Ingenhoven, Jan

Breda, 19 May 1876
Hoenderloo, 20 May 1951

Sonata [no.1]
Allegro moderato – Poco largo – Allegro
duration: about 12′;
publisher: Editions Maurice Senart, Paris (no year);
location: Nederlands Muziek Instituut, The Hague.

Deuxième Sonate (Second Sonata)
Quasi una fantasia

Moderato – Poco largo – Moderato – Allegro
duration: about 9′;
publisher: Editions Maurice Senart, Paris (no year);
location: Nederlands Muziek Instituut, The Hague.

Initially Jan Ingenhoven was mostly active as a choral conductor in Breda and Dordrecht. He also sang and played the clarinet. As a composer he was chiefly self-taught, although he did take composition lessons with Ludwig Felix Brandts Buys for a period around 1902-03. He got married in 1905 and a year later he moved to Munich, where he studied composition with Felix Mottl and took an extremely active role in the city’s concert life. From 1906 to 1909 he conducted the Münchener Orchester Verein and the Philharmonisches Orchester. With these orchestras he performed works of Dutch contemporaries such as Alphons Diepenbrock, Dirk Schäfer, Charles Smulders and Johan Wagenaar, as well as his own works, and he also introduced orchestral works by Claude Debussy, such as the Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune and La Mer.
From 1909 to 1912 he led the Münchener Madrigal-Vereinigung, a soloists ensemble with which he performed works ranging from Palestrina and Monteverdi to Debussy. In this period he wrote his three string quartets and a wind quintet, among other works. In 1913 he decided to devote himself exclusively to composing; however, notably after the First World War the Dutch music scene was still scarcely aware of his existence. ‘… cigars, gin and bordering on the sea… what a lamentable country for music’, he wrote to the music publisher Alsbach with some cynicism in 1926.
Nevertheless, none other than Matthijs Vermeulen had referred to him as ‘a brilliant artist’, describing his music as follows: ‘Every detail of Ingenhoven’s technique is personal, imbued with vitality and passion; the rhythm is fantastic, inexhaustible in its nuances and maintaining its coherence despite its fragile diversity, a mysterious unity. The music’s mainstay is its melodies, which are youthful, glowing with fervour, sonorous, diabolic and always the outpouring of one with a human heart, deep-rooted individuality and a wonderful psyche; his conception is visionary and impetuous, yet stately and solid of form; a melodic structure that is clear, finely-spun and compelling; a masterpiece of gradually unfolding line and incandescent inventiveness.’
At first sight, Ingenhoven’s manner of composing is anything but simple, utilizing a modern polyphonic style based on melismas and arabesques. The melodic lines unfold with a high degree of independence – in this regard his music displays a close affinity to that of Matthijs Vermeulen – , full of subtle rhythmical nuances, with a dynamic range that rarely exceeds mezzoforte while featuring numerous pianissimos.
In 1910 the then renowned Zalsman Quartet was obliged to cancel the première of the 4 Quatuors à voix mixtes due to be given in Munich for fear of a debacle. When they were performed by the Madrigaal Vereeniging led by Sem Dresden in Amsterdam five years later Vermeulen wrote: ‘I wish Sem Dresden and his choir success. Once again, Ingenhoven, who is currently based in St Cloud near Paris, has shown himself to be a great master. His Nous n’irons plus au bois, music to a poem by de Banville, is the most daring and fragile art to have been created in a very long time; I salute the absent Ingenhoven for his expressivity of nuance that is so subtle and rich in colour and charm and I fervently long to hear this work again soon.’
Following the Sonata for clarinet and piano of 1917, Ingenhoven wrote his two violin sonatas and two cello sonatas between 1919 and 1922. His Kammermusik in fünf Sätzen for clarinet and string trio followed in 1926. After his wife’s death in 1929 Ingenhoven’s creative voice fell silent and he lived a secluded life in Hoog-Soeren near Apeldoorn. He left behind an oeuvre of some 60 compositions.

Jan Ingenhoven himself wrote that his 2 violin sonatas and 2 cello sonatas resemble the four seasons. The first violin sonata (1919-20) represents spring, the second violin sonata (1921) summer; the first cello sonata (1919) evokes autumn and the second cello sonata (1922) winter. However, he adds: ‘… nevertheless, it was only later that this subsidiary idea occurred to me.’ The analogies arose ‘unconsciously’, there was no ‘fundamental principle’ involved. Yet it does indeed seem as if the four sonatas were written in the same ink, as it were.
Besides Vermeulen, another composer of his day who recognised the value of Ingenhoven’s work was Daniel Ruyneman. While reviewing Ingenhoven’s first violin sonata – although his words apply to all four sonatas – he commented that it can be ‘appreciated and understood in the light of the context and developmental process of contemporary music; it once again claims its right to self-determination, divests itself of literary inspiration and all programmatic intentions, and even eschews the melos that is connected to breathing and derived from the vocal metre.’ He continues: ‘The polyrhythmic aspects of this work may pose problems for the performers. In this work, as in many others of this modern era, the technique of interpretation requires that the counting units be used as the basis for the momentum.’ And finally: ‘Unable to lean on historical models, composers attempted to facilitate complex and inventive part-writing by devising methods of notation that in retrospect appeared to have unnecessarily complicated and obscured the overall picture. This is also the case in some instances in Ingenhoven’s music. The impatient and at times unschooled performer will be inclined to lay aside this work for this reason. (This would be unjustified.) The work does not impose great demands. A serious, in-depth examination of Ingenhoven’s individual manner of writing will reap the rewards of a music that enthralls with its delicate beauty, clarity of thought, perfection of form and personal craftsmanship.’

Both sonatas are composed in accordance with the principle of seamlessly interflowing shifts of momentum. The cello and piano parts unfold in contrapuntal contrasts and polyrhythmic combinations, in which the cello in particular is given full expressive rein with flowing cantilenas and figurations, arabesques and appealing melismas. Inadvertently the comparison with Flemish lacework springs to mind, in which the suggestion of simplicity is never obstructed. It is music which – to quote Ruyneman once again – ‘captivates through its intense musicality rather than through external effect and virtuosity.’

(May 2007)