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Bernard Van Beurden

born 1933 – died 2016

Tim Reynish May 2016

In much music for wind band one finds always the same recognisable use of tone colours. Composers in this field tend to use the same easily applicable instrumentation models all the time, thereby creating a certain dull uniformity in compositions for wind band, as if the same piece is being composed over and over again.

Bernard van Beurden was a Dutch composer with over 30 major works for wind band; why is this composer so little known outside Holland?

Bernard van Beurden was born in 1933 in Amsterdam, and studied violin and viola at the Amsterdam Conservatory of Music, continuing his studies in composition with Rudolf Escher and Ton de Leeuw. Upon graduating he continued as instructor at the preparatory academy of the Amsterdam Conservatory of Music as well as teaching at the theatre school in various other capacities. In 1969 he founded the Muzisch Lab, a workshop for amateur musicians.

From 1970 to 1980 he gave workshops on contemporary music in The Netherlands and throughout Europe, as well as producing many family concerts. During this period he also worked in radio, producing numerous programmes on new music. In 1978 he was appointed professor at the Rotterdam Conservatory of Music. There he founded d'ACCORD, an ensemble consisting of ten accordions and whose repertoire consisted entirely of contemporary music.

He showed a keen interest in composition from the age of 11 and during his conservatory studies was involved in various theatrical productions as composer; he has thus been involved in many facets of the arts for most of his life. Since 1980 Bernard van Beurden has concentrated his efforts on composing and at present works exclusively as a composer.

Bernard van Beurden's compositions cover a wide range of genres: music for radio, television and theatre; chamber, choral and orchestral music. He has a clear preference for music for wind instruments. Most of Bernard van Beurden's works are published by MuziekGroep Nederland/Donemus, but at present his choral works are also published in America.

As a music educator Bernard van Beurden wrote a Workbook for music of the present(Werkboek voor Muziek van Nu), a book assisting in the practical performance of contemporary music in schools and in other group situations.


1984 Concert for violin, viola and wind orchestra 16′
1988 La Messe (The Mass) for mezzo-soprano, accordion, violoncello and wind orchestra (text Paul Verlaine) 21′
1990 Concerto for large wind orchestra 22′
1990 Concertino for soprano saxophone and wind orchestra (published by Molenaar) 15′
1992 Concert for trumpet, piccolo trumpet, flügelhorn (1 player) and wind orchestra 9′
1993 From Turkey, 5 songs for soprano and small wind orchestra 12′
1994 Requiem van het volk (Peoples Requiem) for 3 female voices, male choir, accordion and wind orchestra 30′
1996 Music for a medieval K(night) for windorchestra (published by Bronsheim) 12′
1998 Concerto for violoncello and wind orchestra 16′
2002 Pastorale for violin and wind orchestra 14′
2002 The Mass voor male choir and wind orchestra (published by Bronsheim) 25′
2003 Song of the Skyloom for narrator, mixed choir and wind orchestra (texts by Native Americans) 35′
2003 Ah comme on aime for solo soprano/tenor, womens choir, wind orchestra and string orchestra 25′
2004 Boulevard des Misères for 2 narrators, solo tenor/bariton/bas, female choir and wind orchestra 60′
2006 Molto Ostinato for wind orchestra 7′
2006 Let’s go for saxophone ensemble and wind orchestra (published by Bronsheim) 12′
2007 Moving for clarinet quartet and wind orchestra 16′
2007 Concerto for baritone-saxophone and wind orchestra 17′
2007 Soundscape I for wind orchestra (9 or more) 4′
2008 Mini-concours Musictheatre for mezzo-soprano, baritone and wind orchestra (published by Bronsheim) 25′
2008 Four Mouvements for saxophone quartet and wind orchestra 15′
2010 Estampie 3. (Medieval dance melodies) for large wind orchestra 11′
2010 In Connection With for flute, piccolo (1 player) and wind orchestra 12′

For wind ensemble

1975 Konsertante muziek for viola, percussion and wind ensemble 15′
1978 Estampie 1. (revision 1992) (Medieval dance melodies) for wind ensemble (14 players) 11′
1981 Cantus Firmus for talking/playing wind ensemble, percussion and audience 11′
1988 Divertimento ostinato for wind ensemble, strings, harp and percussion 24′
1992 Concerto for bassoon and windensemble (14 players) 13′
1997 Motion for wind ensemble (8 players), double base and percussion (1 player) 10′
1998 Pour un tombeau d’ Anatole for mezzo-soprano and wind ensemble (text Stéphane Mallarmé) 17′
1998 Game/Jeu for wind ensemble 10′
2006 Around Five for brassquintet and 5 groups of wind players 17′
2006 Romance for violin and wind ensemble (published by Bronsheim) 12′
2010 Suite for viola and double wind quintet 18′
2011 Out of Europe 5 songs for soprano and brass quintet (available from sept. 2012) 25′
2011 Dialogue for altosaxophone and double wind quintet (available from july 2012) 13′

In 2013, in a review of the Norwegian Wind Orchestra at WASBE Taiwan, I wrote:

I have long had a fantasy that in most countries there are composers writing really good major works for wind band which are non-commercial and which are largely unknown to the conductors, bands, audiences and publishers; in Netherlands perhaps Bernard van Beurden, in China Chen Qian, in Sweden Csaba Deak, in Germany Richard Heller and Frank Zabel, while in Norway, my fantasy is filled by by Stig Nordhagen, a clarinettist with the orchestra in Kristiansand, whose Euphonium Concerto I really enjoyed in 2003 in Sweden.

