Simeon Ten Holt—Palimpsest for String Septet (1993)

Simeon Ten Holt
Over the past few years I've been greatly enjoying the piano music of the Dutch composer Simeon Ten Holt (1923-2012). This morning I finally got found to checking out a late(ish), and to my mind wonderful, joyous and life affirming string piece called Palimpsest for String Septet (1993).

Ten Holt wrote of this piece:

“My compositions take shape without any predetermined plan and are, as it were, the reflection of a quest for an unknown goal. A great deal of time, patience and discipline are the prerequisites for making a (genetic) code productive, that eventually determines form, structure, length, instrumentation etc. Such a process is laborious, as the perception of this generating code is constantly being troubled by human short-comings and one’s own will, and it is dependent on moments of clarity and vitality. And then, the sea washes and polishes, time crystallizes.
          The only advantage of aging may be that a development can be viewed in retrospect. And that, in spite of the zigzag movements and the apparently opposing directions, one is able to discern a logic in this development that hitherto had a function that was hidden and blocked from view. A road then seems to appear, which is oriented towards a goal shrouded in mystery, momentarily hardly gains in height and only advances in the curves. In this image the curves refer to so many turning points, not only as changes in the perception of the landscape, but mainly as changes with regards to the attitude to life and a revision of the conditions to pursue the road any further. The curves are like the articulation in a pattern of movement, end and beginning from one phase to another, and appear to coincide with biological periodicity, with intervals from seven to ten years. As far as I can see, my relationship, both figuratively and practically speaking, to the tonal centre and the problem of tonality, has been a determining factor in the development of the achievements in my creative career. This relation gradually shifted from an initial intuitive understanding to a more conscious issue later on. The role of the tonal centre, first as an undisputed factor, starts to move, loses its authority, submerges into chromaticism and the equality of all tones, and finally emerges in a shape that is chastened by death and katharsis. A large-scale history reproduces itself on a small scale.”

Some wonderful photos of Simeon Ten Holt, taken by Merel Waagmeester, can be found at this link.

And here's the YouTube link:


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