CeBeDeM

CeBeDeM

index
of affiliated composers

KERSTERS, Willem

Willem KERSTERS was born in Antwerp on 9 February 1929. From 1945 he studied at the Royal Conservatory in the same city, where he earned first prizes in solfège, harmony and piano. He then furthered his studies at the Royal Conservatory in Brussels under Jean Louël (counterpoint), Jean Absil and Marcel Quinet (fugue), Marcel Poot (composition) and René Defossez (orchestral conducting). After receiving his diploma in music education, he worked for several years at secondary schools in Tienen, Leuven and Aarschot. From 1961 to 1968 he was a music programmer at the regional broadcast in Limburg of the BRT (Belgian Radio and Television

From 1962 he also held functions at the Royal Conservatory in Antwerp, first as a teacher of harmony, and later as the head composition teacher. In addition, he became the head of the theory department at the Maastricht Conservatory in 1967. Among his pupils may be cited Alain Craens, Koen Dejonghe, Jan De Maeyer, Luc Van Hove, Wim Henderickx and Marc Verhaegen. In 1989 he stopped teaching at these two conservatories. He died on 29 December 1998 in his native city.

As a composer, Kersters received numerous awards both in Belgium and abroad, including the Second Count de Launoit Grand Prize in the International Queen Elisabeth Composition Competition in 1961 for the ballet Triomf van de Geest (Triumph of the Spirit, 1959), the City of Trieste Prize in 1963 for his Second Symphony (1963), and an award for his Second String Quartet (1964) in the International Composition Competition for String Quartets in Liège in 1965. In 1968 and 1972, he won two awards for his complete output, the Eugène Baie Prize from the Province of Antwerp and the SABAM Prize (from the Belgian asscociation for authors' rights). Kersters composed the obligatory piano concerto for the 1978 edition of the Queen Elisabeth Competition. At the end of 1990, he was elected a member of the Royal Academy for Sciences, Letters and Fine Arts of Belgium.

WORKS
As a composer, Kersters never attached himself for long to a particular system. His career can be divided into various phases on the basis of harmonic and structural form. The period before 1960 may be characterised as very intuitive in terms of harmony, while the structure was determined by fixed, classical forms such as the sonata and the rondo. Examples from this period include his Concertino for oboe and strings (1953), Six Songs (1953-55), Sonata for viola and piano (1954), Sinfonietta for chamber orchestra (1955-56), Partita for viola and piano (1956) and the ballet Parwati (1956). Late-Romantic and Expressionist characteristics are here blended in a natural way. Influences from Bartók can be heard in, among other works, his Divertimento per archi (1958), with a clear reference to the composer already evident in the title.

At the end of the 1950s, Kersters developed a new compositional technique based on the principle of the tritone relationship. This creates something of a bi-tonal system, where two tonalities at the distance of a tritone become completely united in an autonomous new tonality. This harmonic innovation had already grown intuitively over the preceding decades. The harmonic basis of these works can be traced back to the same chord, in which the seventh and the eleventh overtones form the essential components (for example, on a fundamental of c, the notes b-flat and f-sharp ). The ballet Triomf van de Geest (1959) was the first work to be composed according to this principle. Other works in this technique are Six Two-Part Inventions (1959), Two Preludes for Organ (1961) and Psalmen (1962).

Quickly working through the possibilities of this system, Kersters soon went in search of new methods of composition. In the 1960s, after a thorough study of the dodecaphonic system, he switched to a serial style, incorporating his theory of tritone relationships. His First and Second Symphonies (1963 and 1964), the Plechtige Ouverture (Solemn Overture, 1963) and Concertmuziek (1964) were the results of this new approach.

The four-movement First Symphony is based on four series (one per movement). The Adagio can be seen as a broadly spun-out slow introduction; the two main themes of the Allegro molto are clearly identifiable and a climax is reached on the name BACH; the Adagio is, in terms of form, inspired by an ornamented chorale; the Finale is based on a simple rondo form.

In the second half of the 1960s, Kersters developed the 'tonality of the twelve-tone scale', meaning that the tonal and the atonal principle were interwoven. The first application of this system was the Third Symphony (1967). Anything usable, both from the past and from contemporary musical language, was organically integrated into this new idiom. In a work such as Three Preludes (1971) there is hardly a trace left of traditional thematic development. The percussion is given an ever more important role, functioning as a colour element, in such works as Capriccio (1972), or it is used as an independent instrumental group, as in Anaglyphos (1969), with its surprising and absorbing sound combinations.

