Jeroen van Veen & friends
Simeon ten Holt by Colette Noël
Canto Ostinato XXL
  • © 2003-2024 Simeon ten Holt Foundation 0

Canto Ostinato XXL

Canto Ostinato XXL, Simeon ten Holt

Composer: Simeon ten Holt
Title: Canto Ostinato XXL
Performers: Jeroen van Veen & Friends

Canto Ostinato XXL
Sandra & Jeroen van Veen, piano duo
Elizabeth & Marcel Bergmann, piano duo
Aart Bergwerff, organ


CD 1, Canto Ostinato, four pianos & organ (CD 1/4)
Jeroen van Veen & friends

Section 01 05:00
Section 05 07:09
Section 10 20:00
Section 17 06:32
Section 20 08:03
Section 23 11:42
Section 34 03:42
Section 37 01:12

Total playing time: 63:26

CD 2, Canto Ostinato, four pianos & organ (CD 2/4)
Jeroen van Veen & friends

Section 37 04:41
Section 41 10:46
Section 56 03:43
Section 60 08:29
Section 69 08:29
Section 74, Cumulation I 13:28
Section 83 10:31
Section 88 03:41

Total playing time: 63:53

CD 3, Canto Ostinato, four pianos & organ (CD 3/4)
Jeroen van Veen & friends

Section 88 A 03:39
Section 88 B 02:41
Section 88 C 19:26
Section 88 A 09:13
Section 88 F 13:49
Section 88 H 05:58
Section 89 03:46
Section 91 A 01:58

Total playing time: 60:36

CD 4, Canto Ostinato, four pianos & organ (CD 4/4)
Jeroen van Veen & friends

Section 91 A 08:35
Section 91 C 06:13
Section 91 E 15:51
Section 91 I 07:48
Section 92 04:54
Theme II, Cumulation II 11:07
Section 105 02:00
Section 106 04:34

Total playing time: 61:08

About Canto Ostinato XXL
Succeeding the 12 CD box Canto Ostinato XL we present to you Canto Ostinato XXL: four CDs, one performance. For the very first time organ intensely and engagingly complements the animated sounds of four grand pianos in a recording. We decided to take our time with this version; to not restrain ourselves by the time limits of a typical concert. Not only did we free ourselves from an arbitrary duration, we utilised our creative minds to vary within the sections we played as well. This resulted in a brand new recording from a complete new perspective. The four fantastic Steinway grand pianos and the Van Pels & Van Leeuwen romantic ogan harmoniously give rise to the most beautiful of sounds.

Canto Ostinato predominently pertains to the concept of time; taking your time, pastime, making time. The piece is characterised by a largely predetermined structural foundation. The composition leads to a melodic passage (section 74) in which fragments subtly but beautifully mingle with preceding melodies. An established climax and a mid section (88) follow. This repeats with another climax and mid secition (91). The piece concludes with the core melody.

In western musical tradition, most compositions unfold into a traditional story with archetypal elements. This is not the case in Canto Ostinato: this composition explicitly comprises 106 individual sections, all of which may be repeated ad lib. This induces a sort of alienation, causing the entranced listener to forget the harmony to which the current repetition is posterior. This hypnotic effect is used frequently in minimal music, and has resulted in a four hour time travel through a landscape of gradually changing musical elements, but which occasionally recur at later times.

This particular recording was recorded in two takes on a single day, to ensure that we could continue to play in the same mood and timing. Noteworthy is the continuously persistent tempo, which was a bit slower than usual. The magnificent acoustics of the Muziekgebouw Eindhoven just asked for it… We wish you all the enjoyment in listening to Simeon ten Holt’s Canto Ostinato XXL!

Canto Ostinato
Simeon ten Holt wrote Canto Ostinato between 1976 and 1979 from behind the piano. The first public performance of the piece in Bergen, NH was both praised and criticized. It was critiqued for its sweetness and simplicity. Ten Holt wrote his pieces at a time when people were used to an entirely different kind of music; composers in aspiration for financial support from the “Fonds voor de Scheppende Toonkunst” better wrote their work in an atonal style. Nevertheless, Simeon covertly persued his own way since he realized that the atonal style he had utilized thus far was not really working for him. He used to call his work "the tonality after the death of tonality". Eventually it became a success. Tens of thousands of CD-recordings have been sold and it has long been an iTunes hit. That's a unicum for a contemporary Dutch composer.

