My first encounter with the music of Jacob ter Veldhuis was his three string quartets on Emergo Classics EC 3937, and I found the composer’s stylistic stance, as professed in the liner notes, absolutely appalling: “in contrast to the other contemporary art forms, new music is engulfed in clouds of intellectualism put about by composers., scholars and other experts. Such an academic approach to music does not interest me. In music I express myself emotionally, spiritually, rather than rationally. Much new music is bookish and lacking ‘duende’ (magic, spell), the vitality of other musical genres. I try to make my approach to music as elementary as possible. I compose with my ears, which is – strangely enough – rather exceptional these days”.
That kind of populist proclamation makes me see red whenever I meet it – and it is often met these days: when the subject comes to contemporary music, philistinism (or is it Beckmesserism?) is hip. In addition to which, I’ve usually found the music that derives from that kind of “philosophy” absolutely trite and derivative, saccharine and shallow.
Fortunately, I listened to the CD before reading the liner notes, and Ter Veldhuis’ music is better than his Credo would lead you to believe, reminiscent of the kind of “Classical meets World Music” style that the Balanescu or Kronos Quartets or South African composer Kevin Volans have illustrated, and sometimes of Shostakovich at his bleakest.
Another excellent piece of Ter Veldhuis is Jesus is coming, for trombone quartet and boombox, played by the New Trombone Collective on Etcetera KTC 1353, part of the 3-CD set KTC 1355 published by Etcetera in 2007.