Interview ‘Intermezzo’ about composing

Questions from ‘Intermezzo’ about composing:
1. What and where do/did you study? When did you graduate?
I studied classical piano at the Hilversums Conservatorium with Frans van Dalen and Fania Chapiro. I graduated in 1989. I started to compose after my study. It started writing pieces for piano students, because sometimes I couldn’t find suitable pieces for beginners and intermediate level. Gradually I started to write larger works. I learned to compose by studying and playing works of great composers. In the beginning I wrote in a more Romantic style. The very first piece I wrote in a more atonal style was selected to be performed in Paradiso at Gaudeamus Muziekweek in 2006. I decided to study composition after I won the first prize at Calefax Composers Contest in 2009. I studied a few years with composer Jeff Hamburg.
2. A composition of yours has been recently published by EMA , could you tell us something about this piece? For example: Why did you write this piece? What is it about? What instrument(s) did you write for and why?
Two compositions of mine have been published by EMA: Etude Furioso and Waves.
Etude Furioso I wrote because a piano collegue of mine, Janece Milos, was gathering etudes for her advanced students. Then Daan from EMA asked composers to write etudes to be gathered in a book. I decided to contribute with this etude. Maybe I will write more etudes in future. I wrote Waves because there are few passionate pieces for three pianists at one piano. I love to write pieces for students that sound much more complicated than they really are. Of course the rhythms of Waves are not easy, but it can be memorized quite well.
Waves was written with a nod to composer Simenon ten Holt, whose famous “Canto Ostinato” has mesmerized many musicians and listeners. Waves is much easier and shorter than the wonderful piece by Ten Holt, bit it poses its own rhythmical challenges.
3. Are there works by other composers that seriously impressed you or influenced your work? Composing is like (a spiritual path in) life: you are always looking further.. just repeating yourself is no real development. When I started to compose, I was influenced by the classical composers like Bach and Mozart. Later I tried to write in a more Romantic style, like Liszt and Chopin. Then I started to research atonal music. Right now I am most influenced by all kinds of world music: Syrian, Spanish, African (Zulu). In 2013 I won the first prize in a Spanish competition (Hispa Song) with a composition based on an old Spanish strophic text about a bull fighter who is killed by the bull. Perhaps there is also a little Albeniz and Granados in my work.
4. When did you start composing? Do you remember what you wrote back then?
I seriously started composing with a Prelude and a Fugue, a little bit in the style of Bach. I just wanted to “proof” that I understood the rules of composition. Like Mondriaan started to paint real trees, before he continued making cubes. ;-) After that I wrote a Piano Trio in classical style (“Tango Trio” also this trio is already influenced by world music: Argentinian Tango). It was even published by Broekmans & van Poppel and I was very proud of that. My first published work! :-)
But when I go back further: as a child, about 8 years old, I was already correcting scores of “other” ;-) composers.. it alway stroke me when I read and played something that didn’t match with my ears.. I started correcting the scores on “wrong” notes with a pencil. So the character of the composer was already there! I only didn’t know that I could also write my own music. This idea popped up later.
5. Is there anything else you’d like to share in Intermezzo?
For me composing is like meditation: when I compose, I forget everything around me: I am in flow. For me it is one of the greatest things to do. I feel very grateful having the chance of doing this.

You can hear my compositions at: www.heleenverleur.org
When you click: ‘composities’ or ‘composities voor iedereen vanaf 5 jaar’ of ‘piano trios’ you can hear my pieces, also the pieces I mentioned above.

Intermezzo is a publication of Edition MatchingArts.