Canto Ostinato


SKU: COBRA0074 Category:


Canto Ostinato, Section 1 - 16
Canto Ostinato, Section 17 - 49
Canto Ostinato, Section 41 - 73
Canto Ostinato, Section 74 - Theme I - 87
Canto Ostinato, Section 88 - 90
Canto Ostinato, Section 91 - 94
Canto Ostinato, Section 95 - Theme II - 106


Canto Ostinato is a major composition of the dutch composer Simeon Ten Holt (1923-2012). Whilst in the early 1970s many composers occupied themselves with serial, atonal or electronic music, Simeon Ten Holt returned to tonality. He wasn’t conservative nor aiming for easy succes, Ten Holt felt he had to do this. He was suffering from what he called ‘artistic and creative anemia’. It was not that Ten Holt had not mastered modern complex musical techniques, indeed between 1950 and 1970, he had composed several compelling and well written pieces in a post-serial style, but modern was never truly his idiom and composing language. In the early 70s Ten Holt began to doubt the music he was composing, he fell into a sort of crisis, realizing his approach had to change. One evening he sat behind the piano an rediscovered the physical aspect of composing, thus the first notes appeared of what would become Canto Ostinato, an evening-long composition for keyboard instruments, a musical landscape without a horizon; a composition without beginning or end. The score is laid out as a route for the performers to take, using the so called ‘drift parts’ at will. The number of players is undetermined, as is the total length and the number of repetitions of the various selections on which the composition is built. The freedom left to the performers gives them a great responsibility towards the final result.

Canto Ostinato was originally written for keyboards from 1976-1979, but has since then been performed and recorded on many different instruments. This CD is the first recording of this piece performed by eight saxophones.

The Nederlands Saxofoon Octet (Dutch Saxophone Octet, in short NS8) was founded in 2014 in Amsterdam by a group of recently graduated saxophonists. They wanted to go beyond the standard saxophone quartet and decided to form a saxophone octet. The ensemble has a wide range of saxophones that allows interesting adaptations to a range of music varying from chamber music to symphonies. The NS8 also collaborates with composers of contemporary music. They premiered Via Dolorosa from Bernard van Beurden and collaborated in a grand project celebrating the twenty year anniversary to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. In The Netherlands the NS8 have amongst others performed in the Concertgebouw Amsterdam and Muziekgebouw Eindhoven.

One of the first pieces that the NS8 played was Canto Ostinato of Simeon Ten Holt. Saxophonist Stefan de Wijs created the arrangement and received the approval of the descendants of Ten Holt.

Additional information


<p>Simeon Ten Holt<br />Canto Ostinato</p>
<p><strong>Nederlands Saxofoon Octet</strong></p>
<p>Canto Ostinato was arranged for eight saxophones by Stefan de Wijs</p>


<p>Whilst in the early 1970s many composers – most of them operating from the Randstad, the most densely populated region of the Netherlands – occupied themselves with serial, atonal or electronic music, Simeon ten Holt from Bergen, North Holland, returned to tonality. He wasn’t conservative nor aiming for easy success, Ten Holt felt he had to do this. He was suffering from what he called ‘artistic and creative anemia’.</p>
<p>It wasn’t that Ten Holt had not mastered modern, for listeners sometimes hard to comprehend, complex musical techniques. Indeed, between 1950 and 1970, he had composed several compelling, well-written pieces in a post-serial style. These included: Bagatellen (1954); Cyclus aan de waanzin (Cycle To Insanity) (1962); and the impressive A/.ta-lon (1967) for mezzosoprano and 36 speaking and playing musicians. But modern was never truly his idiom and composing language. </p>
<p>‘Until then, intellect played an important role in my life and atonal music seemed to be the only way to innovate’, Ten Holt once declared. In the late 60s, early 70s, however, he began to doubt the music he was composing. ‘I realized I was passing myself, allowing a process of impoverishment of my music.’ He fell into a sort of crisis, realizing that his approach had to change. One evening between 1973 and 1976, he sat behind the piano and rediscovered the physical aspect of composing. ‘The ecstasy, the flesh and blood of my own hands’, as he described that moment, ‘It was stronger than me and this gave me so much fulfillment that I continued.’ There and then, in his little house in Bergen, the first notes appeared of what would become Canto Ostinato, an evening-long composition for keyboard instruments – a musical landscape without a horizon; a composition without beginning or end.</p>
<p>The musical piece itself was a beginning. It was the start to a series of musical pieces based on the same principle, and it initiated the beginning of unprecedented popularity. Canto Ostinato came in like a wrecking ball. From the early 80s, almost every performance turned into a musical marathon attracting hordes of people. Simeon ten Holt had finally found the idiom that suited him. It gave him wings and thus he created one composition after another for two or more pianos, including the dramatic Lemniscaat (1983), the apocalyptic Horizon (1985), and Méandres (1999), featuring a more chromatic and a more explicit allocation of roles for the performers.</p>
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Press reviews

