|do records||Jakob van Domselaer|
1-9 Proeven van Stijlkunst I - IX (1913-17) (Experiments in Artistic Style)
Jakob van Domselaer (1890-1960)
Jakob van Domselear was born in the Dutch town of Nijkerk on 15th April 1890. After several years of organ and piano lessons with Johan Enderlé and Willem Petri, he began to study composition and piano with Dr. Johan Wagenaar in Utrecht. The period with Wagenaar was particular fruitful for the young musician, but in the summer of 1911, on his teacher's advice, he went to Berlin to pursue his piano studies with Frédèric Lamond. Here he came into contact with leading figures from the international art world. He was greatly influenced by Busoni's concerts, and through an intensive and almost daily contact with the composer's circle he gained an insight into the ideas of both Busoni and Schönberg. It was Van Domselear who, in 1914, first introduced their music to the Netherlands. Throughout his twenties Van Domselear was developing his own theories of composition, talking, writing, playing and composing. Like many of the young artists in his circle, amongst whom was his friend Piet Mondriaan, he was busy trying to rethink some of the most fundamental assumptions about art. From 1918 onwards, with no significant break, Van Domselaer was occupied with composition. In the last 40 years of his life he lived in relative seclusion in Bergen, North Holland, where he completed 39 piano works (sonatas, suites and variations), 2 piano concertos and a symphony.
Jakob van Domselaer and Piet Mondriaan
In 1912 Van Domselaer travelled to Paris where he met the Dutch painter Piet Mondriaan (1872-1944). He was already pondering the process of development in Art, and was now confronted by Mondriaan's 'rejection of all appearance'. An artistic understanding grew between the two men. A year later, back in the Netherlands, Van Domselaer began to write the revolutionary Proeven van Stijlkunst (Experiments in Artistic Style). He also got married, and when Mondriaan himself returned to his native land he rented a room in the Van Domselaers' house in Laren. Lively discussions on art and its primary relation to reality took place. Amongst their friends during this period were the writers Adriaan Roland Holst and Martinus Nijhoff, the painters Piet Talma, Bart van der Leck and Theo van Doesburg, and the latter's wife, the pianist Nelly van Doesburg. The philosophy of Dr. Mathieu Schoenmakers, who described his ideas as 'positive mysticism' and ' visual mathematics', acted as a catalyst to the thinking of Van Domselaer, Mondriaan and Van Doesburg. For their various artistic statements they sought objective forms, which excluded individual expression.
De Proeven van Stijlkunst (Experiments in Artistic Style)
In 1916 the first seven movements of the nine-part cycle Experiments in Artistic Style appeared in one of the New Circle's publications. It is the only music which was ever written in accordance with the ideas of The Style movement. The music is pure method. The tension lies in the measure not in the rhythm, because the latter belonged in the territory of individual expression. Parts 4, 5, 8 and 9 can especially be seen as being equivalent to neo-plastic painting. The music is governed by a 'static balance'. In the performance notes Van Domselaer writes: 'Play the pieces so that the "standing element" (the harmony) takes the foreground and the movement (the melody), despite the domination of the standing element, is unhampered and calm.'
The Experiments in Artistic Style are a very extreme expression of the spirit of that time (Van Domselear calls chords 'coagulations of sound'), and the greater public has yet to manifest any understanding of them. Some of the movements have only ever been performed during the so-called DADA evenings given by Nelly van Doesburg.
Sonatas, Suites and Variations
After the final Experiments in Artistic Style, Van Domselaer landed up in chaos; the path had turned out to be a dead-end. The only option left to him was to go back. It was 1918 before he began to write music again, driven by what he described as `the will of the sound to come out'.
He chose now to work in a clearer form and arrived at what he called 'sound pieces', echoing the original sense of the word 'sonata'. A good example is the grandly conceived Sonata No.9, written in 1924. The first movement has elements of a main subject: there are two themes, plus a development and a recapitulation. The disturbing Scherzo is followed by an ecstatic, visionary slow movement which seems to transcend the very medium `piano'.
After exhausting the possibilities of sonata form, Van Domselaer once again sought for a new way forward. From 1930 onwards he composed suites and variations, and nearly nothing else. His work received no recognition. Silence was the sole reward for all his efforts. On 8th January 1938 he wrote to his friend, Max Alphen de Veer: "It is as if there is a dam, which I can't cross, between me and the outside world. I should play, publish, and so on. The light which is beginning to burn in my work should be raised on high, whereas now it stays under the bushel in my room. That is not an easy thing to cope with, but I am powerless to change it.
Recording and editing: Bert van Dijk, Recording: Ruïnekerk, Bergen (Holland, 5/1994), Piano: Ypma (Alkmaar), Notes: Kees Wieringa, Translation: Rob Pland, Design: Kees Wieringa
With thanks to: Wim Van Domselaer, Simeon ten Holt, Dhr. M. Van Alphen de Veer, ThuisKopieFonds, Mieke Krijger (teksten), Haags Gemeentemuseum, Victor Nieuwenhuijs, Erica Baud, Jan Oegema and Ypma Pianos.
Music of Jakob Van
Domselaer is published by Edition Oresto, Muiden - Holland (Proeven van
Stijlkunst no.1-7), the other compositions are stored in the archives
of the The Hague Gemeentemuseum.
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