The Music of Peter Klatzow

Seen on July 12, 2015 @ National Arts Festival, Grahamstown

In honour of his 70th birthday a tribute was played to Peter Klatzow’s music. The SA componist has experimented with electronic music and during a meet and greet prior to the concert helped us to find a Bach motive in one of his pieces where he combines electronics, marimba, classical orchestra and other digital sounds with lots of attention to very simple sounds. Seeing performers as allies is important to the composer although he is notorious for writing very difficult pieces for choir and marimba. Another electronic piece that we could absorb was written as a respons to 9/11, with a lot of doom by the strings and a sense of forboding. After that electronic period he wrote more music for the marimba. Pieces like Fingers in a Landscape for flute and marimba or Dancers of Earth and Fire which now has become like a standard practice for master students of marimba worldwide explore both finesse and vocal lines of the marimba as its African, outdoors, hammering sound to create melodic songs and a rhytmic dance.

A third period in his writing was devoted to write a sonata for piano and cello. Rachmaninov, Chopin and Brahms already composed their sonatas for the two instruments but according to Klatzow they were written by pianists so the cello got drowned. Hence his urge to write a sonata with a beautiful melody for cello. A cello for Africa resulted.

His latest work is music written to accompany the beatitudes which would be premiered later in the festival.

The beautiful chapel of St. Mary and the Angels at Rhodes made a magnificent decor for the Music of Peter Klatzow sung by the Chanticleer Singers, played by Magdalena de Vries (marimba) and Carel Henn (cello) and conducted by Richard Cook.

Two Songs from the /XAM has the choir sing poems of Stephan Watson about a people living harmoniously in nature, using harmonic entities on their own and the choir divided into 12 (inspired by Robert Krafts work on Orlando Lassus). Choir music with an African flavour.

The Beatitudes is a very difficult piece using the word blessed in as many different translations as possible. The dynamic of the choir  dignifies the spirituality of the words and life that flow out of the text, powerful individual voices can be discerned. The listener is not only invited to contemplate the richness of the words, but also the role of the cello played by Carel Henn. Is it an observer, a bystander, a commentary on the words in its dramatic counterpart?

A consortium of 10 marimba players commissioned Klatzow to finish his ideas for the Two Concert Etudes for Marimba as the music was lingering for long. The play of the water was inspired after a visit to the Fountains at the Villa Testa (where Liszt lived and wrote of that experience as well). Whispers of Cypresses, Play of Water is an extraordinary difficult piece for marimba. Melodic Mirage. Like Klatzow himself the audience enjoys the magnificent performance by Magdalena De Vries.

Another commissioned piece is Three Spiritual Nocturnes in loving memory of  Elsie Fraser Jacks (Mama of Music for Africa), based on some poems/prayers that come out of the depth – Night Silence, The Son has Disappeared and An Evening Choir.

The unusual combination of cello and marimba is explored in A Sense of Place for Cello and Marimba where the frigthening by an African Mash sound in The Mash and the snappy percussion is brought forward in Shaka’s Victory Dance.

The concert concludes with Prayers and Dances of Praise from Africa rejoicing with choir and 2 marimba players and a contemporary composer that looks at music with distinctive African ears.

That I could witness this profound music on my birthday, half Peter Klatzow’s age, added to the memorable concert.