Introduction to Composer of the Month
Peter Klatzow agreed to be the first Composer of the Month for Music Tapestry.
Peter wrote an article on his compositions for younger people and it is wonderful to share it here on Music Tapestry’s website.
As I am listening and exploring his piano compositions, I hope that other teachers and pianists will share my excitement and admiration. I have assigned a few of the pieces from Making Friends and Going Places to my students and I can without a doubt say that the compositions are valuable material from a pedagogical and an aesthetic perspective.
Enjoy reading the article, take the time to listen to all the YouTube links, read the interview, and visit the ‘Graded’ list of piano compositions under SA composers on this website, to have a look at excerpts from scores, descriptions of his works and a link to Peter himself if you are interested in ordering some of the works.
Peter Klatzow was born in Springs, South Africa, in 1945.
In 1964 he attended the Royal College of Music in London, where he studied composition with Bernard Stevens, piano with Kathleen Long, and orchestration with Gordon Jacob. In that year he won several of the College composition prizes as well as the Royal Philharmonic prize for composition, which was open to any Commonwealth composer under 30. He spent the following years in Italy and Paris, where he studied with Nadia Boulanger.
Since returning to South Africa in 1966, he has worked at the SABC in Johannesburg as a music producer, and in 1973 was appointed to the University of Cape Town, where he was Director of the College of Music and Professor in Composition.
In 1986 he was elected to the rank of Fellow of the University of Cape Town for “having performed original distinguished academic work of such quality as to merit special recognition.”
He was awarded his DMus for published work in Composition in 1999, and the Cape Tercentenary Foundation’s Molteno Gold medal for lifetime achievement in Music in 2002.
One of the few South African composers to achieve international recognition, Peter Klatzow has won prizes in Spain, the United Kingdom and Toronto, and his works have been performed in various European centres and in the United States. In South Africa he was awarded the prestigious Helgard Steyn prize for his piano suite From the Poets.
His major works include a full length ballet on Hamlet for which he was given a special Nederburg award for the music, scores for ballets on Drie Diere and Vier Gebede, and Concertos for various solo instruments; piano, clarinet, organ, marimba, and a double Concerto for flute and marimba which was performed at Yale University, USA. His Prayers and Dances of Praise from Africa was introduced at the Three Choirs Festival, Worcester, UK on 24 August 1996.
Recent commissions include The World of Paul Klee (III), composed for the opening of the new Paul Klee Centre in Berne, Switzerland, a celebratory Te Deum for choir, organ and orchestra, commissioned for a special service celebrating the 100th anniversary of St George’s Cathedral, Cape Town and Towards the Light, a work for double choir, marimba and organ commissioned for the opening of the new Peabody concert hall (USA) in April 2004. He was also commissioned by the University of Cape Town to provide a short (20 minute) opera for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the SACM. He was also commissioned by SAMRO to compose a setting of Thabo Mbeki’s speech “I am an African” for use in the international vocal scholarship competition in September 2011. That same year year he also attended a major festival of his marimba works in Tokyo, where he also lectured at the Tokyo Music School and give master classes on his music.
His discography includes recordings of his piano music, the Mass for Choir, Horn, Marimba and Strings, String Quartet, Chamber Concerto for 7, Piano Concerto, From the Poets, an RCA issue of Return of the Moon with the King’s Singers and Evelyn Glennie, and a CD of his choral music made by the international Herald company entitled Towards the Light – the choral music of Peter Klatzow. His Marimba concerto has been reissued in a new recording made by Markus Leoson and issued by the Swedish label NOSAG in 2006. His CD entitled Myths, Magic and Marimbas – the music of Peter Klatzow was also issued in July 2006. He is now retired from the University of Cape Town, where he remains and is a Professor Emeritus. In 2011 the SA Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns awarded him the Huberte Rupert music prize for his lifetime work.
Shortly after these performances Peter attended a major international event Peter Klatzow in the City which was held for a week in Rotterdam, and featured his music for marimba. There were three performances of his concerto for flute, marimba and strings with Tatiana Koleva and Eleonore Palmeijr and they premiered his new work Night Sky with Illuminations which was commissioned by the Eduard von Beinum Foundation in Rotterdam.
In 2014 Peter Klatzow was once again awarded the Helgard Steyn prize (now worth R520000) for his work Lightscapes which was commissioned for the World Marimba Festival in Stuttgart in 2012. He was also appointed Composer in Residence for the 2015 Johannesburg International Mozart Festival.
