IN DEEP SILENCE
Raphaëlla Smits plays Walter,
It is something very special to record a programme of exclusively
contemporary music, written by composers with whom I feel a personal
affinity. I must thank Hanno Pfisterer of Accent for backing this
Several of these pieces were written for me; hence the close collaboration
between the composer and the performing musician. Meetings between
us were sometimes necessary, enlightening and always enriching.
But also not too narrow; the writers allowed me to read, to interpret
and to render.
The three composers, fundamentally different, have at least one
quality in common. In essence, in their method of composing, they
remain faithful to combining the musical elements into a bouquet
full of expression and colour. They make new music, not imitating
earlier creations but based on respect for them. Thus Owe Walter
occasionally reminds us of Tedesco, Leo Brouwer of de Falla, Stravinsky
and Takemitsu, while Wim Henderickx, the most intellectual, reminds
us of the East, with controlled improvisation. He is also associated
with Takemitsu and with Bartók. Thus, from such contrasts,
this programme creates a beautiful whole.
Owe Walter (b. 1946, Sweden)
For many years the Swedish educationalist Owe Walter has been connected
with the Musikhögskolan Ingesund in Arvika, a department of
the University of Karlstad. He is the author of a bestselling guitar
tutor. As a composer he has written easy pieces for young musicians,
but also concert works for solo guitar as well as chamber music
ensembles. He gets enormous pleasure from nature, from silence and
from animals. Finally, as a guitarist he enjoys himself performing.
The composer and me
I first met Owe Walter in June 1993. I was invited to a summer course
in Arvika as a lecturer and performer. As a result of this he was
inspired to write two works. After a further concert in 1995, in
which I began with a set of dances by Michael Praetorius, he added
a third movement, and so the piece “La Guitarra” was
born. The subtitles refer to my three Christian names, Raphaëlla,
Maria and Michaëlla.
The splendour of “La Guitarra” lies in the palette of
colours, which Owe Walter conjures up from the harmony. He composes,
with specific intervals, a very intelligible whole; emotion is born.
The work is contemporary, but still has melody, without being neo-romantic.
It is impressionistic and meditative, with a fiery, repetitive last
(Juan Leovigildo) “Leo” Brouwer (b. 1939, Havana,
When he was 13 years old, Leo Brouwer, having been impressed by
the sound of flamenco and encouraged by his father, an amateur guitarist,
swapped his piano studies for guitar lessons. He studied with Isaac
Nicola, himself a pupil of Emilio Pujol, who in turn was a pupil
of Francisco Tarrega. Later he continued his musical education in
the United States at the Juillard School and at Hartt College in
Brouwer's compositions have developed strongly in the course of
his career. His first works were imbued with the typical Cuban culture
and with Afro-Cuban rhythms, mixed with neo-classical influences
and the national schools of composers like de Falla, Bartók
The style of the second period was more avant-garde, characterized
by the use of serialism, twelve-note and aleatory systems. The composers
Penderecki, Messiaen, Baird and Bussotti made a great impression
The third period was almost minimalist, and is based on the development
of a modular system. In many of his recent pieces he goes back to
the national hyper-romanticism.
Leo Brouwer is not only a talented but also a many-sided composer.
He has created works for numerous solo instruments, written chamber
music, choral works and ballets, compositions for wind ensembles
and for symphony orchestra, and provided the music for more than
60 films. In addition he has made many arrangements, which reveal
his sympathy for the music of Scott Joplin and the Beatles.
Since 1987 Leo Brouwer has been an honorary member of UNESCO.
The composer and me
I saw and heard Leo Brouwer for the first time in a concert in the
seventies. He played his own works, which sounded very modern at
the time, and their surprising turns and effects caused the public
to burst out laughing more than once.
A few years later I was woken one morning by a telephone call from
the Guitar Festival in Liège: “Did I want to take part
in Leo Brouwer's master-class?” They did not need to ask twice;
I was completely involved in new music, Leo Brouwer's among others.
I still remember that master-class very well. While I played, he
gave instructions “like a conductor”. Very inspiring.
