Raphaella SMITS
RECORDINGS Insert notes









press kit





Raphaëlla Smits plays Walter, Brouwer and Henderickx

It is something very special to record a programme of exclusively contemporary music, written by composers with whom I feel a personal affinity. I must thank Hanno Pfisterer of Accent for backing this project.

Several of these pieces were written for me; hence the close collaboration between the composer and the performing musician. Meetings between us were sometimes necessary, enlightening and always enriching. But also not too narrow; the writers allowed me to read, to interpret and to render.

The three composers, fundamentally different, have at least one quality in common. In essence, in their method of composing, they remain faithful to combining the musical elements into a bouquet full of expression and colour. They make new music, not imitating earlier creations but based on respect for them. Thus Owe Walter occasionally reminds us of Tedesco, Leo Brouwer of de Falla, Stravinsky and Takemitsu, while Wim Henderickx, the most intellectual, reminds us of the East, with controlled improvisation. He is also associated with Takemitsu and with Bartók. Thus, from such contrasts, this programme creates a beautiful whole.

Owe Walter (b. 1946, Sweden)

The composer

For many years the Swedish educationalist Owe Walter has been connected with the Musikhögskolan Ingesund in Arvika, a department of the University of Karlstad. He is the author of a bestselling guitar tutor. As a composer he has written easy pieces for young musicians, but also concert works for solo guitar as well as chamber music ensembles. He gets enormous pleasure from nature, from silence and from animals. Finally, as a guitarist he enjoys himself performing.

The composer and me
I first met Owe Walter in June 1993. I was invited to a summer course in Arvika as a lecturer and performer. As a result of this he was inspired to write two works. After a further concert in 1995, in which I began with a set of dances by Michael Praetorius, he added a third movement, and so the piece “La Guitarra” was born. The subtitles refer to my three Christian names, Raphaëlla, Maria and Michaëlla.

The work
The splendour of “La Guitarra” lies in the palette of colours, which Owe Walter conjures up from the harmony. He composes, with specific intervals, a very intelligible whole; emotion is born. The work is contemporary, but still has melody, without being neo-romantic. It is impressionistic and meditative, with a fiery, repetitive last movement.

(Juan Leovigildo) “Leo” Brouwer (b. 1939, Havana, Cuba)

The composer
When he was 13 years old, Leo Brouwer, having been impressed by the sound of flamenco and encouraged by his father, an amateur guitarist, swapped his piano studies for guitar lessons. He studied with Isaac Nicola, himself a pupil of Emilio Pujol, who in turn was a pupil of Francisco Tarrega. Later he continued his musical education in the United States at the Juillard School and at Hartt College in Hartford Connecticut.

Brouwer's compositions have developed strongly in the course of his career. His first works were imbued with the typical Cuban culture and with Afro-Cuban rhythms, mixed with neo-classical influences and the national schools of composers like de Falla, Bartók and Stravinsky.
The style of the second period was more avant-garde, characterized by the use of serialism, twelve-note and aleatory systems. The composers Penderecki, Messiaen, Baird and Bussotti made a great impression on Brouwer.
The third period was almost minimalist, and is based on the development of a modular system. In many of his recent pieces he goes back to the national hyper-romanticism.

Leo Brouwer is not only a talented but also a many-sided composer. He has created works for numerous solo instruments, written chamber music, choral works and ballets, compositions for wind ensembles and for symphony orchestra, and provided the music for more than 60 films. In addition he has made many arrangements, which reveal his sympathy for the music of Scott Joplin and the Beatles.
Since 1987 Leo Brouwer has been an honorary member of UNESCO.

The composer and me
I saw and heard Leo Brouwer for the first time in a concert in the seventies. He played his own works, which sounded very modern at the time, and their surprising turns and effects caused the public to burst out laughing more than once.
A few years later I was woken one morning by a telephone call from the Guitar Festival in Liège: “Did I want to take part in Leo Brouwer's master-class?” They did not need to ask twice; I was completely involved in new music, Leo Brouwer's among others. I still remember that master-class very well. While I played, he gave instructions “like a conductor”. Very inspiring.

