CeBeDeM

CeBeDeM

index
of affiliated composers

MAEYER, Jan De

Jan DE MAEYER, director of the Municipal Conservatory in Mechelen, was born in 1949 in Bornem. He studied oboe, chamber music and composition (with Willem Kersters) at the Royal Conservatory in Antwerp. At the same time he studied classical philology and ancient history at the Katholieke University Leuven. In 1973 he earned higher diplomas in oboe and chamber music and a first prize in music history. This was followed by first prizes in alto oboe, harmony, counterpoint and composition. De Maeyer received the Pro Civitate Prize, the Alpaerts Prize for solfège and chamber music, the Annie Rutzky Prize, Tenuto, the Ferstenberg Prize for counterpoint and fugue and first prize at the international competition for chamber music in Colmar. As a composer he was awarded the Peter Benoit Prize for his brass quintet La Consolazione, the first prize of the Province of Antwerp (1982), the A. De Vleeschouwer Prize (1983) for Portret van 7 Romeinse Goden (Portrait of 7 Roman Gods) and the Koopal Grant for his Concerto da Camera for chamber orchestra and Het Glorierijke Licht (The Glorious Light) for symphony orchestra.

As well as being director of the Mechelen Municipal Conservatory, Jan De Maeyer at present teaches oboe and alto oboe at the Royal Conservatory in Antwerp. He is also the oboeist in the wind trio Avena, the woodwind quintet Amadea and the Antwerp Chamber Music Ensemble.

WORKS
In his youth, Jan De Maeyer wrote standard repertoire for concert band in a lighter style (with jazz harmonies and sprightly percussion parts). His subsequent studies with Willem Kersters brought a Post-Bartokian expressionism and counterpoint to his style. However, despite the fact that Kersters brought him into contact with serial techniques, he moved away from the serial style. The composer has affinities with the mysticism of Arvo Pärt and – separately from Pärt – undertook a study of Medieval and ethnic music. Before looking at De Maeyer’s compositional style, a consideration of his overall vision of music can serve to clarify his position. Jan De Maeyer calls himself a “classical” type of person; by this he refers to a balance between reason and emotion, between the physical and the psychic. Tension and relaxation must keep each other in check. His whole oeuvre is characterised by this polarity: there is a constant interaction between the two extremes, and even a disregard for the evolution through which his compositional style has clearly passed. This is not only a result of his life vision but also of the role that the audience and the performer are accorded. A musical work must always remain performable, which is perhaps De Maeyer’s way of lightly criticising the degree of difficulty of some contemporary works. At the same time, this has to do with the interplay between the music and the audience. Music should be written in such a way that it remains accessible to the audience and performable by the musician. De Maeyer has thus made it his goal to master different areas of music. In his “total vision”, he sets out to be not only a composer but also a musician, a conductor and a listener. The result of incorporating all these facets is that he has become aware of the performer’s physical boundaries and the audience’s psychological limits; this in turn has led to a compositional style that alternates between tension and relaxation. In concrete terms, this opposition entails the incorporation of avant-garde elements into his compositions. He stops short of performing and conducting the work of other composers, however, since that would damage the authenticity of his own writing. His whole theory is aptly supported by Freud’s assertion that the difference between men and women is the different way that men bring their “children” into the world: compositions are thus the children he has borne, as it were. De Maeyer’s study of classical philology, finally, has had a great influence on his oeuvre. He has set a great deal of poetry to music, including both contemporary and humanist texts; the latter include works by Janus Secundus, creating work that De Maeyer himself considers his opus magnum.