“To compose music is to isolate yourself completely and to immerse yourself in a sea of imagined sounds. It is a solitary process in which the composer (usually with great difficulty) extracts from his/her imagination a structure which has not only beauty, but a pleasing form, thematic integrity and technical skill. If any of these are missing the work is structurally deficient. But in the making of this new work the composer must also take into account the role that the performer has to play. A work which fails to integrate the performers’ contribution will never find its mark with receptive audiences,” says Klatzow when reflecting on his career as a prolific composer.
As a Professor of Composition at the University of Cape Town he has trained generations of young South African composition talents.
MY MUSIC FOR YOUNG PERFORMERS AND LISTENERS
Almost from the very beginning of my career as a composer I was interested in writing music which could be performed by younger players (mostly pianists) and which would appeal to young listeners. These have some-times been in marked distinction to the sophistication and complexity of my other works, although with time that differentiation has become less obvious. Some of the very earliest of these pieces are retained in the UCT (University of Cape Town) archives, and include a Prelude, Strange Fishes and a Pavane.
Considering that this was composed very shortly after my studies with Boulanger in Paris, when I composed such complex works as my first Violin Sonata, Two Mareotis Images, and Song Cycle on poems by Lawrence Durrell, they represent a very sharp departure from my prevailing style and language.
I am a pianist, and one of my primary interests is in creating a repertoire for young players. But in addition to this I have composed for young guitarists, and the first Musications publication was entitled “Three for Guitar” (1977) which included some easy pieces (“Three Little Pieces”) specifically designed for teaching purposes, and dedicated to Elspeth Jack, who taught at the South African College of Music at that time. In addition to this there is a set of 6 pieces for guitar duet (teacher and student) entitled Holding Hands. This is regarded as work in progress.
The musical language used in these guitar pieces is clearly related to the nature and construction of the instrument, with much effective use made of open strings, very easy chord formations and simple linear melodies. The function of the 2nd guitar part is to provide a stable rhythmic base for the student and to flesh out some of the harmonic implications of the upper part.
MAKING FRIENDS FOR PIANO
This set of piano pieces was composed in the years leading up to 2012, when the complete set of 12 pieces was self-published. At that stage I was coaching my God-daughter Claudia Botes in piano playing and these (as well as the later set Going Places) were for her edification and developing skills. There is an introductory note for the teacher that recommends that “for study purposes, and especially for performance, three pieces should be chosen as a group. There should be a degree of contrast i.e. fast-slow-fast, or slow-fast-slow. For young students encourage the use of an imaginative story to fit the title”. The pieces have evocative titles such as After work, Tune for Tuesdays, Leaves falling into water, Whistling piece, Grumpy old clock, In a Rush, Froglet, For a sleepy cat, Outside on a cool day and Skipping piece. Tune for Tuesdays is a slightly melancholic 16-bar piece with the melody alternating between the left and right hands. Coming and going is an ingenious introduction to asymmetrical meters (5/8) and the young students is advised to repeat the phrase “coming and going” to assimilate the 3+2 structure of the meter. A-symmetrical meters also occur in Whistling piece (3/8 + 2/4) and For a sleepy cat (5/4).
Probably the most difficult of the set is the final Skipping Piece which places some demands on the student’s manual dexterity and controlled rhythmic flow. The pieces in fact range from “fairly easy to rather tricky” as the cover page advises.
Many of the pieces have a modal flavour (Phrygian in the first piece, Me and You; Dorian in Grumpy old Clock, but only one piece uses an actual key signature – Skipping Piece, which is in e minor.) Various technical problems are introduced – staccato in one hand and legato in the other (Grumpy old Clock; Outside on a Cool Day). It is was my intention to introduce the student to tonal formations beyond the traditional scope of major and minor, and at the same time to familiarise the young player with different meters.
In 2007 the UNISA Directorate of Music (acting through Professor Hubert van der Spuy) commissioned me to write a short piece of Grade 4 standard for its piano examinations syllabus, to be issued in 2008. I wrote a number of short pieces, some of which I thought might be too easy, some too difficult, but sent a selection to van der Spuy to approve one for inclusion in the published volume.
