Minimal Piano Works, Volume II
Music by Arvö Pärt / John Cage / Philip Glass / Friedrich Nietzsche / Erik Satie / Simeon ten Holt
Jeroen Van Veen, piano


Van Veen Productions PP 2011


Arvö Pärt – Fur Alina 5:09
Arvö Pärt – Variationen zur Gesundung von Arinuschka 5:48
John Cage – In a Landscape 8:42
Philip Glass – Truman Sleeps 3:34
Friedrich Nietzsche – Das Fragment an sich 7:09
Erik Satie – Vexations 4:47
Simeon ten Holt – Solodevilsdance IV 25:37
Arvö Pärt / J. Van Veen – Phasing on Part 11:53


Minimal Piano Works Volume II is the next CD in the series in which I’m trying to collect the minimal piano works which have been written. There is no timeline or schedule from which I’m working. All I did is collecting music from different ages and countries and combining a special collection on each CD. On this CD you can hear Arvö; Pärt, John Cage, Friedrich Nietzsche, Erik Satie, Philip Glass and Simeon ten Holt. Some of the works are are specified as music from the category ‘minimal music’, and other have some characteristics from this music. In minimal music I got a sense of looking at a beautiful sculpture from 3 different angles, the sculpture is still the same, but the interpretation is different. In the minimal music, or the minimalistic related works, repetition (notes, figures, systems) is the base of composition. The tension in this CD is what a composer can create with many notes as in Ten Holt and with hardly any notes as in Pärt.

The playing direction for Für Alina is marked “calm, exalted, listening to one’s inner self.” This tender solo piano work, written in 1976, is regarded as Pärt’s first piece in his new tintinnabula style and we hear his characteristic low drones with triadic harmonies floating in the high register in free time. The piece was written originally as a gift for a young Estonian girl who was on her own in London. With Für Alina, Pärt has often said since, he began to find his voice as a composer: “This was the first piece that was on a new plateau. It was here that I discovered the triad series, which I made my simple little guiding rule.” Abandoned, with this new beginning, were the experiments with serialism that had marked his work of the 1960s. Composition, for Pärt, had become a process of self-discovery, and his first requirement was clarity. Arvö; Pärt says about his music: ” I could compare my music to white light which contains all colors. Only a prism can divide the colors and make them appear; this prism could be the spirit of the listener”.

Variationen zur Gesundung von Arinuschka, written in 1980 by Arvö; Pärt is a beautiful piece, very solitude and simple from structure. The main theme in a minor is slowly climbing diatonic one octave higher and then descending to the notes in which the piece started. Pärt is using only quaver and semi-quavers, by which he creates an almost religious atmosphere. In the Variations he uses several techniques from the minimalists such as: moving patterns, hardly moving (almost no development) and is rather easy to follow. For some listeners Pärts music is more religious than minimal music. One of the most interesting trends in new music since the 1940s is the use of silence. From the Zen inspired prepared piano work of John Cage we started to value silence and space as an integral part of a musical composition. Much like blank space in a Chinese landscape painting it offers a space for us to enter. This trend has continued as composers including Arvö; Pärt find ways to merge Western linearity with the cyclic and static states of much Asian music. The success of Pärt validates the notion that the aural beauty of acoustic instruments, silence, simplicity and a strong personal style are highly valued in the world of new music.

As said before John Cage (1912-1992) started from 1940 to use silence in his music. Cage’s music shows us maybe the greatest variety in music ever written. The piece In a Landscape was written in 1948 for piano or harp. You can hear that he was involved with the minimal music and the Eastern Music. In the piece the right pedal has to be pressed during the whole piece, which gives a special sound. The music has a sounds like the “gamelan music” from Bali. During the piece the eight notes form a layer upon which sometimes notes appear that make a melody. There is one rather slow tempo and the piano is mainly being used in the center keys. At a few spots a base note is plays like a gong. In the last bar Cage uses a special technique; the pianist has to play a chord pressing the keys silently.

