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Thread: Willem Pijper

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    Senior Member eugeneonagain's Avatar
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    Default Willem Pijper

    Willem Pijper should really already have been here. He is one of the the most important 20th century composers and certainly of the Netherlands/Europe. He had a rather unique voice - modern, but neither 'atonal' nor 12 tone and he did not abandon the concept of tonality. His is a polytonality (and polyrhythmic) which was already in evidence from his early works.
    He was also a teacher (and principal of Rotterdam Conservatory up to his death) responsible for teaching many 20th century Dutch composers.

    As well as being a composer Pijper was a prolific music critic and reviewer and also adviser to the Utrecht concert hall. His literary vitriol led to the resignation of Jan van Gilse the director of the municipal orchestra, which also had a negative impact on the performance of his works (you can read about it on Wikipedia).

    Pijper's early works are supposedly under the influence of Mahler and later Debussy, but I think this ignores his already developed approach; though there is a fairly marked difference between his 1st and 2nd Symphonies and the 1st and 2nd string quartets. The latter cycle of four quartets (and a fifth unfinished) are in my opinion one of the finest of the 20th century and certainly give Bartok a run for his money.The 2nd and 4th are superb.
    Aside from the symphonies he is also known (as far as he is known) for two other orchestral works: Six Adagios, which is a late return to almost complete standard tonality for a series of very beautiful orchestral miniatures, and Six Symphonic Epigrams which also highlight his excellent orchestration.

    His piano output is fairly substantial considering his relatively short life (he died aged 42-43) and his short Sonatinas (except no.1 which is over 10 minutes) from the middle 1920s are still widely played.

    One thing I only realised when reading about him today is that he was from the next village to where I am sitting now!

    Some selections:

    Six Adagios (1940):


    Symphony no.2 (1921). Short and sweet and full of invention:


    Sonatina no.2 (1925):


    Six Symphonic Epigrams (1928):


    String Quartet no.2 (1920):
    "I expect I shall have to die beyond my means." — Oscar Wilde, on accepting a glass of champagne on his deathbed.

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    Senior Member joen_cph's Avatar
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    I ordered his violin sonatas coupled with works by Escher and others a few days ago.
    Judging from the samples, it is a beautiful disc.
    I´ll get the Cello Sonata (again coupled with that other fine composer Escher) later this autumn.


    It´s really strange how he is so sparsely recorded, in spite of his position in Dutch music - a lot of the pieces are unavailable, or they can only be found in one, maybe even a bit outdated recording.

    The famous 3rd symphony for example is good too.

    ON4080.jpg
    Last edited by joen_cph; Sep-02-2018 at 22:31.

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    Senior Member eugeneonagain's Avatar
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    I have the 3rd symphony on right now (BBC SO). I left it for someone else to mention...and you did. There are some recordings and the scores are available, but very expensive. I went to the library to borrow the full score for Six Epigrams and they came up with a little treasure trove! It probably helps that he was from here and active in this city. That said I have yet to hear his music in the concert hall he was long associated with...
    "I expect I shall have to die beyond my means." — Oscar Wilde, on accepting a glass of champagne on his deathbed.

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