The selection panel chose a piece entitled “Bubbles”, and I then decided to publish the remainder of the pieces in a volume entitled Going Places. Many of the pieces do in fact represent motion in some form or another, but their principal aim is to provide a concert repertoire for young players which ranges from moderately easy to technically advanced.
These pieces presume that the young pianist has already encountered unusual chord formation, bi-tonality and a-symmetrical meters. Many of the pieces are built out of a single musical event which is developed throughout the piece.
The pieces also take into account the limited stretch of the younger players, avoiding anything larger than an octave. The melodic interest is not concentrated in the right hand only but are also studies in left hand cantabile playing. Under a Tree presents a gentle rocking left hand accompaniment under the lilting shade of the right hand accompaniment (bars 16-25).
The first piece in the Suite is entitled On our way and opens with a determined march like figure in the key of G (key signatures are generally not given due to the mobility of the tonal structures). By bar 4 the piece has already moved to a lydian E flat major, with the main melodic interest shifted to the left hand. The five note ascending scale pattern is a referential item throughout the piece. Contrasting simultaneous dynamics are indicated (e.g. bar 2, rh mf lh p).
Gentle Rain on Flowers is a small tribute to Debussy’s Jardins sous la pluie from Estampes. The melodic left hand is subtly woven in between the right hand notes.
The modality of the left hand notes with their major/minor inflection is pitted against the quartal/quintal figuration of the “rain drops” in the right hand. The piece is essentially a study in creating subtlety differentiated textures as a contrast to the first piece, where the different layers are boldly projected. Multi-tonalities are presented in bar 18/19 – independent tonal layers moving to a common chord and again in bar 23 where the pivotal E allows the triads to move stepwise towards a common E major triad.
Dancing under the Moon is a study in an a-symmetrical rhythm which is 3/8 + 3/4. I regard this as quadruple meter with an extended first beat. The regularity of this meter persists until bar 12, when it shortens to 3/8 + 2/4. Once again there are strong tonal e-lements in the piece which sets out in A major, modulating to F sharp major in bar 5, but emerging in A flat major (through to the end) with a recapitulation of the opening material in bar 21. Much use is made of open fourths and fifths in this short piece. The open fifth clearly personifies the empty whiteness of the moon, as I use it in When the moon comes out for marimba and 4 instruments.
(When the moon comes out)
Rain at Night is a toccata with minor mode inflections, but also introducing such technical problems as combining staccato and legato. Generally speaking the technical demands of this particular piece go beyond UNISA Grade 4, but it fits comfortably into the overall content of the suite. Since the fingers interlock from time to time the melodic profile may not emerge as it appears on the page.
Bubbles was the one piece that was accepted as being of Grade 4 standard by UNISA and was included in their volume of pieces prescribed for “2008 until further notice”. This piece has no complications or variations of meter, and is rhythmically much simpler than all the others. It is tonal throughout, but floats easily and gracefully through various tonalities using pivot notes as the means of modulation.
Under a Tree is one of the most beguiling pieces in the set. Set in G minor (with a raised 6th), it was originally a much shorter piece in the previous volume Making Friends but was later extended to match the dimensions of the other pieces found in this volume. Bars 23 and 24 form a sonorous suspension of tonality which resolves back to the opening key.
Scary Place is a study in rapidly alternating tonalities (G minor – E major, E flat minor – E major) in the first two bars designed to give an impression of nervous apprehension and flight. The sharply dissonant chords at the climax are C7th over the tritonal F#, (an introduction to the famous Petrouchka chord).
Monsieur Satie takes his umbrella for a walk.
My fascination with Satie’s music goes back at least to the 3rd movement of my Concerto for piano and 8 instruments, in which a typically Satie-esque walking bass has a melody above it.
The duple meter (10/8) is extended to triple meter in bar 6 (15/8) and curtailed to a simple 2/4 in bar 7. These fluctuations of the meter depend on a regular duration for the 8th note. The 15/8 meters all signify a cadential structure in the music. A typically Satie-esque feature is the triadic bass in bar 12 (a similar passage occurs in Satie’s Three Pieces in the form of a Pear, which I recorded in the 2 piano version with Lamar Crowson).
Jogging at Night is really a left hand study with a four-finger pattern which continues more or less relentlessly until the final minor 11th chord. There are also sharp dissonant ejaculations (suggesting car horns). In short it is a challenging left hand toccata with a somewhat sombre flavour.