What attracts people to Canto Ostinato? It has been called immersive, tranquillizing, melancholic, vivaciously, romantic and minimalistic. The charm is in the clarity of sounds, best comparable to piano music of Chopin. The special time signature with repetitive groups of five beats (not exactly repetitive; subtle changes may be induced according the performer's preference) has an almost mesmerizing effect on the listener. Like "going out and coming home", music is a play of tension and relief that fades because of the elongated repetition of these groups. Using the varying repetition and the difference in orchestration, a listener's journey through Canto varies each performance.

In addition to Canto Ostinato, Simeon ten Holt wrote similar compositions like Soloduiveldans (Solo Devil's Dance), Horizon, Lemniscaat, Incantatie IV and Méandres. A notable change in these last pieces is Simeon's gradually changing attitude towards the performer's freedom to bringing variance in playing the pieces, which decreased over time. Two most contrasting works of him relating this freedom of variance are Canto Ostinato, which gives lots of freedom, and Méandres, a later work of him which gives the performers less freedom. Freedom in music has to be seen within a certain context, something that has to be learned, according to Simeon.

Ten Holt stopped composing in 2000. "Wat ik te zeggen had, was gezegd" ("All I had to say has been said") he wrote in the peroration of his memoires ("Het woud en de citadel", 2009). In 2013 "Canto Ostinato" by Wilma de Rek was published. She talks in detail about her interviews with Simeon ten Holt and some musicians. Simeon ten Holt died 25 November 2012 at the age of 89.

I was very lucky to have met this great composer and spend much time with him, learned him how to use a computer, write his first email, build and maintained a website and founded a foundation dedicated to Simeon and his wonderful music.

Jeroen van Veen
Simeon ten Holt Foundation
Editor: Sandra Mol
Translation: Joeri van Veen

Instructions from his first hand written score
The first performance of Canto Ostinato took place on April 25th 1979 in the Ruïnekerk in Bergen (Holland) and was realized using three pianos and an electronic organ. Other combinations are possible using keyboard instruments. But the performance with four pianos is preferred. Canto stems from a traditional source, is tonal and makes use of functional harmony; it is built according to the laws of cause and effect (tension-release). Although all parts of Canto have their fixed position in its progress and are not interchangeable without violating the melodic line, the internal logic and form, beginning and end do not have absolute meaning as boundaries of form. Time plays an important role in Canto. Although most bars or sections feature repeat signs and although the performer(s) decide(s) on the number of repeats, one cannot speak of repetition-as-such. Repetition in this case has as its goal to create a situation in which the musical object affirms its independence and can search for its most favorable position with respect to the light thrown on it, becoming transparent. Time becomes the space in which the musical object floats. The performers have a wide margin of contribution. They decide about dynamic contrast, duration (in detail as well as for the whole) about the use of opposing or non-opposing differentiation of timbres, whether or not to play passages in unison. Also about repetition and combination of bars and sections, depending on their place within the score. The performers also decide, depending on available time and physical effort, whether they will take turns or if there will be a pause. At the first performance, which took about two hours, a pause was held at number
 in the score, a pause in which a pre- recorded tape was played of the first sections (A, B and C) following number . The concert was resumed after  minutes (tape fade-out).A performance of Canto is more like a ritual than a concert. The piece is not in a hurry and has in common with so called minimal music that one cannot speak of fixed duration. As stated the first performance lasted two hours but it could have easily been more or less. The main part of Canto is indicated by the bracketed systems in bolder type. For the right hand there are two systems on which alternatives (variants) have been notated. Likewise there is one alternative stave for the left hand. Apart from these alternatives each bar or section of the basic part itself has the possibility for variation: by displacement of accents and dynamic contrasts. Some suggestions for these are given in the score by thinly drawn stems connecting notes within each group. A new episode begins at figure  in the score, a sort of interlude. Bars and sections are indicated now by letters (A,B,C, etc. to I). This episode and the transposed section from figure  consists of a number of sections which are more or less small commentaries on the basic structure A. Through its constant return A forms a pivotal or rest point. The ordering of A and its satellite-sections as given in the score is, in a certain sense, relative. The symbol indicates that in many cases one can either go back or forward in one’s choice of sections and that, depending on the harmonies, certain sections can be combined. The variants notated as footnotes from figure  (for the left hand) function as a sort of ‘wandering part’. They do not have to be present all the time – they can disappear and return – and they need not be filed to the notated octave register.
Bergen, June 1979