With the move from instrumental to vocal music, Kersters also began to take distance from the dodcaphonic style, which he considered unsuitable for choral works and solo vocal parts. This led him, around 1975, back to his original point of departure, an intuitive style, which was now further exploited on the level of form, so that the structure took shape during the process of composing itself. This phase saw the composition of the large-scale vocal works, such as the Gezellesymfonie (1979, Fourth Symphony) with alto solo on three evening poems by G. Gezelle, Baas Gansendonk (1981), an opera in three acts after H. Conscience's work of the same name, and Het Zonnelied (The Song of the Sun, 1986), after St Francis. For his vocal works, he turned to Dutch, French, English, Catalan and early Italian texts. The melody closely follows the word accents, leading, for instance, to frequent metrical changes in order to place a particular syllable on the first beat of the bar. He showed a preference for texts by Paul Van Ostaijen, as, for example, in the large-scale chamber oratorio, De Feesten van Angst en Pijn (The Feasts of Fear and Pain, 1996).

Kersters' extensive oeuvre numbers more than 120 works; and yet, especially toward the end of the 1970s, his compositional activity slowed considerably, a fact that can be attributed to a more critical approach, which led to a lessening of spontaneity.

SELECTIVE LIST OF WORKS
- Ballets: Parwati (1956), Triomf van de Geest (1959), Halewijn (1973), Ulenspiegel de geus (1976)
- Opera: Baas Gansendonk (1981)
- Orchestra: Sinfonia piccola (1958), Eerste Symfonie (1962), Plechtige Ouverture (1963), Tweede Symfonie (1963), Concertmuziek (1964), Derde Symfonie (1967), Contrasten (1969), Anaglyphos (1969), Capriccio (1972), Pianoconcerto (1977), Vierde Symfonie of Gezellesymfonie (1979), Vijfde Symfonie (1987), Violin concerto (1989), Idylle (1992), Contrasts II (1998)
- Chamber music: Quintet for flute, English horn, clarinet, bassoon and horn (1954), Sinfonietta for chamber orchestra (1955), Divertimento per archi (1958), Eerste Strijkkwartet (1962), Tweede Strijkkwartet (1964), Drie Bagatellen for string quartet or string orchestra (1965), Variations for flute, hobo, clarinet and bassoon (1969), Quartet for clarinet, violin, viola and cello (1971), Aveniana (1984), Ballad for alt saxophone and strings (1987), Sextet for piano and string quintet (1990), Sonata for violin and piano (1993), Derde Strijkkwartet (1996), Concerto 'Filia Guilmin' for guitar and chamber orchestra (1997)
- Vocal-instrumental: De geestelijke bruiloft (1955), Circuscapriolen (1959), La chanson d'Eve (1959), Psalmen (1962), A Gospel Song (1965), Het Zonnelied (1986), Huldegedicht aan Singer (1992), Canconetas voor Ana-Catarina (1994)
- Choir a capella: Negen twee- en driestemmige kinderkoren (1963), Geishaliedjes (1964), Vissersliedje (1967), Melopee (1968), Duo Psalterii cantica (1968), Lentesuite (1984), Hulde aan Paul (1985), Frivole liedjes (1992), L'Enamorat di Deia (1992), Het Uur van Waarheid (1995), Stille, Nacht und Liebe (1995)
- Oratorio: A Hymn of Praise (1966), De Feesten van Angst en Pijn (1995)

BIBLIOGRAPHY
- DELAERE, M., Y. KNOCKAERT and H. SABBE, Nieuwe Muziek in Vlaanderen, Brugge, 1998.
- HEUGHEBAERT, H., art. Willem Kersters, in Algemene Muziekencyclopedie, part 5, ed. dr. J. ROBIJNS en M. ZIJLSTRA, 1981, p. 170-171.
- HUYBENS, G., Een nieuw geluid...5: with works by Kurt Bikkembergs, Luc Van Hove, Willem Kersters, Leuven, 1994.
- KNOCKAERT, Y., Een gesloten cirkel, in Muziek & Woord, nov. 1998, p. 45-46.
- LEYTENS, L., Het logische gevolg, in Muziek & Woord, april 1988, p. 30.
- NEES, V., en Willem Kersters zijn dichters, in Muziek & Woord, jan. 1995, p. 2.
- VON VOLBORTH, D., Willem Kersters, in CeBeDeM en zijn aangesloten componisten, part 1, 1977, p. 173-176.