Slow River Ride is in 5/8 time almost throughout (duple time, simple + compound unit) until it reaches bar 31 when the meter changes to 3/8+3/4, which is a quadruple meter (4/4 with an extended compound first beat).
The opening four-note pattern unfolds in a pattern spread over 5 eighth notes to simulate a gentle rocking pattern. The rotation pattern which the performer should use in articulating this passage also refers to the rocking of the boat.
Toccatina, the final movement of the suite, once again introduces asymmetrical meters – q q q+q. – until this stabilises into a regular 4/4 at bar 7, transitioning into 2/2 at bar 8. The Toccatina (largely in C major) is in simple ternary form with a secondary theme presented in bar 11 (in the dominant key of G major) and returning to the opening subject in bar 23. It makes a suitable ending for anyone selecting pieces from the set to form a performable suite.
My early pianistic training under Lily Shapiro included a complete study of Muzio Clementi’s Six Sonatinas. Clementi described his Sonatinas as “progressive, composed and fingered by Muzio Clementi” and I have described my set of Sonatinas as progressive “in that they introduce the student not only to contemporary fingering practice but also to some of the technical developments in 20th century music – unusual modulations; asymmetrical meters; bi- and multi-tonality, etc.”
Each Sonatina is dedicated to an individual who had some pianistic meaning to me.
- Claudia Botes. (My God-daughter, and last piano student.)
- To Lily Shapiro. (My piano teacher in Springs, Gauteng, from 1955-57.)
- To Rose Kagan. (One of Lily Shapiro’s older students who took a great interest in my development.)
- To Julienne Cartwright Brown. (My piano teacher at St Martin’s School, Rosettenville, from 1958-1960.)
- To Aïda Lovell. (An important formative influence both compositionally and pianistically from 1960-63.)
- To John Antoniadis, pupil of an assistant to Claudio Arrau. (Antoniadis helped me to greater technical heights when we both taught at the Salisbury (now Harare) College of Music (1967-68).)
One example of the unusual fingering can be found in the first bar of the first Sonatina where the left hand thumb is required to depress a major 2nd.
Although this is found in the piano music of Ravel (Scarbo) and Prokofiev (Piano concerto no. 3), it would be a novelty to many young pianists. Other unusual fingering indications include placing the thumb on a black note.
I also recommend the use of the thumb on notes which need special accentuation. Another unusual use of the thumb is found in Sonatina 4, bars 2-3, where the use of the thumb ensures that the phrasing is clearly articulated.
By the time the student has progressed to the 5th Sonatina, finger equality is an important requirement as the final movement is in effect a five-finger etude (for both hands) with the hands placed in different scalic positions – sometimes closed, sometimes over intervals larger than an octave.
These range from simple triadic formations with 7ths and 9ths found in the first Sonatina, through to the tone clusters and chromatic melodic formations found in the 6th Sonatina (Sounds outside, late at night). The transition from a single pitch with the same rhythmic pattern (iamb) established at the opening of the 2nd movement acts as a pulsating device before finally creating a bridge to the last movement. Although the middle movement has no established tonality, both the 1st and 3rd movements create a relationship between B minor and B flat major which share a common mediant. It also provides the only instance where in this work of the linking of separate movement by a single motive. (It also appears in the recapitulation in bar 82).
My use of expanding from single pitch class to more complex formations is also found in bars 23-25 of the same slow movement.
Each of the Sonatinas is in a single key, with the centre movement usually in a related tonality (Sonatina 1, D major – A minor – D major). The melodies are thus largely diatonic in formation, with pivotal relations to related keys. In the first Sonatina (movement II) Klatzow uses the G# in A minor as a pivot to F minor (A flat).
Chromaticism is not introduced until the final movement of the second Sonatina where 7 of the 8 notes in the right hand rhythmic figure are of different chromatic values.
Much of the succeeding material is also chromatic. Full chromatic scale passages occurs in bar 21 and again (partially) in bar 31.
The second movement of the fourth Sonatina introduces the Mixolydian mode with some rapid modulations leading back to the return of the initial thematic material in unaltered state.
This particular passage neatly illustrates my observation that harmonic turbulence is more pronounced just before a cadence (lectures in Composition 1, at UCT).
With Sonatina 5 the opening material (in B flat major) moves into rapid modulation immediately (thus prefiguring the opening subject of Sonatina 6). The second subject (bar 12) moves to A major – a tonality which is sustained until the movement once again returns to a more volatile B flat major.