In March 1985 the radio producer, the late Herman Vuylsteke, brought
together the Flemish guitarists, the late Peter Pieters, Jean Vanderscheuren,
Yves Storms and myself to give a house concert in honour of his
guests: Cuban diplomats and ... Leo Brouwer. It was to be an unforgettable
evening, with much music, wine and good food, but also with companionship
and humour. This meeting, among others, was documented on national
radio with an oustanding performance, including Leo Brouwer as percussionist!
In the course of my career I have met Leo Brouwer again at various
The three sketches, “Tres Apuntes”, date from his earliest
period, which he himself described with the terms “nationalism
and structuralism”. The first sketch is based on a short Spanish
theme from a Homage to de Falla, which he wrote two years earlier.
The introduction obviously refers to the Spanish school with the
use of many colours and contrasts.
In the second sketch he suggests in a masterly way the independence
of the various voices. The ostinato bass is in stark contrast to
the lively treble voice; a written-out improvisation.
The third part is the harmonic development of a Bulgarian song,
which Brouwer would take up again 40 years later in “Hika”.
“Hika, In Memoriam Toru Takemitsu” (1996) is an elegy,
a song of mourning for his friend. Brouwer admired Japanese culture
and regarded Takemitsu as his “mentor”. The title Hika
is taken from a composition by Takemitsu for violin and piano dating
from 1996. Brouwer also adopted some of Takemitsu's concepts, such
as the use of the Lydian scale.
Wim Henderickx (b. 1962, Belgium)
Wim Henderickx studied, inter alia, composition (with Willem Kersters)
and percussion at the Antwerp Conservatory. He took part several
times in the “Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik”
in Darmstadt, and studied sonology at the “IRCAM” in
Paris and at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague.
He teaches composition and music analysis at the Conservatories
of Antwerp and Amsterdam. He is currently composer-in-residence
at the “Muziektheater Transparent”.
He composes not only chamber music and orchestral works but also
opera, and his work has been repeatedly awarded prizes both at home
His compositions are distinguished by a solid structure, changing
sound colours and an intense expressiveness. His composing is stimulated
by extramusical impulses. This has been led by his fascination with
ethnic, non-western cultures, so that many of his works have been
inspired by Eastern music and philosophy. From this standpoint,
he follows the late György Ligeti in the use of delicate clouds
of sound and strongly rhythmic passages with mechanical precision.
The composer and me
I have known Wim Henderickx for a long time both as a friend and
a teaching colleague. When, in 1998, the “Tromp Muziek Concours”
in the Netherlands gave Wim the job of writing the set piece for
the competition, our professional collaboration was given a good
“In deep silence – 1” is an intimate work, in
which silence and tranquility have been an important source of inspiration.
The poetic, often impressionistic character is typical. It is the
first in a line of intimate chamber music compositions.
“In deep silence – 1” consists of 9 parts, which
are played without breaks between them. Various guitar techniques
are integrated into the work, but without going in search of pure
effect music. It takes time to grasp it, which must come from an
inner control. With backward-looking musical material, the colour
gives form to the contents. About the meaning of the title Wim says:
“For me the silence, which I want to suggest, is rather silence
in yourself, an experience, a kind of meditation.”
Wim Henderickx wrote “Saeta” in 2004, commissioned by
the Lemmensinstituut in Leuven, on the occasion of the 125th anniversary
of its foundation.
“Saeta” forms a stark contrast to “In deep silence
- 1”. Here we have pure expression, which goes from manic
grief and resignation to meditation.
A Saeta is a religious song, which stems from the Andalusian “Cante
Hondo” (intense song). The Saeta is associated with Holy Week
in Seville. Here it is sung in the nocturnal procession in the street,
in an atmosphere of passion and vitality, mixed with deep worship
The work contains 7 sections, which were inspired by the story of
1. Christ condemned to death (feroce)
2. The way of the cross of Jesus (lamentoso)
3. Lamentation of Mary (doloroso)
4. The crucifixion of Jesus (agnocioso)
5. His death on the cross (furioso)
6. the resurrection of Jesus (pieno di speranza)
7. Meditation (meditazione)Raphaëlla Smits, Hove, 16th April
Translation: Christopher Cartwright and Godwin Stewart
Return to CD-page