DISCOGRAPHY
- Idylle for harp and strings (Convivium Musicum cond. Jo Van Eetvelde; harp: Annemie Neuhard), CMP 1002, 1995.
- Choral music set to texts of Paul van Ostaijen (BRTN-Koor o.l.v. Vic Nees), VTP 92 032, 1996.
- 3 bagatellen voor strijkorkest (cd Musica per archi door Kamerorkest Sinfonia o.l.v. Dirk Vermeulen), Eufoda 1138, z.d.


[© 2001 Kris Gabriels, for MATRIX]

works

  • 18 oud-nederlandse volksliederen I, 1948
    middle voice and piano 00:36:00
  • 18 oud-nederlandse volksliederen II, 1948
    middle voice and piano 00:36:00
  • A gospel song op. 35, 1965
    Soloists, choir and piano 00:30:00
  • A gospel song op. 35, 1965
    Soloist, choir and orchestra 00:30:00
  • A hymn of praise op. 38, 1966
    Narrator, choir and orchestra 00:40:00
  • Adelijn
    three voices 00:00:00
  • Adoramus Te, 1972
    Choir a cappella 00:02:00
  • Adoramus Te, 1972
    Choir a cappella 00:02:00
  • Anaglyphos op. 51, 1969
    percussion orchestra 00:10:00
  • Angst - een dans op. 57, 1971
    T, Narrator, choir, harp, piano and percussion orchestra 00:13:00
  • Aveniana op. 75, 1984
    oboe, clarinet, bassoon 00:09:00
  • Bagatelle IV op. 4, 1955
    piano 00:02:30
  • Ballade op. 52, 1970
    violin and piano 00:08:00
  • Ballade op. 84, 1987
    alto saxophone and strings 00:10:00
  • Barbaarse dans op. 54, 1970
    A., T., women's choir and instrumental ensemble 00:13:30
  • Berceuse en humoreske op. 8, 1956
    oboe, clarinet, bassoon 00:05:00
  • Boere-Charleston op. 79/1
    two Sopranos and one Alto 00:00:00
  • Cançonetas voor Ana-Catarina op. 95, 1994
    women's choir, flute, oboe and harp 00:11:30
  • Capriccio op. 59, 1972
    orchestra 00:13:00
  • Chien, zèbre et chat op. 60, 1972
    Soprano and piano 00:04:00
  • Cirkus-capriolen op. 15, 1959
    children's choir, oboe, clarinet, trumpet, drum and piano 00:10:00
  • Coïncidences op. 65, 1974
    9 percussion players 00:12:00
  • Concertino op. 2, 1953
    oboe and piano 00:18:00
  • Concertino op. 2, 1953
    oboe and string orchestra 00:18:00
  • Concertmuziek op. 28, 1964
    strings, piano, percussion and timpani 00:20:00
  • Concerto op. 69, 1978
    piano and orchestra 00:20:39
  • Concerto op. 86, 1989
    violin and orchestra 00:28:00
  • Concerto op. 86, 1989
    violin and piano 00:28:00
  • Concerto, 1978
    2 pianos 00:20:39
  • Concerto "Filia Guilmin" op. 103, 1997
    guitar and chamber orchestra 00:20:00
  • Contrasten op. 50, 1969
    percussion and orchestra 00:10:00
  • Contrasten op. 50, 1969
    percussion and piano 00:10:00
  • Contrasts II op. 104, 1998
    percussion and piano 00:07:00
  • Daar was er eens...
    mixed Choir a cappella 00:00:00
  • Dans, dans, kwezelke
    Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Baritone 00:00:00
  • De dans der kristallen op. 80, 1985
    middle voice and string orchestra 00:10:00
  • De dans der kristallen op. 80, 1985
    middle voice and piano 00:10:00
  • De feesten van angst en pijn op. 96, 1995
    T., A., Narrator, choir, harp, piano, percussion and strings 00:53:00
  • De geestelijke bruiloft op. 1, 1953
    Soprano, cor anglais, clarinet, piano and string quartet 00:16:00
  • De koekoek, 1974
    Choir a cappella 00:01:30
  • Defecerunt, 1979
    Choir a cappella 00:00:00
  • Diagrammen op. 64, 1974
    violin and cello 00:10:00
  • Divertimento per archi op. 13, 1958
