Roman emperor Maxentius (306-312). She was exposed to numerous horrors, including imprisonment, starvation and torture. Remarkably, when sentenced to death by a spiked breaking wheel, the awful device shattered upon her touch. As last resort, she was to be beheaded. Upon execution, a milk-like substance flowed from her neck. St. Catherine is remember as a martyr ever since.
Sharp contrasts characterize Bright Lights. Transitoriness is put against the everlasting, conflict against peace, grief against joy. The incredible main organ of the St. Cathirine church is the perfect medium to express all these extremities to the fullest. After a quiet, heavenly and innocent start, conflict kicks in. Constantly interrupted by mourning but hopeful episodes, Catherine witnesses the various horrors. After her decapitation, a bright musical light appears, whereafter the music calms down, as if starting from the beginning again. A voice from high and far appears, bringing a short but glorious message about Catherine. The apotheosis is completed.
Autumn Colours is a trio for clarinet, cello and piano telling an interlaced story. On the one hand, this piece is inspired by the music and life of German composer and conductor Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) and on the other hand, this piece is inspired by the woodblock prints by Japanese painter Ogata Gekkou (1859-1920). Both artists are formal contemporaries who yet lived in completely different worlds. Now they finally meet in a single (musical) work of art.
In the first half of 2021, I was involved in a mini festival organized by the Chimaera Trio: Meervoudig Mahler (‘’Multiple Mahler’’). To this festival, a project was connected in which a few composers got assigned to write a work related to Mahler. While this was in the back of my mind, on 13th July I visited the Sieboldhuis in Leiden, which is an incredible museum dedicated to Japan. It held an exhibition about the Meiji Art of Ogata Gekkou. His prints made such a big impression on me that I purchased the art catalogue and took it with me on my summer travels. In the catalogue, I often revisited the 1896 print Autumn Colours at Takinogawa. This particular triptych not only inspired me to create the blueprint for a musical image as now presented in the score before you, but especially inspired me to design everything in triptych-like structures. One could say there are up to three triptychs in this work.
The first one is Ogata’s literal triptych: Autumn Colours at Takinogawa. Woodblock printing is a technical story, but what especially interests me is that all prints are reproducible and can be subject to reissuing. The result is that more than one copy of Autumn Colours at Takinogawa exists and that each copy differs in colouring. That’s absolutely wonderful! Using independent instrumental parts with buffered timecodes, the musical structuring of Autumn Colours is similar to the woodblock printing process, seeing that in each performance the performer ‘’prints’’ a separate layer of music which complements with the other layers into a single audible image. The second triptych is about Mahler, as his life could be divided into three periods: early, middle and late. Autumn Colours incorporates a melody or motive from each period and distributes them over the three instruments. Using three musical instruments is in itself already a triptych reference. The careful listener/reader could possibly discover another ‘’secret’’ triptych in the piece.