Fountains of Sound: Jets d’Orgues by Jan Vriend (Haarlem Premiere)
Jets d’Orgue is a musical celebration of the acoustic and technological riches of large organs in large spaces. The organist and his assistants are like the crew of a big aeroplane: their combined expertise and effort serve to lift a seemingly clumsy machine off the ground into its element where it suddenly takes on the appearance of an agile space-ship. Acoustical space and musical space-time unite in a multi-dimensional spectacle that unfolds as its many variables are activated and explored.
As the title suggests –a wordplay on the French jets d’eau– Jets d’Orgue is based on a vision of the organ as a fountain of sounds: thousands of pipes spraying their sounds through the vast space of a cathedral in an orgy of colours and patterns, densities and velocities, variations and combinations.
Jet d’Orgue is composed of three movements separated by pauses. Each movement consists of three sections which, again, have a three-part structure made up of segments. The first segment is always a ‘jet’: a cascade of sounds and colours which gradually transforms into a middle segment in which (per section) homophony, two- or three-layered polyphony prevails respectively. The last segment of each section is devoted to a choice of characteristic organ effects or practices.
Three movements, therefore nine sections, all starting with a ‘jet’ in their first segment. Each second segment is a homophonic music, a combination of two ingredients, or a mixture of three distinct layers. The organ effects in each third segment concentrate on ‘mannerisms’ which can be seen as ‘typical’ of the organ or of organ playing. In one of them I let myself be inspired by the characteristic arrangement of voices in foot lengths, notably those in octaves, fifths and thirds. The mixture voices are the ultimate consequence of this phenomenon. I exploited this in three so called ‘heterophonies’ for which I reserved one end-segment per movement. In these I tried to break out of the rigidity of this arrangement by creating quasi-mixtures.
This simple, large-scale architecture serves ultimately one goal: as a canvas for maximum variety and as a space in which to bring out the riches of each individual organ to their maximum potential.
A performance such as this would never have been possible were it not for a genius like Jan Hage to undertake such an enterprise. His advocacy of Jets d’Orgue is not only rooted in a deep musical conviction but is also the product of a technical skill that inspires awe and respect. By making the music his own, the whole architecture radiates a consistency that keeps it erect as a monumental structure.
Jan Vriend (1938) started to play the piano at the age of five, soon followed by the clarinet, the violin and the organ. Following grammar school Jan Vriend received musical training at the Amsterdam Conservatoire where he studied piano, music theory and composition with Ton de Leeuw. He also attended a percussion course at the Utrecht Conservatoire and a foundation course in electronic music at the Institute of Sonology in Utrecht.
In 1967 he concluded his composition studies with the Prize for Composition, followed by a government grant for studies in Paris where he attended classes by Xenakis at the Schola Cantorum, and workshops of the Groupe de Recherches Musicales at the ORTF (French Radio and TV Broadcasting Offices). From 1970 he studied mathematics and related sciences, primarily in view of their application in musical composition.
In 1965 he founded ASKO together with Peter de Buck. The ensemble soon specialized in the study and performance of contemporary music, with an emphasis on the music of Xenakis, Webern and Varèse. Until 1971 he was its conductor and artistic director. Between 1989 and 1994 he was conductor of the New Stroud Orchestra in Gloucestershire, England, where he still lives and works.
Jan Hage (1964) studied musicology at the University of Utrecht, organ (with Jan Welmers) and music theory at the Utrecht Conservatoire, and church music at the Netherlands Institute for Church Music. He finished his studies summa cum laude. For two years he studied organ, with help from the French government, at the Conservatoire National de Région at Boulogne-Billancourt with André Isoir, as well as composition, electronic music composition, and orchestration.
He completed this organ study with the Premier Prix with unanimity of the Jury. He won several first prizes at organ competitions in Leiden, Bolsward, Schaffhausen (CH), and the Premier Concours de l'interprétation de Musique Classique in Poitiers (F). In 2006 he was decorated with the silver medal of the Société Académique ‘Arts-Sciences-Lettres’ in Paris for services to french organ repertoire.
Jan Hage gives organ recitals all over Holland and abroad. He is also active as a composer, continuo player and accompanist. His advocacy of contemporary music makes him a regular guest performer at ensembles and orchestras such as the ASKO Ensemble, the Percussion Group The Hague, the Rotterdam Philharmonic, the Dutch Wind Ensemble and others.
From 1995-2011 he was organist of the Kloosterkerk in Den Haag. In 2011 he was appointed organist of the Domkerk in Utrecht.