Songs of War & Peace: German première and printed edition – a powerful new piece for the recorder in a rare program with string quartet

In Münster, on June, 25 and in Lengerich, on June, 26, Peter Holtslag (recorders) and the Ruysdael Quartet played the German première of my Songs of War & Peace in the opening weekend of the Summerwinds Festival.Summerwinds Festival The programme also included Erwin Schulhoff’s Five Pieces for String Quartet and Gordon Jacob’s Suite (alto recorder and quartet). Three suite-like works with a historicizing slant, that is. Plus, with a leading role for the recorder alongside the string quartet that is rarely found in concert programs.



Peter Holtslag & Ruysdael Quartet
Peter Holtslag & the Ruysdael Quartet, Erbdrostenhof, Münster (photo Susanna Schulte)

My Songs of  War & Peace are based on melodies of the Thirty Years’ War period, from the countries that suffered most: the German lands, the Netherlands, and Bohemia, where it all started in 1618 with the Defenestration of Prague. The two German performances were all the more fitting because they took place in Münster, where in 1648 the various treaties were signed that concluded the war (the Peace of Westphalia), and in Lengerich, the ancient small town north of Münster that prides itself in the Lengericher Conclusum, a treaty signed there in 1645 advising that all representative political bodies should partake in the peace talks (including the towns and cities, most of whom were not combatants but victims).

The Münster concert, in the sold out Erbdrostenhof, was a resounding succes.


Heida Vissing and Ronald Brox proudly present me with the edition of the new work (photo Susanna Schulte)

I was struck by the great enthusiasm for my piece of audience and organizers, and by the gusto with which Susanne Schulte, director of the GWK-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Westfälischen Kulturarbeit presented the first copy of the printed score to the audience. And after two years of corona, it was a joy to shake hands again with my publishers at Edition Tre Fontane, Ronald Brox and Heida Vissing, who took care of the publication, with Heida signing for the artwork. We were all proud to be able to present to the recorder-playing world such a powerful new addition to the repertoire of the recorder.

In addition, it was fascinating to witness how convincing the combination of recorder and string quartet in a full-length program can be. This not in the least with a soloist like Peter, who is able to penetrate to the essence of the music and bring it out with great dramatic force. His rendering of the Gordon Jacob Suite is certainly the best I have ever heard.


Holtslag&Ruysdael Kwartet LENGERICH
Peter Holtslag & the Ruysdael Quartet, Gempthalle, Lengerich (photo Axel Engels)

The concert in the Gempthalle-Bistro on Sunday was musically speaking even better. The dry acoustics promoted a fine concentration in the ensemble and many of the details that might have been lost in the spacious Erbdrostenhof were clearly audible.

The piece will be recorded next autumn by the NDR in the series Das Neue Werk, the recording by NPORadio 4 can be listened to here.