Glass is probably one of the best known composers in the minimal music. In volume one from Minimal Piano Works on this series you can hear his piano works which are published already. The Truman Show by Peter Weir starring Jim Carrey is a satire about a man whose life has been written and filmed by hidden cameras and broadcast in a long-running TV series. Philip Glass appears himself briefly playing Truman Sleeps. It was released in USA on June 5, 1998. The soundtrack included original music by Philip Glass and Burkhard Dallwitz as well as other previously released music by Philip Glass, Frederic Chopin and Wojciech Kilar among others.

Friedrich Nietzsche was a German philosopher of the late 19th century who challenged the foundations of traditional morality and Christianity. He believed in life, creativity, health, and the realities of the world we live in, rather than those situated in a world beyond. Central to Nietzsche’s philosophy is the idea of “life-affirmation,” which involves an honest questioning of all doctrines which drain life’s energies, however socially prevalent those views might be. Often referred to as one of the first “existentialist” philosophers, Nietzsche has inspired leading figures in all walks of cultural life, including dancers, poets, novelists, painters, psychologists, philosophers, sociologists and social revolutionaries. In his life Nietzsche also composed music in different styles; from time to time he adored composers like Beethoven, Chopin, Wagner and Liszt who he tried to imitate. Das “Fragment an sich” (1881) might be the first pieces in which the performer has to repeat and repeat the piece…

Vexations, composed in 1893, is a “short” piano piece that is to be played 840 times in succession. Satie was the composer from the 20th century with the most innovating titles for the music. Take for instance his Music d’Ameublement, which was meant to serve as real furniture music. Or when he got the remark from Debussy that his music had no form, he wrote ‘Trois morceaux en forme de poire’ (1903), which are not three but seven movements. Ideas and titles were new and special. The piece Vexations, written in 1893 can be considered as one of the first minimalistic piece ever written. A performance takes on average around 18 hours. Before Cage discovered the piece in 1949, few knew that it existed. In 1963 Cage organized the work’s premier performance in New York, seventy years after it was composed! Vexations is now one of Satie’s most famous pieces. It has been performed many times all over the world; equally, a literature on it has developed. The music is is build upon the augmented fourth. The Tritone in music has been omitted in most pieces, but in this piece you can hear it for a long time. The Devil in music as this Tritone was called, can also be interpreted as a description from a work.

The Solodevilsdance IV (1998) by Simeon ten Holt is written in the same manner as Ten Holts number 2 and 3. A fast tempo and extremely difficult to perform. The quick left— and right-hand alternation in which the melodic can be accentuated so that a melody will appear. The choice concerning dynamics, pedaling, number of repetitions and voicing is left to the performer on stage. Every performing is different in this way. The composition is constructed by separate segments, which are repeated. The score is written on 3 staves to give a better overview. The speed, character and duration, creates a a devilish atmosphere.

In its original form, ‘Für Alina’ is barely two minutes in length, yet the marking in the score “Calm, exalted, listening to one’s inner self” encourages a treatment that takes a more liberal approach to duration. With the help from the modern technology, Jeroen van Veen made a longer version Phasing on Pärt (2001), using different musical layers. The same piece is repeated but has been reorganized; the dynamics as well as the panning has been changed from the different layers. At some points you will hear eight grand pianos all positioned from a different angle. The piano sound is bell-like, pellucid, almost crystalline, in the extended arcs of variation. There are effects created which remind to John Cage and Morton Feldman.

— Jeroen Van Veen


Performed by Jeroen Van Veen, piano. Jeroen Van Veen plays on a Yamaha CFIII Concert Grand Piano. Produced by: Van Veen Productions VOF. Executive Producer: Jeroen Van Veen. Engineered by: Rutger Boere. Recording location: K & W, Utrecht. Recording date: Septemeber 17th 2000. Editing: Van Veen Productions. Design: Studio Bassa BNO.

© 2001 Van Veen Productions VOF, The Netherlands.



Truman Sleeps

The Truman Show on Milan Records
Minimal Piano Works, Volume 1 on Piano Productions

The Truman Show by Peter Weir