Simeon ten Holt
Simeon ten Holt was born in Bergen (N.H.) in the Netherlands in 1923 and died in 2012. From 1935 he studied piano and theory with Jacob van Domselaer (1890-1960) – the musical representative of the movement ‘De Stijl”. He continued his studies in Paris at the Ecole Normale 0 with Honegger and Milhaud. During the sixties Ten Holt immersed himself in serialism. He tried to grasp what he called ‘the semantics of musical language’ and looked for ways in which he could expand the possibilities of his musical expression. During the seventies, Ten Holt concentrated on tone and timbre and on sonology. His masterwork Canto Ostinato, in which he returned to a more conventional style of composing, was premiered in 1979 in the ‘Ruine Kerk’ in Bergen (province of Noord-Holland). The work was performed on three pianos and electronic organ. Later on Ten Holt felt that the best performance option would be four equal-sized grand pianos; however, the score still bears the subtitle: for keyboards. “'There's Simeon ten Holt and then there's all the rest,' the composer of works such as Canto Ostinato, Horizon and Lemniscaat once said jokingly of his own position in Dutch musical life’. Even today, one could say that, in a sense, this is still true. Anyone challenging a select group of contemporary music lovers to a fiery debate need only mention a single composer’s name: that of Simeon ten Holt (b. 1923). In the late 1970s, Ten Holt provoked the wrath of countless musical know-alls by returning to sounds that every ear could understand. He had the courage to abandon the complex, twelve-tone scores of the post-war era, which he traded in for simple triads, shifting rhythmic patterns and repeat signs. Completely independent of American composers like Steve Reich and Philip Glass, Ten Holt created a Dutch version of minimal music”. (Paul Janssen) Now what is so typical to Simeon ten Holt’s music? In what does his musical process differ so much from that of other contemporary composers? In Ten Holt’s music the score is complex, in that it contains a lot of different layers, like a multi-track composition. In classical music the composer typically makes the final decisions about what and how to play; here instead, the performers are the decision-makers and are therefore part of the recreation of the composition. During rehearsals for instance, the ensemble may decide to skip certain decisions or write/compose a way to go through the music. In doing so, all performers within the ensemble have an equal input as well as equal influence on the decisions.
In other words, there is no leading ‘first piano’. All compositions in this box were written down in large books. Each composition contains approximately a hundred to two hundred sections. Ninety-five percent of all sections may be repeated, the other five percent are so called ‘bridges’ and only appear once. Repetition in this case serves to create a situation in which the musical object affirms its independence and can search the most favourable position with respect to the light thrown on it, becoming transparent. Time becomes the space in which the musical object floats. The musicians navigate through these sections by giving each other visual signs and may even go backwards instead of forward. There is no fixed duration for a piece, but a performance may easily last a couple of hours. The first performance of Lemniscaat, for instance, lasted for thirty hours! This extreme flexibility was completely new to modern music, especially since Ten Holt’s music is based on the natural laws of harmony: tension and relaxation. The music has been constructed within the principle of tonality, but since the duration is more or less stretched, it brings a new perspective to the musical experience. All of this in combination with the democratic process of creation has been a major influence on contemporary music.


Recording location & date: May 19th 2014, Muziekgebouw, Eindhoven
Recording engineer: Mark Munnik
Microphones used: DPA 4006, DPA 4015,10 track multichannel ADAT
Pianos: 4x Steinway Concert Grand Serial numbers: #573593, #520755, #572886, #572839
Pianos Tuned by Marc van Hoorn
Organ: Pels & Van Leeuwen build by Peter van Rumpt
Organ Tuned by Dirk van der Mijden
Engineered & Mastered by: Pianomania
Software: Pro Tools, & Samplitude
Photo Aart Bergwerff: Mikhail Vaneev
Photo Sandra & Jeroen van Veen:Janey van Ierland
Photo Elizabeth & Marcel Bergmann:
Executive Producer: Jeroen van Veen
Produced by: Van Veen Productions for Brilliant Classics

