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CRAENS, Alain

Alain CRAENS was born on 17 May 1957 in Kapellen. He showed a predilection for music early on, and took his higher secondary education at the Arts High School in Antwerp. He later continued his studies at the Royal Flemish Conservatory in the same city. There he studied oboe, English horn, chamber music, analysis and form (with August Verbesselt), as well as harmony and composition (with Willem Kersters). He earned his diplomas in fugue and counterpoint with Rafaël D'Haene at the Brussels Conservatory. Craens is now himself on staff as a composition teacher at the Antwerp Conservatory, giving classes in harmony, counterpoint and fugue. He is also the artistic director of the conservatory. As a performer, he was the oboe solo for seven years with the orchestra of the Flemish Chamber Opera, and also with the Flemish chamber orchestra, with which he has played numerous concerts both in Belgium and abroad. He has composed many works for this chamber orchestra. He has received further commissions from the Flanders Festival, the Beethoven Academie and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of Flanders. In 1985, his composition Divertimento for oboe, clarinet and bassoon won the Albert de Vleeshouwer Prize. The two piano compositions, Zoals het klokje thuis tikt (As the Clock Ticks at Home) and Valkenjacht (Falcon Hunting) each won the Cantabile Prize for composition (respectively in 1989 and 1991). In 1991, he also wrote the obligatory work for brass instruments and piano for the Pro Civitate National Music Competition.

WORKS
The music of Alain Craens is difficult to categorise, being sometimes tonal and sometimes atonal or 'freely tonal'. His music often shows characteristics of impressionism, minimal music or jazz. It is above all intended to be accessible. After the complexities of modernism, in which experimentation took the central place, Craens believes that it is time to rebuild to a normal relationship with the public. Music should be allowed simply to be 'beautiful' again, without all kinds of innovative ulterior motives. In order to achieve this, he has returned to the traditional triad which, however, he does not approach functionally or tonally. One sometimes has the impression that certain tonalities or tonal centres are suggested, but this is not Craens' intention: he works with coincidental, consonant encounters between sounds and sets out to work towards points of support. In this way, he means to build a bridge between his own individual expression and the audience.

His training as an oboist has inspired Craens to write a great deal of chamber-music works in which his own instrument plays a central role. His first important work is the Divertimento for oboe, clarinet and bassoon, written in 1985. Craens often later transcribes his works for a different scoring; here, for example, a later version is for clarinet, basset horn and bass clarinet. The composition has a very classical structure (fast-slow-fast) and uses various motifs that are to be repeated and developed. The two main motifs consist of two intervals (a minor second and a major third) which appear in different forms. Two important characteristics of Craens' compositions are evident here. The first of these is his talent for writing beautiful, lyrical melodies such as are heard in the slow second movement of this work. The second is the use of the kind of complex rhythms found in the quicker outer movements, a technique found in many of his allegro movements.

Both of these characteristics are also found in the Kindersuite voor Strijkers (Children's Suite for Strings), which Craens wrote in 1992 in a commission for the Flemish Chamber Orchestra. The work consists of two movements. In the first movement, Kinderspel (Child's Play), the composer conjures up the ever-changing world of the child by employing a simple binary metre, highlighted with contrasts through the use of syncopations and unexpected accents. This movement is linked to the next, Droom (Dream), which is characterised by a simple, lyrical melody. The motifs in this movement are supported by a simple four-note ostinato. Despite the great melodic simplicity, Craens achieves a wide range of colours in this work by combining different string-playing techniques, such as pizzicato and harmonics.

Craens' predilection for contrasts is again evident in Interlude to the Sea for oboe, bassoon and piano, a composition commissioned by the Flanders Festival in 1994. The work begins slowly and melodiously with rippling triplet motifs in the piano, a clear reference to the title of the work. In this slow passage, the freely worked-out dialogue between the oboe and the bassoon is placed in the foreground. Soon enough, however, this gives way to rhythmic accents and quicker movement, complemented by jazzy rhythms in the piano. At the climax of the work, the oboe, bassoon and piano play homorhythmically in short, repeated and accentuated rhythms. After this climax, the final section of the work, once again slower, is announced by a broad rallentando.