The composer’s first work for oboe and piano, Sonatina, written in 1979, is a cautiously atonal composition with incidental avant-garde techniques for the oboe. The first movement, in sonata form, has a strongly cerebral atonality as its basis, while the second movement is an elegiac meditation in a tripartite song-form with several rubato passages. The final movement shows clear signs of Bartok’s influence in its classical phrasing on the one hand and the use of asymmetrical metres and free atonality on the other. La Consolazione, which won the Peter Benoit Prize, is more contrapuntally conceived. The work pays homage to the Latin writer and philosopher Boethius, whose texts provide us with a good picture of the musical heritage of antiquity. La gioia for woodwind trio is a through-composed work with a free-atonal harmonisation, counterpoint limited to several imitative passages, and rhythmic and metrical elements with jazz influences. World music is also one of De Maeyer’s interests, evident in his 3 Emigrantenliederen, folk song arrangements for four-voice mixed choir. After the theory-orientated early works came the Sonata per violoncello e pianoforte, one of the earliest of the composer’s works with an overtly aesthetic aim, an attempt to create “beautiful” sounds with modern means. In 1983, De Maeyer wrote Met een klank van hobo (With a sound of oboe), a free-atonal setting of several poems by Herman De Coninck. In that same year, he wrote Vijf voor acht (Five to eight), in which each of the five movements bears a title ending with “acht”, preceded by one or two consonants. The title indicates the content of each section. The means used for this are partly classical, as for example the scoring and traditional compositional techniques, and partly modern, through the use of the alto oboe and the musette, new techniques such as frullato, a rattling sound, double tones and glissandi and the aleatory compositional technique. In 1996, Jan De Maeyer wrote Maclinia for concert band, a programmatic work for the Flanders Festival. This work begins in a “fog” of sound, which eventually lifts, allowing one to “hear” the bells of Mechelen’s St Rumoldus Cathedral (the melody climbs to the highest regions of the band, the rarefied sounds of the piccolo). Back at ground level we experience the amusements of Mechelen to the rhythm of the “beguine”, a Latin-American dance. This is followed by a pavane, the famous Belle qui tient ma vie by Thoinot Arbeau, with a few postmodern touches. The movement ends with a short quotation from The Old Castle, the final movement from Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. From there we march to the Brussels Gate. The march becomes increasingly more imposing and explodes, as it were, into an epilogue, in which Alle Menschen werden Brüder from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is recognisable. De Maeyer’s opus magnum, the Basia II to IX, was performed in 2002. The text, love lyrics by Janus Secundus, a major Neo-Latin poet of the Low Countries, is set for four-voice mixed choir, instrumental soloists, chamber orchestra and percussion.

SELECTIVE LIST OF WORKS
- Chamber music: Sonatina for oboe and piano (1979); La consolazione for brass quintet (1980); La gioia for woodwinds trio (s.d.); Met een klank van hobo for bass-baritone, oboe and piano, from poems by Herman De Coninck (1983-84); Vijf voor acht for woodwinds octet (s.d.); What's in a name? for 7 percussionists (1987)
- Vocal music: Emigrantenliederen, adaptation for chorus (4 voices) from 3 Volksliederen (s.d.); Canto XXXIX, oratoria for solo, chorus and large symphonic orchestra (on text by Erza Pound) (1984-85); Fantasia e canzone popolare for flute, piano, 1 dancer and children’s chorus (1996)
- Orchestral music: Pythagoras, symphonic poem for chamber orchestra (1991); Maclinia for harmonic orchestra (1996)

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY
- DWELLING OF MUSES, met Met een klank van hobo, Conservatorium Antwerpen SBCD-1519
- COMPOSITIEKLAS WILLEM KERSTERS (2000-2001), met Vijf voor acht (Elke Meirsman, Karen Weckx, An Monsieurs, Els Vankriekelsvenne, Bart Aerbeydt, Lies Molenaar, Pieter Nuytten, Ann Snauwaert), Conservatorium Antwerpen 2000.001

[© 2002 Cathérine Raes, for MATRIX]

