Ups and Downs in the Low Countries

Posted By on December 11, 2006

Saturday before last, December 2nd, I embarked upon a particularly creative and interesting week in the Netherlands and Flanders. My first stop was in the town of Best, Netherlands (just north of Eindhoven) where I met up with Hans Rensen. Hans is the inventor of the Hornstick and had contacted members of the AHQ in hopes that he might get some feedback on his invention. At the time, the stick wasn’t properly fitted on my horn, thus he asked me to pass by his house the next time I was in the area. During the two hours I was at his house, he worked diligently to adjust and re-fit this contraption so that it now is to my liking. Nevertheless, this sort of thing takes some getting used to, and I told Hans that I would need some time not only to practice using it, but actually perform with it. Experienced performers know that the advantages and disadvantages of equipment show themselves more acutely in a performance situation. I think Hans has done a cracking job, and I highly recommend that you check out his website:

The next day, December 3rd, was one of the most amazing and successful days in my composition career. I had mentioned earlier in a blog (“Rotterdam Chamber Players Record Works by Turner”) that members of the Rotterdam Philharmonic had recorded a CD on which were five of my works for winds, strings, and horns in various combinations. This was the day that the CD was officially released, and on this occasion, the players performed the entire program in front of myself, the sponsors (the board of Aerarium Sanctius, a Dutch foundation in Rotterdam,) as well as my great patron in the Netherlands, Mr. Maarten Hudig, and an enthusiastic audience in the Aula of the Museum Boeijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam. The renowned hornist, Martin van de Merwe, performed the horn part on all five works (WITHOUT INTERMISSION.) From the moment that I arrived at the museum, I felt an extraordinary enthusiasm and support from the men and women who had assembled on that cold, rainy, windy day to hear my music performed. As the concert began (with the Berceuse for the Mary Rose), it began to occur to me exactly how special this day was. To hear these magnificent players execute and interpret every note as I had written it, and put such effort into the preparation of this recording and concert, was an extremely emotional and moving experience. I thought that this is surely what every composer dreams of. I thought of so many times when I truly believed my compositions and style were not appreciated in the modern music scene. Yet this was complete proof of the opposite. The audience reacted enthusiastically with applause and exclamations! It was truly overwhelming.I might add that there have been two other occasions when an entire concert was dedicated to my music, once at the 2nd Hungarian Horn Festival in Mór in 2005 and the other time at the Nero House of Music in Osaka in the late 90’s.

That afternoon, I met with my publisher and friend, Bud Fenker of Phoenix Music Publications, with whom I discussed a number of topics relating to the publication of some of my newer works, most notably the Sonatina for Tuba and Piano and the Tears of Charlemagne for horn octet and percussion. Following this discussion at Maarten Hudig’s beautiful home, there was a spectacular 5-course dinner served to members of the board, as well as Martin van de Merwe and his wife Maria Dingjan (who performed violin on the entire program.)

The next morning, I made my way to the Flemish city of Antwerp, where I checked into the Holiday Inn. I had two reasons to be there. First of all, I had been asked to play 1st horn that week with the Royal Flemish Philharmonic Orchestra on a program that included Beethoven 5 and the Bartók Violin Concerto. The conductor was Jaap van Zweden. My second activity during my free hours at the Holiday Inn was the completion of the first movement of my Symphony. I shall be writing more on this topic a little later, as it requires some explanation. But for now, you may want to know that the first movement is entitled “The Sword of Michael.” The second movement seemed to jump right off of the page, and it surprised even me. It will be an orchestration and possible elaboration on my work originally for 8 horns and percussion entitled “The Tears of Charlemagne.” Throughout the many years, it has often been said of my works for horns particularly, that they would adapt themselves well to a full symphony orchestra. I can say frankly that none match that description more than “Charlemagne.”

It is worth mentioning that while I was in Rotterdam, Kristina was in Bretagne in the town of Pontivy, where she performed with the OPL Wind Quartet (Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg.) On the program was a particularly virtuoso and exciting piece of mine called “The New-Found Journal.” As it turns out, this was the French premiere performance of this piece. Alas, she had to return to Luxembourg to perform the Mass in F of J.S. Bach and was unable to join me in Flanders(horn players, if you don’t know this piece, I advise you strongly to procure a copy of it.)

So. I have always heard about conductors who, for some unknown and unexplained reason, decide they intensely dislike the principal horn player in an orchestra from the first moment. Indeed, I have heard of horn players being ruined by such strained relations with and intimidation from the conductor. I must say I have never been in that position, up until this past week with Jaap van Zweden. As for me, I thought I was doing a pretty darn good job on two works which I know quite well, and I think I can safely say that my standards are rather high. But it seemed to me that Mr. van Zweden had something to say about EVERY note I played. That, combined with an expression of disgust on his face, bombarded my otherwise confident demeanor. In other words, he beat me to a pulp. My blood pressure went up, my head was about to explode, and I had to take Inderal for the concerts. I am happy to report, however, that following each concert, Mr. Jaap van Zweden offered the horns the first solo bow. So I must have done something right. Unfortunately, the whole experience was so negative (despite the orchestra having sounded really fantastic) that I can’t wait to forget about it and move on. So, a stern warning to horn players around the world: Jaap van Zweden is climbing the career ladder, and he’s coming to an orchestra near you! :->

One last note: I have claimed for some time that I have quite a large working knowledge of the Dutch language. Following a briefing by my lovely wife, who is fluent in Flemish, I decided to bite the bullet and talk as much Dutch as I could. And you know what? It wasn’t half bad.Rotterdam Chamber Players rehearsing “Rhapsody” as Maarten Hudig looks on. Photo by Maarten Laupman

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