Jan Koetsier is a rarity, a Dutch composer of the first order. Born in Amsterdam, he became at thirty-one the second conductor of the fabled Concertgebouw Orchestra, a prestigious post he held for six years (1942-48). In 1950, he assumed the position of the principal conductor of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra where he stayed for sixteen years.
Along the way, Jan developed a specific interest in brass instruments for which he became a prolific composer. His entertaining works have become staples of the repertoire. Not content to stick with conventional ensembles, he went so far as to write a quartet for either four tubas or four trombones. (“Wolkenschatten, Op. 136). Four tubas? He wanted brass chamber music to be considered a serious domain in the music world, and he succeeded. In 1993 he founded the International Jan Koetsier Competition for the promotion and encouragement of young brass ensembles. As you will soon hear, his music is engaging, dramatic, lyrical, humorous, and intensely rhythmic. To break it down further would be to spoil your listening enjoyment (which is true of most chamber music). However, he did leave us with some thoughts about this quintet.
“The rhythmical possibilities of brass instruments are extremely enticing; after a short and slow introduction these are relished to the utmost in the first movement of the quintet presented here, with its many changes of meter and shifted accents.”
“In the second movement a simple, melodious phrase of the trumpet is contrasted with a burlesque theme from the tuba, which, following a few variations, are brought together in a choral manner at the end.”
“The agility and virtuosity of the instrumentalists triumph in the last movement; in a vigorous 6/8 meter, interrupted only by a few obstinate 7/8 meters, the composition gyrates towards its finale.”
Over the years, classical composers have used the bassoon to provide a humorous touch to their pieces, but here, Jan calls upon the tuba to fill this role. Watch and listen closely. It’s a kick.