The second movement is largely based on the so-called Hungarian Gypsy scale, which is symmetrical in formation.
I have also used this scale before; most notably in my orchestral work A Chrysalis in Flames (1989).
Sonatina 6 features a succession of eight different chromatic notes (the tonal centre, B natural, is repeated) making it the most comprehensively chromatic formation found in the Sonatinas. (In general, I avoid the use of any chromatic scale in its pure form).
The tonal structure of the movement leads from B minor – B flat major – E minor, before finally returning to B minor for a proper recapitulation. (The second subject is in B major).
The second movement is an atmospheric evocation of the night, which pays homage to Bartók. The meter is 5/8, chosen to avoid recognisable regularity. Cluster formations which gradually expand (often in the upper part) provide a backdrop to the chromatic melodic formations in the left hand. The principle of the expanding cluster (also a structural feature in Harrison Birtwistle’s choral work The Fields of Sorrow (1971/2, published by Universal Edition) and this is found in bars 18-20, and 23-25. These gradually contract to a single B natural at the end. The complete suspension of tonality in this 2nd movement enabled me to create a movement with no gravitational pulls. I view atonality (or serialism) as an extension of tonality, which however cannot be sustained for long periods.
I have mentioned that one of the key elements I missed in my non-tonal works (Interactions 1 and 2, Time Structure 1 for piano, and Time Structure 2 for orchestra with organ, Piano Sonata 1) was the ability to create a tonal geography by means of stable tonal sections and modulation. Various modulatory techniques are found in this set of Sonatinas. I have also used certain techniques employed by Ligeti to create “neutral” points (unisons, augmented 4ths) but these substitutes are not a viable replacement for the stability and mobility which tonality and modulation permit. If form is to be clear, the composer must use all the available means to articulate that form, otherwise the listener has only a very hazy idea of the geography of that piece of music and other landmarks have to be artificially created to put this in place.
In my early years (1966-70) there was a very sharp distinction between my “art” music and my music for young (and thus aesthetically undeveloped) people. Although I do not possess any of the works from my Paris period (1965/6), the works written shortly after that (Interactions 1 for piano, percussion and chamber orchestra) as well as my first piano sonata (1968 – commissioned by SAMRO) indicate a sharp differentiation of technical demands (both rhythmic and harmonic). At some point I decided to create a rapprochement with tonality. Tonal cadences feature in Still Life with Moonbeams (1975) and Echoes of Dowland ( movement 1 in The Garden of Memories and Discoveries).
(Still life with Moonbeams, final bars)
This fragment plays an important function in defining the structure of this short but complex work. It gave me a new means of creating a cadence in the midst of tonal and rhythmic complexity, and its inclusion was no doubt an important moment in my rapprochement with tonality. Similarly, in The Garden of Memories and Discoveries I used tonality, both by including paraphrases of the music of Dowland, and also by introducing Beethoven’s well-known Für Elise into the electronic cataclysm of the final movement. At this point I clearly embraced pluralism (a polystylism which incorporates strongly different techniques of rhythm and harmony and establishes a new relationship to tonality).
- I studied with Nadia Boulanger, at her invitation, from 1965-66. Although I quite often attended her famous Wednesday classes, our meetings were usually on a one-to one basis.
- These above-mentioned works were stolen when I moved to Cape Town to take up my position at the SACM. Boulanger described them as “works of great value”(letter to Klatzow, Sept 15th 1966)
- Elspeth Jack was a guitarist, but more renowned as a teacher for many years at the SACM. She died on February 2nd 2010.
- Claudia Naomi Botes, born 1995. Travelling companion for many overseas trips including Egypt, Italy and Paris. She studied music as far as matric, for which she performed two movements (2 and 3) of my Sonatina in E minor as well as Debussy’s “Clair de Lune”
- UNISA – the University of South Africa manages distance learning and music examinations throughout Southern Africa.
- When the moon comes out was requested by Kunihiko Komori for his recital of my marimba works in Tokyo on 29th September, 2011. Komori had previously requested my Sonata for Violin and Marimba, and subsequent to the Tokyo performance requested me to write a work for voice and marimba. Songs from the Japanese 4 Haiku, 2 Vocalises and an Interlude was the result.
- The vinyl was issued as part of a Rio Ethicals promotion by Adcock Ingram, and is no longer available.