Special thanks to: Muziekgebouw Eindhoven, Piano’s Vleugels Eindhoven, Pels & Van Leeuwen

Logo Pels & Van Leeuwen, Logo Piano’s Vleugels Eindhoven, Simeon ten Holt Foundation


Aart Bergwerff
Aart Bergwerff has played the organ from the age of seven and initially studied organ, choir direction and church Music at the Rotterdam Conservatory. He continued his studies abroad, in North Germany, Italy and Paris, and studied, among others, with Harald Vogel and Marie-Claire Alain. He concluded his study with Alain in Paris by obtaining the Prix de Virtuosité. At the Royal Conservatory in The Hague he studied improvisation with Bert Matter and he achieved the ‘Aantekening’ for organ improvisation. Aart Bergwerff won prizes at the international organ competitions in Bruges(1985), Lausanne (1987), and Groningen (1989). In 2003 he was awarded the silver medal of merit of the Société Académique ‘Arts, Sciences et Lettres’ for his contribution to the French organ culture.
At the Rotterdam Conservatory, part of Codarts, University of Professional Arts Education, he has been a Senior Lecturer in Organ since 1994 and he also lectures in improvisation and Organ Building.
As a concert organist he frequently performs at concerts and festivals at home and abroad. At the age of 29 he was appointed organist at the Lutheran Church in The Hague and so became the permanent player of one of the most historic organs in the Netherlands, the Johann Heinrich Hartmann Bätz organ, built in 1762. With its great manoeuvrability this instrument has had a large influence on Aart Bergwerff’s musical thinking, for the organ is the synthesizer avant-la-lettre.
From that point of view he now initiates adventurous projects with the church organ, from Canto Ostinato on organ to productions with video artist Jaap Drupsteen, which projects are released through his own label Art Unorganized.
In 2006 he played the world premiere on church organ of Canto Ostinato by Simeon ten Holt and recorded this version as well. This production became the start of a close cooperation with pianist Jeroen van Veen.
In 2012 Aart Bergwerff was appointed also as the organist at the Grote Kerk in Breda playing the four manual Flentrop organ.

Elizabeth Bergmann
Elizabeth Bergmann has an active performing career as pianist and chamber musician and is the recipient of many awards and prizes of international competitions such as the International Chamber Music Competition in Caltanissetta, Italy and the 4th Murray Dranoff International Two Piano Competition. She performs most regularly with her husband as the Bergmann Piano Duo and has recorded numerous CDs with various ensembles and artists appearing on the Arktos, Naxos and Brilliant Classics labels. Recitals and concerts with orchestra have taken her to many parts of the world including the United States, Italy, Germany, Holland, Greece and Canada. Elizabeth is nationally and internationally involved as a lecturer, presenter and juror of festivals and competitions. She is Artistic Director of Concerts and Director of Summer Programmes at the Langley Community Music School in Langley, BC. She has been on faculty at The Mount Royal University in Calgary and at the University of Calgary and for many years was involved in various musical activities at the Banff Centre for the Arts. She was a core member of Calgary Land’s End Chamber Ensemble and in the 2004-2005 season, she and her husband served as Artistic Directors of The Murray Dranoff International Two Piano Competition and Foundation in Miami.
A native of Alberta, Elizabeth received degrees in solo performance and chamber music from the Hochschule für Musik und Theater, Hannover, Germany, Univérsité de Montréal, University of Toronto and University of Alberta. Her teachers have included Helmut Brauss, Patricia Parr, Jean-Eudes Vaillancourt and Arie Vardi.

