The composer Fons Brouwer by Anthony Fiumara

by Anthony Fiumara | Het ORGEL | Year 99 | (2003) | Issue 3

Anthony Fiumara The composer Fons Brouwer
Het ORGEL 99 (2003), nr. 3, 5-11 [summary]

The composer Fons Brouwer (1963) was impressed deeply by Morton Feldman, who said in a composition masterclass in 1986: ‘Taking the organ out of the organ is the only way to do it justice.’ Feldman meant that the organ should be regarded as an instrument that legitimises itself as such, and should not be seen a priori as an ecclesiastical instrument. Brouwer was a pupil of Daan Manneke. Recently, he composed Festina lente for the International Schnitger Organ Competition in June 2003 in the St. Laurenskerk at Alkmaar.
In Brouwer’s compositions, a remarkable element returns time and again, which can be characterised best by using the word ‘reminescence’. In the organ composition Quintessens (1993) the pedal part begins quite late in the work, but in such an impressive way that it suggests that the piece ‘remembers’ the possibilities of the pedal section only at that point. Another technique that Brouwer uses is making schemes with the aid of the computer; when composing Sellingers Rownde (1992), he did so to rearrange Byrd’s variations on this theme, in order to find new basic material. Brouwer wrote the voice part and the piano part of La casa (1990) as independent parts; they were combined only afterwards, a way of working that resembles that of John Cage.
Festina lente, which has to be played by the contestants on the Van Covelens organ (oldest parts from 1511) at Alkmaar, is a piece in which Brouwer uses the peculiarities of the meantone temperament of the organ: ‘The C major scale on this organ sounds to our equally tempered ears as if it were modern music already.’ The piece is characterised by repeatedly jamming and clustering scales, which echo each other over and over.