As already noted, Craens' career as an oboist led to the creation of a number of chamber-music works featuring his instrument. He does, however, show an interest in the other wind instruments, to which he often gives solo roles in his orchestral works. An example of this can be heard in his Dream for chamber orchestra. The work begins with a three-minute flute solo, in which the material for the rest of the work is presented. The work has an impressionistic quality, partly through the individual treatment of the wind instruments. Only in the quick movements do they play together, sometimes accompanied by strings. Another example is November Musi c, a concerto for flute, harp and orchestra. The source of inspiration for this concerto was the birth of the composer's youngest daughter. The letters of her name symbolically provide the three main notes ( a-flat - c - d ) which function as the building blocks of the composition. The concerto consists of two contrasting movements. In the first movement, which is built on melody, the dialogue between the flute and the harp is central. In contrast to the second movement, in which rhythm is the driving force, the first movement is not highly metrical.

SELECTIVE LIST OF WORKS
- Orchestra: Meditatie for chamber orchestra (1987), Vier astrologische schetsen (1990), Ouverture tot Apocalyps for chamber orchestra (1991), Kindersuite for strings (1992), One evening in spring (1994), Dream for chamber orchestra (1995), November Music (1999)
- Chamber music: Divertimento (1985), Invocazione (1988), Inkeer (1990), Karma (1991), Experience (1992), Interlude to the sea (1994), Mystery (1995), Mandala (1996), Oase (1999)
- Piano: Zoals het klokje thuis tikt... (1989), Midnight Express (1989), De geheimzinnige ruïne (1989), Valkenjacht (1989), De kleine harlekijn (1993)
- Solo pieces: Contrasts (for clarinet), Impressie (for flute), Le Muy (2001 for bassoon)

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY
- Divertimento for oboe, clarinet and bassoon (Wind trio of the Opera voor Vlaanderen), Eurosound ES 46.887
- Divertimento for clarinet, basset horn and bass clarinet (Trio Classicum), In Flanders' Fields, vol. 20, Phaedra 92020
- Kindersuite (Convivium Musicum cond. J. Van Eetvelde), Made in Flanders IV, CMP 1003
- Experience (bass clarinet: J. Guns, percussion: R. Rommes and Moscow string quartet), In Flanders' Fields, vol. 20, Phaedra 92020
- November Music (flute: G. Van Riet, harp: S. Hallynck and Symfonieorkest Conservatorium Antwerpen cond. R. Groslot), Compositieklas Willem Kerstens 2000-2001, KVC 2000.001

[© 2002 Veerle Bosmans, for MATRIX]