    string orchestra 00:11:00
  • Drie bagatellen op. 34, 1965
    string orchestra 00:05:45
  • Drie bagatellen op. 34, 1965
    2 violins, viola and cello 00:05:45
  • Drie Eskimo-teksten op. 101, 1996
    men's choir a cappella 00:06:30
  • Drie kinderliederen, 1954
    Children's choir and piano 00:06:00
  • Drie preludes op. 56, 1971
    piano 00:10:50
  • Duo psalterii cantica op. 45, 1968
    mixed Choir a cappella 00:06:10
  • Etude n°9, 1965
    concert drum and piano 00:02:00
  • Fantasia op. 43, 1967
    organ 00:15:00
  • Frivole liedjes op. 91, 1992
    men's choir a cappella 00:08:30
  • Gansendonk op. 72, 1983
    opera in 3 acts 01:40:00
  • Gansendonk op. 72, 1983
    soli and piano 01:40:00
  • Geishaliedjes op. 30, 1964
    Choir a cappella 00:06:00
  • Halewijn op. 62, 1974
    orchestra 00:07:00
  • Heer Halewijn op. 62, 1973
    instrumental ensemble 00:09:30
  • Heer Halewijn op. 62, 1973
    orchestra 00:09:30
  • Het gevecht op. 58, 1972
    high voice and piano 00:09:00
  • Het uur van waarheid op. 97, 1995
    men's choir a cappella 00:06:30
  • Het zonnelied op. 81, 1986
    mixed choir, trumpet, 2 pianos and cymbals 00:10:00
  • Het zonnelied op. 81, 1986
    mixed Choir and orchestra 00:10:00
  • Huldegedicht aan Singer op. 89, 1992
    Women's choir and piano 00:06:00
  • Humoreske op. 14/b, 1959
    bassoon and piano 00:02:30
  • Idylle op. 90, 1992
    harp and strings 00:13:52
  • Ik stond op hoge bergen
    four voices 00:00:00
  • Intrada
    3 trumpets and 1 trombone 00:00:00
  • Juffer Lola
    three voices 00:00:00
  • Kinderwereld op. 85, 1988
    children's choir and orchestra 00:22:00
  • Kinderwereld op. 85, 1988
    Children's choir and piano 00:22:00
  • Kleine suite op. 25, 1963
    4 clarinets 00:08:00
  • Kleine suite - Petite suite op. 40, 1967
    organ 00:07:00
  • Koraalfantasie op. 31, 1965
    organ 00:10:00
  • Kwartet op. 55, 1971
    clarinet, violin, viola and cello 00:12:00
  • Kwintet op. 5, 1954
    flute, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon 00:12:00
  • L'enamorat li deia op. 92, 1992
    mixed Choir a cappella 00:08:15
  • La chanson d'Eve op. 18, 1959
    Soprano, Narrator and string quartet 00:15:00
  • Laudes op. 61, 1973
    brass ensemble and percussion 00:10:15
  • Lentesuite: Avond op. 76/2
    Choir a cappella 00:00:00
  • Lentesuite: De wolkenschaapjes op. 76/3
    Choir a cappella 00:00:00
  • Lentesuite: In het woud op. 76/1
    Choir a cappella 00:00:00
  • Mémoires de mon adolescence op. 94, 1993
    Soprano and piano 00:12:00
  • Meditatie op. 14/a, 1959
    oboe and piano 00:04:00
  • Meditation uber den Namen BACH op. 46, 1968
    trumpet in D, piano and strings 00:08:30
  • Melopee, 1968
    Choir a cappella 00:02:30
  • Negen twee- en driestemmige kinderkoren op. 27, 1963
    children's choir a cappella 00:10:00
  • Notturno op. 44, 1968
    guitar 00:05:00
  • Oud-Vlaamse liederen, 1962
    mixed choir and piano 00:06:30
  • Partita op. 9, 1956
    violin and piano 00:10:00
  • Parwati op. 10, 1956
    orchestra 00:25:00
  • Parwati: Symfonische fragmenten op. 10, 1956
    orchestra 00:18:00
  • Pater noster, 1972
    Choir a cappella 00:02:00
  • Plechtige ouverture - Ouverture solennelle op. 24, 1963
    large orchestra 00:11:00
  • Psalmen op. 21, 1962
    A., men's choir, brass, organ and timpani 00:15:00
  • Psalmus 150
    Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Baritone 00:00:00
  • Psalmus XXIX op. 47, 1968
    T. and men's choir 00:06:30
  • Quatre épigrammes d'Anyte de Tegée op. 100, 1996
    Soprano or Tenor and piano 00:06:30
  • Quatuor op. 53, 1970
    violin, viola, cello and piano 00:12:30
  • Reuzegom, 1974
    Choir a cappella 00:01:30
  • Salve Regina, 1972
    mixed Choir a cappella 00:03:00
  • Satirische Ode
    three voices 00:00:00
  • Scherzo insolito op. 99, 1995
    piano 00:06:00
  • Septet op. 37, 1966
    4 clarinets, percussion, timpani and piano 00:14:00
  • Serenade op. 68, 1976
    chamber orchestra 00:14:00
  • Serenade nr.2 op. 105, 1998
    string orchestra, harp and percussion 00:14:00
  • Serenata, 1958
    four-handed piano 00:00:00
  • Sextet op. 87, 1990
    piano and string quintet 00:30:00
  • Sinfonia concertante op. 11, 1957
    flute, clarinet, bassoon and string orchestra 00:11:00
  • Sinfonia Piccola op. 12, 1958
    orchestra 00:15:00
  • Sinfonietta op. 42, 1967
    band 00:13:00
  • Sinfonietta op. 7, 1955
    chamber orchestra 00:15:00
  • Sonate op. 6, 1954
    viola and piano 00:14:00
  • Sonate op. 36, 1965
    violin 00:10:00
  • Sonate op. 77, 1985
    piano 00:16:00
  • Sonate op. 93, 1993
    violin and piano 00:17:00
  • Sonate, 1952
    violin and piano 00:22:00
  • Sonatine op. 63, 1974
    oboe and piano 00:05:40
  • Stille, Nacht und Liebe op. 98, 1995
    women's choir 00:06:50
  • Strijkkwartet nr.1 op. 23, 1962
    2 violins, viola and cello 00:18:10
  • Strijkkwartet nr.2 op. 32, 1964
    2 violins, viola and cello 00:16:30
  • Strijkkwartet nr.3 op. 102, 1996
    2 violins, viola and cello 00:15:00
  • Suite op. 29, 1964
    clarinet quartet and strings 00:10:00
  • Symfonie nr.1 op. 22, 1962
    orchestra 00:20:00
  • Symfonie nr.2 op. 26, 1963
    orchestra 00:25:00
  • Symfonie nr.3 op. 39, 1967
    orchestra 00:28:00
  • Symfonie nr.4 op. 45, 1968
    orchestra 00:20:00
  • Symfonie nr.4 op. 71, 1979
    Alto and orchestra 00:26:30
  • Symfonie nr.5 op. 83, 1987
    orchestra 00:26:30
  • Triomf van de geest op. 17, 1958
    orchestra 00:18:00
  • Tristis est anima mea
    mixed Choir a cappella 00:00:00
  • Trois rondos - Drie rondos op. 48, 1969
    2 trumpets, horn, trombone and tuba 00:10:00
  • Twee preludes op. 20, 1961
    organ 00:08:00
  • Uilenspiegel de geus op. 67, 1976
    orchestra 01:38:36
  • Ulenspiegel, de geus (suite) op. 67, 1976
    orchestra 00:35:00
  • Variaties op. 41, 1967
    clarinet quartet 00:09:30
  • Variations op. 49, 1969
    flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon 00:08:00
  • Variazioni op. 70, 1978
    organ 00:05:30
  • Vergiffenis
    Soprano and piano 00:00:00
  • Verliefd jongetje
    Choir a cappella 00:00:00
  • Vier bagatelles op. 4, 1955
    piano 00:07:30
  • Vier klavierstukken op. 33, 1965
    piano 00:13:30
  • Vier liederen op. 3/b, 1953
    middle voice and piano 00:07:00
  • Vier oudvlaamse liederen, 1962
    mixed Choir and orchestra 00:06:30
  • Zeer kleine speeldoos, 1968
    Choir a cappella 00:02:30
  • Zes liederen op. 3/a, 1953
    Soprano or Tenor and piano 00:11:15
  • Zes preludes op. 82, 1986
    piano 00:09:00
  • Zes tweestemmige Inventionen op. 16, 1959
    piano 00:10:00
  • Zeven volksliederen, 1964
    Choir a cappella 00:14:00
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