Marcel Bergmann For the last 20 years, Marcel has enjoyed an active musical career as a performer, composer, improviser and teacher. His broad range of musical interest and experience in both, classical and popular music has led to an output in a variety of styles and genres. A native of Munich, Germany, Marcel Bergmann studied musicology at the Ludwig-Maximiliams-Universität in Munich and piano at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hannover with Arie Vardi. After obtaining a Bachelors degree, Masters degree and Artist Diploma, Marcel received a scholarship from the Université de Montréal where he and his wife pursued specialized studies in duo piano with Jean-Eudes Vaillancourt. Subsequently, he completed post-graduate work in the Solistenklasse in Hannover. Over the past decade, he also has been involved as composer and musical director in a variety of theatre, cabaret and multimedia projects, such as Baden Rebelliert (Bruchsal, Germany, 1998, including 30 performances throughout Baden-Württemberg), Online an der Leine, which had its premiere during the EXPO 2000 in Hannover/Germany, and Der Avatar (2001). The Bavarian Television, Arte and other European broadcasting corporations, have broadcast his music for television features. In 2004, he was a composer-in-residence for Calgary Opera’s Let’s create an Opera programme. For more than a decade Marcel and his wife Elizabeth have performed extensively as a duo piano team and have since enjoyed a successful career. They received first prize at the International Chamber Music Competition in Caltanissetta, Italy, were laureates of The 4th Murray Dranoff International Two Piano Competition and were performing artists in Yehudi Menuhin’s organization Live Music Now. Their recitals and concerts with orchestra have taken them to many parts of the world, including the United States, Italy, Germany, Holland, Greece and Canada, with performances at the celebrated Gilmore International Keyboard Festival, the Banff Arts Festival, the Royal Bank Calgary International Organ Festival and Competition, the International Two Piano Symposium and Schubertiade, Miami, the Tage für neue Musik, Darmstadt, the Braunschweiger Kammermusik Podium and at the EXPO 2000, Hannover. They have recorded for the CBC, for several stations of the ARD in Germany and for National Public Radio in the USA and have made several CDs, which appear on the Arktos and Naxos labels. The collaboration as a piano duo has inspired numerous compositions and arrangements for 2 pianos and piano duet, many of which can be heard on their various recordings. Marcel’s works are featured on a recent Brilliant Classics release, Minimal Piano Music, X-XX. In December 2005, Marcel’s Urban Pulse for two pianos was premiered as the commissioned work for The 10th Murray Dranoff International Two Piano Competition (past commissioned composers included Morton Gould, Ned Rorem, William Bolcom and John Corigliano). His music appears on the Canadian National Conservatory’s series Making Tracks- An Expedition in Canadian Piano Music. He has been commissioned by various organizations including the CBC, the Land’s End Chamber Ensemble, the Spiritus Chamber Choir, the Langley Community Music School and the San Francisco International Music Festival. Furthermore, Marcel has also created several works and arrangements involving two pianos and other instruments, such as Culemborg City Soundscape (together with Jeroen Van Veen). Frequent collaborations with composers, performers and writers in Europe and North America have led to a multitude of chamber music based projects, ranging from duo to sextet. His most recent large-scale work, Two Bit Oper-Eh-Shun (an oratorio on homelessness) was premiered at the 2010 High Performance Rodeo in Calgary and was presented as part of the New York Music Theatre Festival in July 2012. In addition to frequent appearances as a duo pianist and chamber musician, he performed as a core musician of the Calgary based group Land’s End Chamber Ensemble, recipient of both the 2005 and 2006 Western Canadian Music Award for Outstanding Classical Recording. Marcel is also internationally active as a clinician, juror, and lecturer and has been involved as a collaborative pianist and vocal coach. In 2004/2005, Marcel and his wife were Artistic Directors of The Murray Dranoff International Two Piano Competition and Foundation in Miami. He has been on faculty at Mount Royal University, the University of Calgary, and served as Artistic Director of the Langley Community Music School. He has also been involved in various musical activities at The Banff Centre for the Arts. From 2009 -2013, he was Professor of Music at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ont. and is currently Director of Program Advancement at the Langley Community Music School where he also teaches piano, composition and chamber music. Marcel is an associate composer of the Canadian Music Centre.

Sandra van Veen
Sandra van Veen studied with the Norwegian pianist Håkon Austbö at the Conservatory in Utrecht where she graduated in 1992. She made her debut with her husband Jeroen in a performance of Canto Ostinato during Lek Art (Culemborg). The concert was live recorded and the CD has sold in more than 40 countries worldwide. After this, many concerts and CDs followed. Sandra is very dedicated to the music of Ten Holt, but nowadays she also plays other kinds of music, ranging from the classical music like Carmina Burana, The Planets, Rhapsody in Blue, to Tangos and Tubular Bells for four pianos. She did the premiere of several pieces written by Dutch composers like J. Andriessen (in Russia) and Ten Holt (in Canada). Concerts and recitals brought Sandra from Miami to Novosibirsk. She takes part in many projects in Holland as well as abroad. She recorded many CDs on various labels. Several concerts and projects have been broadcasted on radio, television and the Internet. Finally, Sandra is a well known, passionated piano teacher as well. Sandra van Veen is a co-founder of the Lek Art Foundation and the Simeon ten Holt Foundation. She runs her own company ‘De Walnoot’ based in Culemborg.