CD number 1 in my catalogued collection of over 900 discs is Dutch, Arie van Beek conducting the Wind Orchestra of the Rotterdam Conservatory in an extraordinary programme of music by Bernard van Beurden. In 1993, the Rotterdam Wind Orchestra visited Spain, took part in the Certamen in Valencia and in the WASBE Conference, playing van Beurden’s La Messe, together with De Profundis by Klaas de Vries and Sinfonietta by Willem Van Otterloo. Their CD recorded shortly afterwards had the following programme by van Beurden:

Concerto for Large Wind Orchestra (1990) 21.47
Estampie (1978 rev 1992) 11.04
La Messe* (1988) 26.03*

For mezzo soprano, accordion, cello and large wind orchestra

In my 2005 lecture on World Premieres given at WASBE Singapore, I said that his Boulevard dès Misères should perhaps be listed under Choral Works. He wrote to me about this major work, premiered in five Dutch cities that summer:

Why the title? During the second world war there was in Holland a concentration camp only for Jews. From that camp left every Tuesday a train with men, women and children to Auschzwitz, Trelibor and other camps in Germany and Poland where they were killed. The road from the barracks to the train was called by the Jews: Boulevard des Misères, a very cynical name. Over 200,000 Jews were killed. The first train left on July 15th, 1942.

That day is commemorated in July next on the 15th. Because of this commemoration they gave me a commission to write a composition. I also wrote the text, put together from German documents, poetry and prose of the prisoners and interviews. I also used Jewish folksongs and the text is in different languages, German, Dutch, Hebrew, and Yiddish. It is scored for 3 male singers, female choir, 2 actors (they only speak) and a youth wind orchestra. I made my choice for such an orchestra because I think it is very important to involve our youth in this part of a terrible history.

Two years later, I was involved in the discussion led by Keith Kinder at WASBE in Killarney on works for Choir and Wind Band, and for a survey for WASBE I wrote:

The music of Bernard van Beurden always fascinates me. He has a creed of breaking away from wind band stereotypes, and he certainly does this in his magnificent work Skyloom. A long time member of WASBE, it is to be hoped that the appearance of La Messe in the Conference in Spain of 1993 is not to prove the only appearance of his music in that august forum.

Bernard wrote to me some time afterwards:

By the way I like to inform you about the music for windorchestra I composed in the last 3 years.

Concerto for Baritonsaxophone and Windorchestra;

4 Movements for saxophonequartet and Windorchestra;

In Connection With for flute/picolo (one player) and Windorchestra;

Four Movements for saxophonequartet and windorchestra ( windband)
Concerto for baritone saxophone and wind orchestra ( windband)
Dialogue for altso saxophone, double windquintet and percussion ( 1 player)
Concerto Grosso for trumpet, mallets (1 player) and wind orchestra.( windband)

All the scores take between 16 and 18 minutes and are published at Donemus.

Some time ago Bernard sent me a recording of three very exciting concerti, especially so in that they are for instruments not then often favoured by composers:

· Concertino for soprano saxophone and wind orchestra 14.35

· Concerto for violoncello and wind orchestra 29.54

· Concerto for bassoon, wind ensemble and percussion 13.31

The Fanfare Wind Orchestra is a typical Dutch brass orchestra you also find in Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany.

The orchestration is saxophones, flugelhorns, trumpets, horns, trombones, tenor tubas, bass tubas and percussion. (A Fanfare is NOT a brass band)

For Fanfare Wind Orchestra


Grenzeloos (Boundless) for soprano and fanfare orchestra


Estampie for fanfare orchestra


Poème de l'Automne (Poem for the Autumn) for flute and fanfare orchestra


Concerto Mediavale for brass quintet and fanfare orchestra


A vous bel ami for soprano, harp, viola and wind orchestra


Wals (walz) for violoncello and fanfare orchestra


Four Turkish Folksongs for soprano and fanfare orchestra


Concerto for Fanfare orchestra (première July 2005 in Singapore during WASBE)

For Wind Ensemble (about 15 players)


Estampie for wind ensemble


Concerto for bassoon and wind ensemble


Pour le Tombeau d'Anatole for soprano and wind ensemble


Game / Jeu for wind ensemble

He was obviously a huge personality, very outspoken in his views on wind music, and a composer who has contributed enormously to the repertoire. I have sadly not spent enough time studying Bernard’s music, though I have helped various WASBE to keep in touch with him. Following his death, I received this email from Joop Boerstel

Dear Tim , dear all

Yes, the Dutch music scene was shocked by the death of this composer, who was not always 'friends' with the Dutch Windband scene. In the Dutch conductors magazine he often wrote his (critical) vision about the situation in the Dutch wind bandfield by writing 'open letters'. But - looking back - his contribution to repertoire and thoughts about musicmaking was huge and very welcome.

A couple of months ago I had the oppertunity to work with him. He and his charming wife visited a rehearsal (although his health was not too good at that time, but he still was energetic enough to tell us a lot. (Attached are two pictures). In the attachment of Tim Reyinish you can read a lot about his compositions. In Huizen (NL) we performed his Soprano Saxophone Concerto with the very fine soloist Christiaan van der Weij.

Here are three youtube links to this piece.

Many greetings, Joop Boerstoel