works

  • A little piece for four large reeds, 1994
    4 bassoons 00:04:00
  • A Lullaby, 1957
    Soprano, Alto, Baritone and piano 00:02:00
  • A moment for five notes, 1994
    flute, clarinet, cello and piano 00:02:15
  • Contrasts, 1994
    clarinet in B flat 00:12:00
  • Dawn, 2007
    chamber orchestra 00:12:00
  • De geheimzinnige ruïne, 1993
    8 transverse flutes 00:02:00
  • De geheimzinnige ruïne, 1991
    piano 00:02:00
  • De kleine harlekijn, 1991
    piano 00:03:00
  • De lenige liefde, 1993
    Mz., chamber orchestra and women's choir 00:06:00
  • Divertimento, 1985
    oboe, clarinet, bassoon 00:09:00
  • Divertimento, 1985
    clarinet, basset horn and bass clarinet 00:09:00
  • Dream, 1995
    chamber orchestra 00:17:00
  • Experience, 1992
    bass clarinet and piano 00:07:00
  • Experience, 1992
    bass clarinet, string quartet and percussion 00:07:00
  • Experience, 1992
    clarinet, bass clarinet and piano 00:00:00
  • Experience, 1992
    clarinet, bass clarinet, piano and percussions 00:00:00
  • Experience, 1992
    basset horn, bass clarinet, string quartet and percussion 00:00:00
  • Experience, 1992
    clarinet, bassclarinet, stringquartet and percussion 00:00:00
  • Impression, 1990
    flute 00:04:00
  • Inkeer, 1990
    Soprano and piano 00:11:00
  • Interlude to the sea, 1994
    oboe, bassoon and piano 00:12:00
  • Invocazione op. 5, 1988
    oboe and piano 00:04:00
  • Karma, 1991
    brass and piano 00:06:00
  • Karma, 1991
    bass trombone in C and piano 00:06:00
  • Karma, 1991
    tenor tuba in C and piano 00:06:00
  • Karma, 1991
    tenor tuba in B flat and piano 00:06:00
  • Karma, 1991
    bass tuba in B flat and piano 00:06:00
  • Karma, 1991
    tuba 00:06:00
  • Karma, 1991
    horn and piano 00:06:00
  • Karma, 1991
    trumpet or cornet or bugle and piano 00:06:00
  • Karma, 1991
    tenor trombone in C and piano 00:06:00
  • Kindersuite, 1992
    string orchestra 00:12:00
  • Kleine mars voor Elvire, 1996
    bassoon 00:00:35
  • La maison du Fantoche, 2010
    orchestra 00:09:18
  • Le dialogue des oiseaux, 2011
    flute and piano 00:04:30
  • Le Muy, 2001
    bassoon 00:09:00
  • Le Muy, 2001
    bass clarinet 00:09:00
  • Mandala, 1996
    oboe, violin, viola and cello 00:13:00
  • Meditatie, 1987
    chamber orchestra 00:10:00
  • Midnight express, 1989
    piano 00:02:00
  • Mokuso, 2002
    flute and piano 00:07:00
  • Mokuso, 2002
    oboe and piano 00:07:00
  • Mokuso, 2002
    bassoon and piano 00:07:00
  • Mokuso, 2002
    alto saxophone and piano 00:07:00
  • Mokuso, 2002
    clarinet and piano 00:07:00
  • Mystery, 1995
    flute, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon 00:13:00
  • Mystery, 1995
    string quintet, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn 00:13:00
  • Nocturne, 2012
    clarinets orchestra 00:05:30
  • November Music, 1999
    flute, harp and orchestra 00:22:11
  • Oase, 1998
    flute, bassoon and piano 00:15:00
  • Oase, 2001
    flute, viola and harp 00:15:00
  • One evening in spring, 1994
    2 oboes, 2 horns and strings 00:14:00
  • Opposites, 2005
    mixed choir and bassoon or bass clarinet 00:11:00
  • Opposites, 2005
    mixed choir and bassoon 00:11:00
  • Opposites, 2005
    mixed choir and bass clarinet 00:11:00
  • Ouverture tot "Apokalyps", 1991
    chamber orchestra 00:07:00
  • Retrograde, 1989
    3 clarinets and bass clarinet 00:12:00
  • Three Summer Pieces
    dixtuor 00:00:00
  • Three Summer Pieces, 2008
    dixtuor 00:19:00
  • Twee vizioenen, 1978
    trombone and piano 00:06:00
  • Twee-, drie- en vierstemmige koorwerken, 1992
    Choir a cappella 00:14:00
  • Un Monsieur qui a du souffle, 2010
    orchestra 00:06:00
  • Una visione del cielo e del terra, 1993
    orchestra 00:12:00
  • Valkenjacht, 1991
    piano 00:03:00
  • Vier astrologische schetsen, 1990
    chamber orchestra 00:15:45
  • Zoals het klokje thuis tikt..., 1989
    piano 00:02:00
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