Simeon Ten Holt - Canto Ostinato - 2008 20th Century Classical 180 Grm 2LP

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Simeon Ten Holt - Canto Ostinato

Label: Music On Vinyl Classical, Zefir Records
Cat#: MOVCL002
Format: 2 × Vinyl, LP, Album, Reissue, 180 Gr, Gatefold
Country: Europe
Released: 2014
2008 Original Release
Genre: Classical
Style: Contemporary


A1 Section 1 2:29
A2 Section 5 2:43
A3 Section 10 3:48
A4 Section 15 5:11
A5 Section 20 3:15
A6 Section 25 1:28
A7 Section 30 2:27

B1 Section 35 2:52
B2 Section 40 1:58
B3 Section 45 1:44
B4 Section 50 1:43
B5 Section 55 2:11
B6 Section 60 1:11
B7 Section 69 2:41
B8 Section 74, Theme I 6:07

C1 Section 80 1:35
C2 Section 83 1:34
C3 Section 86 2:55
C4 Section 88 13:23

D1 Section 89 6:49
D2 Section 92 1:23
D3 Section 95, Theme II 3:30
D4 Section 100 2:08
D5 Section 105 1:56
D6 Section 106 2:02
Companies etc

Phonographic Copyright (p) – Van Veen Productions
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Zefir
Copyright (c) – Zefir
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Van Veen Productions
Made By – Van Veen Productions
Produced For – Zefir Records
Recorded At – Zeeuwse Concertzaal, Middelburg
Manufactured By – Music On Vinyl B.V.
Distributed By – Music On Vinyl B.V.


Executive-Producer – Jeroen van Veen (2)
Mastered By – Jakko Van Der Heijden, Walter Calbo
Piano – Piano Duo Sandra & Jeroen Van Veen
Recorded By – Concertstudio De Verwerij

Recording date; 2008-02-25
Originally released (p) and (c) Vanveenproductions & Zefir

Canto Ostinato is the piece that brought Dutch composer Simeon ten Holt to the limelight in 1979. It is also the piece that signalled ten Holt's embrace of minimalism. Before that, ten Holt (born in 1923, he died in November 2012) had struggled to free himself of the tonal influence of his teacher Jakob van Domselaer, then became serially tonal (Berg obviously proves that this in no contradiction in terms), e.g. striving to organize the tonal material according to serial principles. ten Holt himself objects to the term "minimalism" applied to his music and processes, but there are many possible definitions of minimalism, and the minimalism of Glass-Reich-Riley-Adams isn't the minimalism of Feldman or Sciarrino. What the music of ten Holt certainly shares with minimalism in the accepted sense are the processes of slowly but implacably moving and evolving through obsessive repetition.

The principle of Canto Ostinato, and of ten Holt's subsequent compositions (most of them for piano(s) or, more unspecifically, keyboard(s)) is that "the composer created over a hundred small cells [106 exactly] called 'sections' of a few bars [some even limited to one], which can be played ad libitum and be repeated either one or many more times (some bridges excepted). Because of this build-up, performance may take from some two hours to more than a day" (source, Wikipedia, endless spring of knowledge two clicks away, the [brackets] are my additions).

The basic melodic/rhythmic cell is a very catchy, very pretty and very tonal tune, half-nostalgic half dance-like, and then it repeats, and repeats, and obsessively repeats, slowly evolving melodically but with a few sharper turns, and with some processes of piling of instrumental layers. Dynamics swell and recede, wave-like, more or less at the performers' discretion. In fact ten Holt opens a lot of freedom to his performers: tempo, dynamics, and, of course, total duration, but also in the choice of number and nature of the instruments played. Canto Ostinato was premiered with a lineup of three pianos and electric organ, and it has been played (and sometimes recorded) by one, two, four and six pianos, and despite ten Holt's indication on the score that it was written "for one or more keyboard instruments", it has even been done with harp, marimbas, saxophone sextet, percussion ensemble. I haven't seen a version for guitar(s), but I'm sure it will be done, if it hasn't yet.

You are free to think that this catchy little tonal melody obsessively repeated is very simplistic and facile and vacuous compared to the awesome and intimidating intelligence demonstrated by the attempts at rationally organizing the whole sound-universe initiated by Schoenberg (or should I say: Bach?) and pursued by Boulez and Stockhausen, but then, it isn't easy to resist being mesmerized by the beauty of ten Holt's catchy little tunes and repetitions.

Simeon ten Holt - Section 74, Theme I

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Pianoduo Sandra & Jeroen van Veen perform a piece from Canto Ostinato composed by Simeon ten Holt.

This video was recorded in Bimhuis Amsterdam for VPRO, Vrije Geluiden.

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Canto Ostinato, Simeon ten Holt - Complete - Live

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More Information
Condition New
Format 2LP
Label Music On Vinyl