Three Solo Pieces for Horn

Cees Nieuwenhuizen, Opus 56

After Cees composed the Sonata for Horn and Piano Opus 48 , requested by the horn player Hans van der Zanden, he was asked to write something for solo horn. He wanted Cees to use the instrument in all its richness of sound as much as possible. Hans gave Cees advice with this composition, especially concerning the possibilities of sordino and open sound. These three so-called Solo Pieces for Horn Opus 56 were performed by Hans during a concert in Saint Petersburg in the Russian Federation.

The first part is a Toccata with a signal theme, played fortissimo. It is in ternary form with a number of tempo changes and chromatic and enharmonic developments that ultimately lead to the opening signal.
In the second part Cees uses con sordino in the opening phase. The open and sordino sounds are played against each other, after which the piece develops into a large fortissimo theme that is somewhat derived from the first part. Cees finds it interesting to write long, slow notes because of the soft sound of the instrument. This idea is inspired by the beautifully long part played by the solo horn in the Rondino in E flat WoO 25 by Beethoven.

The last part commences with an extremely short introduction, followed by a tango. The short theme is continuously repeated, with a note being added or omitted. This creates a somewhat comical effect. As a result, the horn is not really done justice. It makes the piece almost ‵lame’. In fact, the horn player is unable to play the tango and runs away from the stage playing more and more softly. It is a funny find and it is not the intention to insult the horn player. The idea actually came about spontaneously and the instructions are all included in the edition. The more accurately it is played according to these instructions, the funnier the effect comes across.

Sonata No.1 in B flat minor for Flute and Piano

Cees nieuwenhuizen, Opus 36

Cees Nieuwenhuizen composed the first movement of his flute sonata in 1981. It would remain a one-movement piece up until 2012, when the second and third movement were added. Unlike his other works from the period 1980/85, this is a tonal composition with a first and a second theme in the first movement (Allegro), as is common in classical works. However, the composer did not avoid dissonances on strong, accented beats and the work also has free tonal moments. For example, Cees plays with major and minor in the first theme of the first movement and also dissonant harmonies are to be found in the transitional measures that lead back to the first theme. The first movement is in B Flat minor, while the second movement (Andante maestoso) is in the far different key of E major. This part is cast in a song form with a cadenza-like melody in the flute at an ostinato accompaniment of the piano, with Lydian elements.

The middle part consists of free elements and a cadenza for the flute.

The last part is a rondo, again in B Flat minor (Molto allegro).

This movement is always interrupted by cadenza-like moments for flute, which throws the rondo ‘feeling’ in a playful way. Eventually the coda appears in the redeeming major key and closes off in B Flat major.

Cees Nieuwenhuizen | Piano Sonata No. 5

Opus 39 ‘Fire in Snow’

The title of the sonata ‘Fire in Snow’ refers to the eponymous book of poetry by Roland Holst which he wrote in 1968. It was one of his last works and consists of a large number of poems, which all should be read as an entity. I used ‘Vreugde en de Dood and ‘Mensen voor God.

Cees Nieuwenhuizen composed this 5th Piano Sonata Opus 39 in 1984/85. Initially, his idea was to compose a series of songs based on texts by the Dutch poet Adriaan Roland Holst (23 May 1888 – 5 August 1976). Cees had used his work for a number of songs (Opus 27) and a cantata (In Ballingschap, Exile, Opus 30), but the texts that inspired him weren’t easily ‘caught’ in a song or in composed form. Therefore he decided to use two texts that were applied as a monologue: the first (De Vreugde en de Dood, Joy and Death) is recited preceding the first movement and the second (Mensen voor God, Mankind before God) preceding the second movement. The first movement (Lento Presto) is built up from the theme C sharp – A sharp – B and this small theme is elaborated in a free form in B minor. The key changes and free tonality that arise, are continuously reinforced by the poem. The tempo changes a number of times in the course of the first movement and finally ends in Presto. The Presto is also based on this theme, but the notes are applied in a different order.
The second movement (slow 16th ) is written in a rondo form and despite the very slow tempo the theme becomes restless because of the peculiar 9/16 key. The movement is based on the sorrowful text ‘Mensen voor God‘ (Mankind before God) and one can experience this in the music. The opening bars of the first movement are used in the second movement but are applied very differently. The movement is mostly written in free tonality, but it never gets atonal, even though this does seem to be the case when you hear it for the first time. The whole movement is played piano with two exceptions where the music shortly leaves the rondo theme. The piece ends undefinably in pianissimo.