Dutch composer Willem Wander van Nieuwkerk has found new inspiration in very old material -- which is why he's the subject of this week's Consonant Classical Challenge. As he states on his website, van Nieuwkerk is "in search of a new classical music that combines contemporary rhythm and expression with the ensemble ethos and lyricism of classical-romantic forms.
And van Nieuwkerk sometimes goes farther back than the classical-romantic period (c.1790-1890). His Three Dance Capriccios for violin and piano, for example, are based on a medieval French melody. The blending of the old and new in van Nieuwkerk's music is quite effective -- and quite attractive.
His Kadenza for Recorders is new music written for very old instruments. And yet, by using a renaissance melody as his starting point, van Niewkerk's music seems modern, yet perfectly suited to the instruments.
van Nieuwkerk's Theater Tango takes the concept a step further. Still using a renaissance instrumental ensemble, van Nieuwkerk takes a distinctively 20th century form -- the tango -- and reworks it in a fascinating manner.
Deep River is an 19th century African-American spiritual. van Nieuwkerk makes it the basis of a four-movement sonata for violin and piano, and transforms the melody in the process.
Unfortunately, only a very small amount of Willem Wander van Nieuwkerk's music has been recorded. Still, from the examples above, one can hear how his adroit balancing of the old and new. It gives his music a fresh sound, while still offering a familiar point of reference to the listener. I would be very interested to hear how his orchestral music compared to Respighi's Ancient Aires and Dances.