Ketting, Piet

Haarlem, 29 November 1904
Rotterdam, 25 May 1984

manuscript in the Nederlands Muziek
Instituut in The Hague;
first performance (from the manuscript): Utrecht, June 6th 1930 by Marix Loevensohn and Piet Ketting;

edition Otto Ketting, 2008;
1. Lento
2. Poco Allegro – Lento
duration: about 15′;
publisher: MCN/Donemus, Amsterdam 2008;
first performance of this edition: Amsterdam, October 22th 2008 by Doris Hochscheid and Frans van Ruth.

Piet Ketting enrolled at the Utrecht Conservatoire in 1926, studying singing and choral conducting with Jan Dekker, instrumentation with Evert Cornelis and composition with Willem Pijper. In 1930 he was appointed as a teacher of music theory, choral conducting and composition at the Rotterdam Conservatory, a post he held until 1956. From 1946 to 1949 he was also director of the Amsterdams Muzieklyceum. He was conductor of the Rotterdam Chamber Orchestra and the Rotterdam Chamber Choir until 1960.
As a pianist Ketting primarily championed contemporary music. In 1935 he founded a successful trio with the flautist Johan Feltkamp and the oboist Jaap Stotijn. During the same year a rift developed between Ketting and Willem Pijper, who apparently felt that Ketting ought to focus more on composing.
Ketting carried out much (unpublished) research into the mystical numerology in J.S. Bach’s works and published two studies on Debussy.
In his earliest works, such as the Four Sonatinas for piano (1926-1929) and the Trio Sonata for flute, bass clarinet and piano (1928), the influence of Ketting’s mentor Pijper is clearly discernible. However, he gradually developed a more austere style of composing, in which longer lines of a vocal character became increasingly significant. The Three Shakespeare Sonnets of 1938 (which include a tribute to the French composer Albert Roussel, who died a year earlier) rank among the highlights of the Dutch song repertoire.
In 1973 Ketting was awarded the Visser Neerlandia Prize for Vier gedichten van Martnus Nijhoff for mezzo-soprano and chamber orchestra. In 1976 he received the Willem Pijper Prize from the Johan Wagenaar Stichting for Preludium, Interludium e Postludium per due pianoforti (1971).
Some years after completing his first Cello Sonata Piet Ketting applied himself to composing a second cello sonata, however this work was never to be completed (see the Piet Ketting archive in the Netherlands Music Institute). In 1964 he did compose a 45-minute-long Sinfonia per violoncello solo e orchestra, which was premièred by Anner Bijlsma in 1965.
The Sonata consists of two movements, which are based on the same material to a considerable extent. The Lento of the second movement even repeats the opening theme of the first movement (Lento), which gives the sonata a sense of completeness. Besides the wide spectrum of instrumental colours used, other influences of his mentor Pijper can be seen in the typical consequences of his germ cell technique: countless minimal transformations, polymetric elements and polytonality. However, at the same time the melodies tend to develop in longer lines than is often the case with Pijper. In the first movement the Lento (Tempo I) is unexpectedly and vehemently interrupted by an Energico (Tempo II) with a lyrical cello melody in a high register, urged on by a frenetic and percussive rhythm in the piano. In contrast, this same rhythm is later used to support a whispering cantabile in Tempo I. Several 5/8 bars just prior to the end of the first movement seem like an almost imperceptible prefiguration of the 6/8 metre used in the second movement. The movement ends in almost total tranquillity, within which a rhythmic thirds motif (B flat-B flat-D flat-B flat) derived from an earlier mysterioso still provides a suggestion of movement.
The Poco Allegro of the second movement is chiefly in 6/8 time (sometimes 9/8) which is in principle conceived of as a binary metre, although the cello melody sometimes assumes the character of a 3/4 bar. The movement abounds in swift contrasts and sharp accents and is a joy for musicians to perform. Striking features include an unexpected rubato cello solo (quasi cadenza), leading to the recapitulation of the Allegro theme, several passages that flirt with jazz rhythms and an extraordinarily rousing ostinato, which suddenly falls silent at its highest point to be followed, attacca subito, by the Lento.
In this section a dotted figure played by both instruments over an impressive pedal point culminates in a first climax. When this has died away, an ostinato on the previously mentioned thirds motif calmly leads to the conclusion, whose final notes are like the last few drops falling from a dripping tree.

(november 2008)