The improvisation contest 2003 at Zwolle by Peter Ouwerkerk

by Peter Ouwerkerk | Het ORGEL | Year 100 | (2004) | Issue 1

Peter Ouwerkerk The improvisation contest 2003 at Zwolle
Het ORGEL 100 (2004), nr. 1, 29-32 [summary]

On 27 September 2003, the third Dutch national improvisation contest took place in the city of Zwolle, on the Schnitger organ (1721) in the Grote Kerk and the Maarschalkerweerd organ (1896) in the Basilica. Four contestants were selected: Erik-Jan Eradus, Chiel-Jan van Hofwegen, Gerben Mourik and Roeland de Reuver. 
The contest showed that improvising in such circumstances does not provide strong impulses to make really new music: pieces from the 1980s that were played in the final concert, written by composers like Daan Manneke and Joep Straesser, sounded far more ‘modern’ than the improvisations during the contest itself.
Nevertheless, the quality of the music was at times impressive. Van Hofwegen managed to present clear structures through clear variation in registration and rhythm; Roeland de Reuver showed he could give a nice popular touch to his music; whereas Erik-Jan Eradus has a talent for constructing impressive harmonies. The contest was won by Gerben Mourik, the only one who was really self-confident with respect to the construction as well as the content of his music.
The contest consisted of two rounds; in one, the players had to compose their own themes; in the other, they had to improvise on two fragments by Franz Liszt (from his Ave Maria) and Arnold Schönberg (from Das Buch der hängenden Gärten). 
The foundation that organised the contest is planning to launch an improvisation academy. That seems to be a necessary step in the direction of stimulating really contemporary improvisations.