Commissioned by Slot & Bos

  • 1(pic)222(cbn)/2000
  • 11 min

Programme Note

The origins of this piece are interesting enough to bear recounting, a classic - if unconventional - example of 'Business Sponsorship of the Arts'. On the occasion of the retirement of a leading executive of a major Dutch advertising bureau, his colleagues asked him what he would like as a leaving present. His reply was immediate: a work commissioned from his favourite composer - Tristan Keuris - for his favourite artists - The Netherlands Wind Ensemble. Keuris was approached and the idea appealed to him so much that he accepted despite an extremely congested com- posing schedule. The result was Intermezzi (1989), commissioned by Slot & Bos, and first performed (privately) by the NWE on May 26, 1989. The public premiere was given in Manchester on November 5 by the RNCM Wind Ensemble, since when the work has received a number of broadcasts and been taken up by several ensembles.
Coincidentally, at the time of this commission, Keuris was hard at work on another wind piece, Catena (for 31 wind instruments and percussion) for the centenary of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, and it is interesting to compare the two: they are as different as possible granted they are from the same man, Catena with its enormous range of mood, colour and dynamic, its massive tutti passages of power and fire contrasting with sections of lyricism and almost' frozen' tranquillity; Intermezzi with its delicacy, poise and divertimento-like charm. What they have in common is their unerring musicality, masterly handling of instruments, the choice of the appropriate duration and manner for the material, the perfect marriage of style and content. Atmospheric effect is achieved by thematic working, not gesture, within the framework of a basic given mood.
The selection of title reflects this mood, and was suggested by the piano Intermezzi of Brahms, particularly the Op.117. They are scored for flute (which has a specially important part) and two each oboes, clarinets, horns and bassoons, and are usually performed without conductor. There are five movements, respectively Molto moderato, Energico, Lento, Poco agitato e molto leggiero , and Molto Moderato: which solve one of the most difficult of all musical problems, to write something light but not trivial, accessible but not patronising. The feel of the piece is one of elegance, within which the short sections - the whole lasts about 12 minutes - are extremely varied, alternating the warmly evocative with an almost neo-classical economy. The extreme deftness of the scoring makes considerable demands on the performers' rapport and ensemble playing, its transparency exposing any shortcomings of technique or musicality, while exploiting both their sustaining qualities and the capacity for agility and brilliance.
~ Giles Easterbrook 1990