works

  • Aiuolo op. 13, 1985
    band and women's or children's choir 00:15:00
  • Basium IX op. 53/a, 2001
    Mezzo-Soprano, Baritone, m. ch., transv. flute, clar., cello, perc. (2) and pian 00:07:00
  • Basium quartum op. 47/a, 2000
    Alto, Bass, flute, clarinet, (percussion) and harpsichord 00:04:30
  • Basium secundum op. 40/a, 1997
    mixed choir and string orchestra 00:16:00
  • Basium septimum op. 50, 2001
    mixed choir, transverse flute, clarinet, percussion and chamber orchestra 00:04:00
  • Basium sextum op. 49, 2001
    Mezzo-Soprano, Baritone, transverse flute, clar., cello, perc. (2) and piano 00:06:00
  • Basium tertium op. 40/b, 1998
    mixed choir and string orchestra 00:04:10
  • Basium undecimum op. 48, 2000
    A., Bar., flute, clar., perc., harpsichord, piano, choir and chamber orchestra 00:05:00
  • Basium VIII op. 52, 2001
    Mezzo-Soprano, Baritone, clarinet, cello, percussion and harpsichord 00:00:00
  • Basium X op. 53/b, 2001
    Mz., Bar., mixed choir, transverse flute, clarinet, perc. (2) and string orch. 00:04:00
  • Basium XX op. 51, 2001
    trumpet, horn and trombone 00:12:30
  • Battute del cuore op. 4/1
    piano and percussion (1 performer) 00:10:30
  • Canto XXXIX op. 10, 1985
    choir and symphonic orchestra 00:50:00
  • Canzonatura op. 3/1, 1982
    2 wind orchestras and percussion 00:09:00
  • Concertino op. 30/a, 1994
    clarinet and strings 00:13:00
  • Concerto grosso op. 5, 1981
    chamber orchestra 00:15:00
  • Die Geburt der Saxodie op. 42, 1996
    4 saxophones 00:12:30
  • Divertimento op. 14, 1985
    3 flutes 00:13:00
  • Fantasia op een middeleeuws thema op. 31, 1995
    four-handed piano 00:11:00
  • Fidessa-Suita op. 19/b
    chamber orchestra 00:12:30
  • Frygische etude, 1996
    guitar 00:03:00
  • Fughetta "Raphaelis ad maioris gloriam" op. 39/1, 1997
    organ 00:00:00
  • In sette Cieli op. 26, 1992
    bassoon and 3 bassoon groups 00:11:00
  • In sette Cieli op. 26, 1992
    bassoon and piano 00:11:00
  • Incantazione per Empedocle op. 25, 1991
    oboe 00:06:00
  • Kroton op. 27, 1992
    woodwind instruments and piano 00:06:30
  • La consolazione op. 2/2, 1980
    2 trumpets, horn, trombone and tuba 00:10:30
  • La Gioia op. 2/3, 1979
    oboe, clarinet, bassoon 00:07:00
  • Lesbos op. 29, 1992
    viola, oboe and piano 00:09:30
  • Occhi Tesi op. 20/3, 1989
    violin and cello 00:17:30
  • Ottoniana op. 19/2
    brass trio ad libitum 00:12:00
  • Poema sinfonico "Het glorierijke licht" op. 6, 1982
    orchestra 00:11:00
  • Primum basium op. 35, 1996
    Bass, transverse flute, clarinet in B flat and harpsichord 00:12:30
  • Pythagoras op. 24, 1991
    chamber orchestra 00:20:30
  • Quartetto detto "Fidessa" op. 20/1, 1989
    2 violins, viola and cello 00:18:00
  • Quintetto op. 30/b, 1994
    flute, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon 00:13:00
  • Rapsodische metamorfosen op. 36, 1996
    violin, cello and piano 00:13:30
  • Regalo para dos queridos alumnos op. 41
    recorder and guitar 00:10:30
  • Ritratto di sette dei romani op. 7/1, 1982
    piano 00:12:00
  • Saxofonia op. 22, 1990
    4 s. (1 also sopranino), 3 a., 4 b. min. 00:17:00
  • Serenata op. 15, 1985
    chamber orchestra 00:16:30
  • Sonata op. 4/2, 1982
    cello and piano 00:16:30
  • Sonata piccola op. 16/3, 1986
    alto saxophone (E flat) or clarinet (B flat) and piano 00:08:30
  • Sonata piccola op. 16/3, 1986
    alto saxophone (Es) and piano 00:08:30
  • Sonata piccola op. 16/3, 1986
    clarinet (Bes) and piano 00:08:30
  • Sonata rapsodica op. 20/2, 1989
    violin and piano 00:21:00
  • Sonatina op. 1, 1979
    oboe and piano 00:09:00
  • Suita op. 16/2, 1986
    trombone, horn or saxhorn and piano 00:09:30
  • Suita op. 16/2, 1986
    trombone and piano 00:09:30
  • Suita op. 16/2, 1986
    horn and piano 00:09:30
  • Suita op. 16/2, 1986
    saxhorn and piano 00:09:30
  • Tricromia arcangelica op. 23, 1992
    oboe, clarinet, bassoon and symphonic orchestra 00:23:30
  • Uit "De tuin van Eros" op. 3/2, 1981
    mixed Choir a cappella 00:12:00
  • Vijf voor acht op. 9, 1983
    2 oboe, 2 clarinet, 2 horn, 2 bassoon 00:10:30
  • Vijf voor acht op. 9, 1983
    3 clarinets, 1 bass clarinet, 1 soprano sax, 1 alto sax, 1 tenor sax, 1 bar. sax 00:10:30
  • What's in a name? op. 17, 1987
    7 percussion players 00:18:00
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