Friday, September 13, 2013

CCC 086 - Douwe Eisenga

This week the Consonant Classical Challenge features a Dutch composer, Douwe Eisenga. Eisenga has written for orchestras large and small, as well as chamber groups and choirs. Many of his works feature piano, and he's written extensively for the solo piano.

Originally, Eisenga was self-taught, although he studied composition formally in the 1990's. Perhaps as a result of his beginnings, Eisenga's music has some unique qualities to it. Eisenga's motives are highly rhythmic. His music develops by stacking these small motifs on top of one another.

It's a very appealing sound. At first blush one might think of Eisena's music as minimalistic, but more listener-friendly. Very much like art rock, ideas are added and subtracted. Unlike minimalism, they don't go in and out of phase with each other, so the uneasy tension minimalist works can sometimes generate is absent. Instead, Eisenga takes the listener on an interesting sonic journey, pulled along by the rhythm, and presents them with various set pieces along the way.

Eisenga's piano concerto illustrates the composer's style perfectly. Eisenga eschews the overly dramatic and showy, instead creating a work that hums right along. There are plenty of technical challenges for the solo pianist, but they're not quite so obvious as such to the audience. That's not to say there's no drama -- each movement moves inexorably to its climax, giving the listener a sense of journey and completion.

Reqiuem 1953 was composed to commorate the North Sea flood of 1953. The choral parts sometimes sound like Orff, but the solo sections have a folk-like intimacy to them that effectively convey the human tragedy of the event.

In the 20th Century, many classical composers experimented with jazz. Douwe Eisenga's no exception. His classical style of composition actually fits quite well with the jazz idiom, making works like the Delta Dance quite effective.

Motion is a work for a chamber ensemble. It presents Eisenga's style stripped down to its basics. The building block rythyms, straight-forward triads, and arcing melodic gestures are all there, given a sense of immediacy by the small ensemble.

I found the Requiem 1953 to be quite moving, and it made me want to hear more of Eisenga's work. Douwe Eisenga has a very distinctive compositional voice, and one that should click with younger (under 50) audiences. I can't recall seeing his music programmed, and that's too bad. Eisenga can be one of those composers that could build a bridge between rock and classical, and help bring new listeners into the classical world. And unlike "crossover" composers, his music is of sufficient substance to merit careful and repeated listening.

Recommended Recordings

Requiem 1953

The Piano Files

Music for Wiek

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