Nieuwe Noten

Als je het stuk beluistert en ik kan het u beslist aanraden, vallen een aantal zaken op. Ten eerste hoe goed dit stuk eigenlijk past bij saxofoons. Het is wellicht vloeken in de kerk, maar misschien nog wel beter dan voor piano(‘s). Door de klanken van de saxofoons die zo prachtig in elkaar vervloeien, geholpen door de prachtige akoestiek van de kerk in Rhenen, heb je continu het gevoel één grote supersaxofoon te horen, in plaats van David Cristóbal Litago en Lisa Wyss op sopraansax; Dineke Nauta en Tom Sanderman op altsax; Nina van Helvert en Jenita Veurink op tenorsax en Marijke Schröer en Juan Manuel Dominguez op baritonsax. Ten tweede valt op, en dat ligt in het verlengde, hoe enthousiast en bevlogen hier wordt gemusiceerd, je zou er zelf zin in krijgen. Voeg daarbij de eerder genoemde akoestiek en de prachtige opname en je hebt een prachtig schijf om deze barre tijden door te komen. – Ben Taffijn

MusicWeb International

With a dancing tempo which keeps its momentum and with plenty of little details that emerge and I certainly hadn’t noticed as much in the piano versions I’ve heard, this is far more than just a recording for the Canto Ostinato completist. I particularly like the way the closer intervals interact and quasi-resolve. Certain sections call up new associations, and you might catch yourself thinking of Michael Nyman when the lower instruments come to the fore, or Wim Mertens with the soprano saxophone sonorities. The recording is nicely balanced and there is reasonable distance between the listener and the instruments, but this to my ears is a more ‘wide awake’ version of this work than some of the piano recordings I’ve heard, where the temptation is to turn the volume down a bit and have some dreamtime. I imagine that you will be less likely to find yourself entering a meditative state with eight saxophones, and this is by no means a bad thing.

Luister 6.25 out of 5

Gelukkig zorgt de jongste bewerking van Canto Ostinato ervoor dat we teruggebracht worden naar de componist en zijn zeer nauwkeurige werk en berekenende opbouw. Of het nu komt door de noodzaak om adem te halen of het ritmisch geklepper van de kleppen, de versie die saxofonist Stefan de Wijs maakte voor acht saxofoons en die meeslepend gespeeld wordt door het Nederlands Saxofoon Octet (NS8) doet de trance die velen beleven, uitblijven, terwijl de fascinatie voor de structuur en wijze waarop Ten Holt toewerkte naar de statements van de volledige melodie alleen maar toeneemt. En zo’n soort uitvoering van Canto Ostinato was er nog niet.

Pizzicato 6.25 out of 5

In the eighties Dutch composer Simeon ten Holt landed a real hit with his Canto ostinato. The work thrives on an ancient musical principle of constant repetition, which the minimalists had chosen as one of their principles. Canto ostinato also has the wonderful characteristic that, at the composer’s express request, it can be performed in a wide variety of formations, leaving the performer plenty of freedom within the given structure.
The Nederlands Saxofoon Octet uses these freedom pleasurably and very musically. The music is constantly in motion, the tension never diminishes, the repetitive sequences are hardly noticeable as such, since the music is constantly in flux and new melodic passages can be discovered again and again. The present instrumentation also offers the wonderful opportunity to experience the saxophone in its most beautiful timbres. – Guy Engels

RP Online

Geschrieben wurde „Canto ostinato“ für ein oder mehrere Klaviere, doch schon kurz nach der Uraufführung zirkulierte das Werk auch in anderen Besetzungen. Nun gibt es beim Label Cobra Records eine herrliche Neuaufnahme mit dem Nederlands Saxofoon Octet, die dem Werk auf faszinierende Weise Atem und Leben einhaucht. Es wirkt keine Sekunde maschinenhaft, sondern humanistisch inspiriert. /”Canto ostinato” is geschreven voor een of meer piano’s, maar kort na de première circuleerde het werk ook voor andere bezettingen. Nu heeft het label Cobra Records een prachtige nieuwe opname met het Nederlands Saxofoon Octet, dat op een fascinerende manier leven ademt. Het klinkt voor geen seconde machine-achtig, maar geïnspireerd door humanisme. – Wolfram Goertz

Opus Klassiek

Deze uitvoering door het Nederlands Saxofoon Octet verdient een waardig plekje in het nog steeds groeiend aantal opnamen (en bewerkingen) van het stuk. Wie ‘Canto Ostinato’ een warm hart toedraagt moet dit nieuwe album zeker kopen. Het is het meer dan waard. – Aart van der Wal


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