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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.

Bernard Duerksen

On the 10th of July I spoke about the masterclass of Bernard Duerksen. Bernard began playing the piano by ear at 5. His early training included studies with Hilda Reimer, followed by instruction from pianists Peter Katin, Jane Coop, Robin Wood, John-Paul Bracey, and composers Peter-Paul Koprowski and Gerhard Wuensch. He has been actively teaching and adjudicating for 31 years. His students are frequent prize winners in festivals.

I try to to highlight some expressions or things he said during the masterclass:

- Bernard compared the beginning of ‘Ecossaise’ from Hummel as if someone throws a stone into the water: big splash. This is a very vivid picture!
- You choose for your fingers, don’t let your fingers choose for you!
- A second time something must always sound different
- Two or more notes in a row don’t have the same loudness: knock it off!
- A musician must look ahead while you are here! Like a pilot in an aeroplane. A performer has to be ahead.
- Play slow, think fast.. look where you are going!
- Edison didn’t invent the lightbulb at once.. it took him some time. You don’t have to do everything perfect at once, either.. as long as you are doing your best.
- Minuet: don’t dance in boots but in slippers. If you do to much rubato in a Minuet, the dancers will fire you!
- Practise that everything is alright before you start. No rush.
- Soft tone is less and slower movement, loud tone is bigger and faster movement of your fingers
- Overdo: if you want your right hand to sound loud, play it two times louder than necessary..
- Dynamics: don’t only think dynamics, but DO them
- Wild Rider/Schumann: rider has to been thrown from the horse. Roller coster. Don’t be polite!
- Little Waltz/Gurlitt: solo instrument with orchestra
- Practise your skills

Bernard Duerksen

Bernard Duerksen

Masterclass Bernard Duerksen

On Sunday 9th of July the Canadian concertpianist Bernard Duerksen gave a beautiful recital at Bol & Sanders. In the afternoon there were masterclasses to students of Janece Milos, Jana Neplechovitsj and Heleen Verleur. In the next days I will try to tell more about the masterclasses. Bernard Duerksen is not a 100% Suzuki teacher, but his way of teaching has lots in common with Suzuki. In fact: I don’t see a real difference. Bernard also received Suzuki lessons as a student.

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Group lesson & recital

Yesterday a wonderful Suzuki grouplesson of book 1 and 2 took place at the pianoshop of Bol & Sanders at the Ceintuurbaan in Amsterdam. 16 children were playing with lots of enthousiasm pieces from book 2 and 1. They were all students of Suzuki pianoteachers Jana Neplechovits, Janece Milos and Heleen Verleur. While book 2 children were performing, book 1 children did a Quiz that Heleen had made for this occasion. Five winners got a prize and the others a consolation prize (Chinese fortune coockies).
Here are some photos and the Quiz.

At the end of the lesson the Canadian concertpianist Bernard Duerksen gave a beautiful mini recital with works of Mozart, Rachmaninov, Liszt and Chopin. The children were impressed by the sound that came out of his grandpiano.
Later in the afternoon Bernard Duerksen gave masterclasses to our students. I will tell more about that in a following message.

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List of pieces performed by students

List of pieces performed by students

Quiz page 1

Quiz page 1

Quiz page 2

Quiz page 2

Amsterdam Piano Day 2017

On the 10th of June there was a wonderful international Piano Suzuki Day in Amsterdam, with special guests Jenny McMillan from Cambridge and Sharon Kavlo from Oslo teaching our students, as also Huub de Leeuw from Utrecht. This day was organized by Suzuki teachers Jana Neplechovitsj and Janece Milos. On different locations in Amsterdam Centre, also in my own homestudio with Jenny, and the final concert in the Vierwindenhuis. After that delicious food at Me Naam Naan in the Koningsstraat.

Jenny teaching

Jenny teaching in my studio

Jenny teaching

Jenny teaching Annelinde

With my student David

With my student David

With a sunflower..

With a sunflower..

Sharon teaching

Sharon teaching Suzuki Jeopardy

Sharon with 'composers' money

Sharon with ‘composers’ money

Sharon doing a very difficult puzzle..

Sharon doing a very difficult puzzle..

Puzzle done! (also by Jana)

Puzzle done! (also by Jana)

Janece during a wonderful group lesson

Janece during a wonderful group lesson

Made by Janece

Made by Janece

Location Piano Day

Location Piano Day

Dinner with collegues

Dinner with collegues at Me Nam Naan

Overcoming stage fright – TED talk

This is a very interesting topic by a professional pianist who once suffered stage fright: Linda Apple Monson.
I think she is American, but in her behaviour she’s more Spanish or from another South-European country.. ;-)
But anyway, I like what she says and she’s right: it’s not about the person performing, it’s about the music.
If you deeply agree with this (and very well prepared) the result will be that you are not frightened anymore.
I take note of this.

TED talk on Youtube/Linda Apple Monson

Linda Apple Monson

Linda Apple Monson

Workshop & concert for Jan

Presentation of 'Route 65' for Jan

Presentation of ‘Route 65′ for Jan

This is what Rineke Verbrugge (University Groningen) wrote about this event:

Friday afternoon and evening, I had the privilige of participating in the farewell event for Jan van Eijck, including very diverse and fascinating lectures (see Workshop ).

There was also a surprise part about which Jan knew nothing in advance. Yanjing Wang and two other former PhD students of Jan presented the secretly prepared Festschrift for Jan (see Festschrift ). Also, a surprise concert took place. Heleen Verleur is Jan’s wife *and* a professional pianist and composer, and she had designed a lively program for the concert, including pieces for piano and clarinet, piano solo, piano and 1 cello, and finally piano and 2 cellos.

Heleen composed a wonderful ‘wink to Piazzolla’, the “Milonga for three”, and for this occasion she had arranged it for two cellos and piano so that Hans van Ditmarsch and I could join her in the concert. Here you can listen to the original version for violin, cello and piano: Milonga for three

The greatest experience of the day for me was the rehearsal in secret, at noon, for half an hour before the workshop attendees started dropping in. All of us had practiced individually and Hans van Ditmarsch and I had even tried a Skype rehearsal for the two cello parts, between Nancy and Groningen. But playing the piece ‘for real’, with the composer, was something wonderful! She had a great piece of advice for me: for the difficult rhythm, don’t try to count like “óne-and-two / ánd-three-eh / fóur-eh”, but silently say “ananas, ananas, kiwi”. This worked like a charm, and after the concert, some audience members said that they couldn’t believe that we had only rehearsed together for half an hour :-)

Rineke practises by Skype

Rineke practises by Skype

One of the slides

One of the slides used by Rineke during her talk

Performing 'Route 65' with clarinet player Michel Marang

Performing ‘Route 65′ with the wonderful clarinet player Michel Marang

Jans talk

Jans talk