In March 1985 the radio producer, the late Herman Vuylsteke, brought together the Flemish guitarists, the late Peter Pieters, Jean Vanderscheuren, Yves Storms and myself to give a house concert in honour of his guests: Cuban diplomats and ... Leo Brouwer. It was to be an unforgettable evening, with much music, wine and good food, but also with companionship and humour. This meeting, among others, was documented on national radio with an oustanding performance, including Leo Brouwer as percussionist!
In the course of my career I have met Leo Brouwer again at various music festivals.

The works
The three sketches, “Tres Apuntes”, date from his earliest period, which he himself described with the terms “nationalism and structuralism”. The first sketch is based on a short Spanish theme from a Homage to de Falla, which he wrote two years earlier. The introduction obviously refers to the Spanish school with the use of many colours and contrasts.
In the second sketch he suggests in a masterly way the independence of the various voices. The ostinato bass is in stark contrast to the lively treble voice; a written-out improvisation.
The third part is the harmonic development of a Bulgarian song, which Brouwer would take up again 40 years later in “Hika”.

“Hika, In Memoriam Toru Takemitsu” (1996) is an elegy, a song of mourning for his friend. Brouwer admired Japanese culture and regarded Takemitsu as his “mentor”. The title Hika is taken from a composition by Takemitsu for violin and piano dating from 1996. Brouwer also adopted some of Takemitsu's concepts, such as the use of the Lydian scale.

Wim Henderickx (b. 1962, Belgium)

The composer
Wim Henderickx studied, inter alia, composition (with Willem Kersters) and percussion at the Antwerp Conservatory. He took part several times in the “Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik” in Darmstadt, and studied sonology at the “IRCAM” in Paris and at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague.
He teaches composition and music analysis at the Conservatories of Antwerp and Amsterdam. He is currently composer-in-residence at the “Muziektheater Transparent”.

He composes not only chamber music and orchestral works but also opera, and his work has been repeatedly awarded prizes both at home and abroad.
His compositions are distinguished by a solid structure, changing sound colours and an intense expressiveness. His composing is stimulated by extramusical impulses. This has been led by his fascination with ethnic, non-western cultures, so that many of his works have been inspired by Eastern music and philosophy. From this standpoint, he follows the late György Ligeti in the use of delicate clouds of sound and strongly rhythmic passages with mechanical precision.

The composer and me
I have known Wim Henderickx for a long time both as a friend and a teaching colleague. When, in 1998, the “Tromp Muziek Concours” in the Netherlands gave Wim the job of writing the set piece for the competition, our professional collaboration was given a good start.

The works
“In deep silence – 1” is an intimate work, in which silence and tranquility have been an important source of inspiration. The poetic, often impressionistic character is typical. It is the first in a line of intimate chamber music compositions.
“In deep silence – 1” consists of 9 parts, which are played without breaks between them. Various guitar techniques are integrated into the work, but without going in search of pure effect music. It takes time to grasp it, which must come from an inner control. With backward-looking musical material, the colour gives form to the contents. About the meaning of the title Wim says: “For me the silence, which I want to suggest, is rather silence in yourself, an experience, a kind of meditation.”

Wim Henderickx wrote “Saeta” in 2004, commissioned by the Lemmensinstituut in Leuven, on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of its foundation.
“Saeta” forms a stark contrast to “In deep silence - 1”. Here we have pure expression, which goes from manic grief and resignation to meditation.
A Saeta is a religious song, which stems from the Andalusian “Cante Hondo” (intense song). The Saeta is associated with Holy Week in Seville. Here it is sung in the nocturnal procession in the street, in an atmosphere of passion and vitality, mixed with deep worship and joy.

The work contains 7 sections, which were inspired by the story of Christ's agony:
1. Christ condemned to death (feroce)
2. The way of the cross of Jesus (lamentoso)
3. Lamentation of Mary (doloroso)
4. The crucifixion of Jesus (agnocioso)
5. His death on the cross (furioso)
6. the resurrection of Jesus (pieno di speranza)
7. Meditation (meditazione)Raphaëlla Smits, Hove, 16th April 2006
Translation: Christopher Cartwright and Godwin Stewart

Return to CD-page

< Last update: 04-XI-2006> < Subscribe now! >