Jeroen van Veen
Jeroen Van Veen (1969) started playing the piano at the age of 7. He studied at the Utrecht Conservatory with Alwin Bär and Håkon Austbö. In 1993 he passed the Performing Artists' Exam. Van Veen has played with orchestras conducted by Howard Williams (Adams), Peter Eötvös (Zimmermann), Neal Stulberg (Mozart & Bartok) and Robert Craft (Stravinsky). He has played recitals in Austria, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Russia & the USA. Van Veen attended master classes with Claude Helffer, Hans-Peter & Volker Stenzl and Roberto Szidon. He was invited to several festivals; Reder Piano Festival (1988), Festival der Kunsten in Bad Gleichenberg (1992), Wien Modern (1993), Holland Dance Festival (1998) Lek Art Festival (1996-2007). Van Veen recorded for major Dutch Radio- and Television companies like AVRO, NOS, IKON, NCRV, TROS/Internet, WTBC-TV & Radio (Florida, U.S.A.) and Moscow Television. In 1992, Van Veen recorded his first CD with his brother Maarten as the internationally recognized Piano duo Van Veen. In 1995 Piano duo Van Veen made their debut in the United States. They were prizewinners in the prestigious 4th International Murray Dranoff Two Piano Competition in Miami, Florida. After this achievement they toured the United States and Canada many times. The documentary "Two Pianos One Passion" (nominated with an Emmy Award 1996) documents them as a duo. The various compositions by Van Veen may be described as ‘Minimal Music’ with different faces, crossovers to Jazz, Blues, Soundscape, Avant-Garde, Techno, Trance and Pop Music. Currently Mr. Van Veen is director of Van Veen Productions, Chairman of the Simeon ten Holt Foundation, Pianomania Foundation and artistic director of several music festivals in Amsterdam. Culemborg and Veldhoven. He is also active in the Murray Dranoff Two Piano Competition based in Miami. Over the last 20 years Van Veen recorded more than 100 CD’s and 5 DVD’s for several labels (Mirasound, Koch, Naxos, Brilliant Classics) and his own label PIANO. Being a leading promotor of minimal music, and specific ‘Canto Ostinato’, his audience appreciates his feel for special occasions and inventions. In 2010 he trademarked his successful so called ‘ligconcert’. The recording of Les Noces (Stravinsky) for Naxos was stated in the New York Times as " the best recording ever".

Other CDs at Brilliant Classics by Jeroen van Veen:
Simeon ten Holt, Complete Multiple Piano Works BC 7795
Mike Oldfield, Tubular Bells for pianos BC 8812
Minimal Piano Collection, volume X-XX BC 9171
Ludovico Einaudi, Waves, The Piano Collection BC 9452
Jeroen van Veen, Piano Works BC 9454

Canto Ostinato for keyboard instruments(1976-1979)
Simeon ten Holt (1923-2012)

CD 01, Canto Ostinato, four pianos & organ (Part I)
CD 02, Canto Ostinato, four pianos & organ (Part II)
CD 03, Canto Ostinato, four pianos & organ (Part III)
CD 04, Canto Ostinato, four pianos & organ (Part IV)

Produced by: Van Veen Productions for Brilliant ClassicsWork published by © Donemus, Den Haag
Recording location: May 19th 2014, Muziekgebouw, Eindhoven
Recording location & date: May 19th 2014, Muziekgebouw, Eindhoven
Recording engineer: Mark Munnik
Microphones used: DPA 4006, DPA 4015,10 track multichannel ADAT
Pianos: 4x Steinway Concert Grand Serial numbers: #573593, #520755, #572886, #572839
Organ: Pels & Van Leeuwen build by Peter van Rumpt

Special thanks to: Muziekgebouw Eindhoven, Piano’s Vleugels Eindhoven, Pels & Van Leeuwen