Arnhem, 19 May 1930
1987, rev. 1991
1. Allegro
2. Nocturne
3. Vivace capriccioso
duration; about 12′;
publisher: Donemus, Amsterdam 1987;
dedicated to Jean Decroos en Danièle Dechenne.
Hans Kox studied piano with Jaap Spaanderman from 1948 to 1951 and composition with Henk Badings from 1951 to 1955. In 1953 he made his composing debut with a string trio. He has held various positions in Dutch musical life: he was director of the music school in Doetinchem from 1957 to 1970, advisor of the North-Holland Philharmonic Orchestra from 1970 to 1974 and he taught composition at the Utrecht Conservatoire from 1974 to 1984.
A number of his compositions have won prizes, for instance his first symphony was awarded the Visser-Neerlandia Prize in 1959, In those days for two mixed choirs and orchestra won the Prix Italia in 1970 and L’Allegria for soprano and orchestra took first prize of the Rostrum of Composers in 1974. In those days forms the so-called war trilogy together with the Requiem for Europe (1971) for four mixed choirs and orchestra and A Child of Light (Anne Frank Cantata, 1984) for solo voices, choir and orchestra. In connection with the première of Kox’s fifth symphony ‘Umbrae futurae’ (2008) the NTR broadcast a documentary about the composer.
The cello features prominently in Hans Kox’s extensive oeuvre. Besides the cello sonata he has also composed: Cyclofonie I for cello and ensemble (1964), the first cello concerto (1969, revised 1981), Cyclofonie XII for eight cellos (1979), Le songe du vergier for cello and orchestra (1986, commissioned by the Scheveningen International Music Competition) and the second cello concerto (1997).
Hans Kox is deeply convinced of the possibilities that the traditional musical forms continue to offer. However, he insists that this belief not be confused with conservatism, precisely because he still sees so much potential for development in these forms. In an interview with Maarten Brandt, published in English, he comments on the development of the feeling for form: ‘One must become so attuned to a form that the composition is not heard as a sonata, for example, but as an exciting, intriguing dissertation that enthralls the listener. The majority of composers have to withstand many a struggle before they’re capable of creating music that works on a suggestive level and is not dependent on the form alone for justifying its existence.’
The first movement of the cello sonata has a threatening character (irascibile). The style of composition is predominantly linear and polyphonic. A swift succession of time signatures: 13/16, 11/16, 12/16, 11/16 and the use of uneven note groupings (quintuplets) intensify the restless mood. In a senza misura passage (ff sempre vigoroso) a melody in octaves develops in the piano bass line. In a second senza misura passage (liberamente) the cello is given a brief moment of respite for a lyrical gesture, before the movement hastens inevitably to its conclusion in a diminuendo poco a poco ending in a ppp.
Out of the ensuing silence the second movement emerges: a Nocturne, in which the cello weaves a long, melancholic melody above a tentative piano part (esitante). Following an ecstatic climax the melody disappears in a short diminuendo and the piano’s accompaniment figure gradually comes to a halt. With two groups of three swift notes the cello announces the third movement, which follows on from the preceding movement attacca subito.
The third movement is full of contrasts (capriccioso), with a succession of contrasting moods. Finally, the cello plays a high E (sff) which diminuendos to a sustained high G (pp>), after which the sonata is brought to an end with a short, resolute gesture.
Bas van Putten, Hoog Spel (Donemus, Amsterdam 2005)
NTR documentary 2008 [watch here]
Mirel Iancovici and Bob Versteegh, cat. no. ATTACCA Babel 9374
(October 30th 2012)


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