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Overstag : voor piano solo, 1998 / Thijs Dercksen

Genre: Kamermuziek
Subgenre: Piano
Bezetting: pf

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Overstag : voor piano solo, 1998 / Thijs Dercksen

Genre: Kamermuziek
Subgenre: Piano
Bezetting: pf



Dercksen, Thijs

Nationaliteit: Netherlands
Geboortedatum: 1962-01-01

Thijs Dercksen studied piano with Herman Uhlhorn at the Utrecht Conservatory and composition with several teachers at the Rotterdam Conservatory. He works as a composer, teacher and pianist. He wrote chamber music, vocal works and was twice commissioned by the Limburg Symphony Orchestra (now called the Philharmonie Zuid Nederland). He performs his own pieces weekly as an opening for the conservatory evening in 'Het Muzieklokaal' in Utrecht.

A special place in the oeuvre of Thijs Dercksen is taken by his music for piano solo. He developed a new way of playing the piano based on the symmetrical construction of the hands and the equality of left and right. To transfer this way of playing into really good sounding music, he made extensive study of the Franco-Flemish counterpoint and Afro-Cuban rhythm.


When I was just a boy of about 4 years old, I watched my brothers as they played music together on a flute, cello and piano. I saw all three of them playing, but I only heard the flute and the piano. I was fascinated because something was wrong. The piece went on, the cello had a few bars of rest and joined in again. Now I could hear him. Right then, I suddenly understood that two melodies could be played at the same time without getting in each other’s way. It was at that moment that I knew I wanted to be a composer.

Thijs Dercksen grew up in a large family. The advantage of a large family is that there is always an enormous amount of stuff floating around the house. He was also lucky enough to have a Grandmother who loved travelling and brought back all kinds of musical instruments from around the world. There was a Russian balalaika, a Tunesian darboeka as well as a curious violin-like instrument, the top being stretched with pig’s bladder. “I can still remember the scent of the Egyptian bagpipe made of goatskins and equipped with two wooden hooks so that you could hang it into your ears.” he says. His older brothers also brought instruments such as electric guitars, a bass guitar, a double bass and a drum kit and his father built a virginal.

The composer’s base, the piano, was in the living room. Since the living room was constantly occupied, this location caused a slight problem. “For heaven’s sake, can you stop playing already? We’re trying to talk.” was a question that had to be prevented. This caused him to develop an improvisational music style in which he filled up the gaps in the chit-chat around him with music. Or, he played so softly, at the right moments, that he just managed to prevent the others from closing the piano’s lid. An awful lot of music was played in that house! And there was music notation paper. The young Dercksen wrote music for every imaginable combination of instruments.

In 1980 Dercksen began his piano studies. During this period the avant-garde had the upper hand and his style did not fit in, causing him to compose his further works under-ground. After completing his conservatory studies Dercksen began to work as an arranger and teacher, all the while, he continued to work on his piano pieces. His first real successes as a composer didn’t come until 1994. With the piano as his point of departure, he began composing chamber music. His further endeavours include works for symphony orchestra (incl. Philharmonie Zuid Nederland) as well as choral works.

Thijs Dercksen on his Piano Paradiddles:
“Through my studies at the conservatory I became familiar with the music of the great composers. Splendid music. But somehow I had this feeling that there were other possibilities for piano music. When I watched drummers and percussionists I saw that they were able to play extremely complicated sounding patterns with a great amount of ease. Why do these patterns sound so rich? The trick is in the changes from left to right, the speed at which those changes occur and the different accents the player gives. Percussionists have many different names for these patterns, but the most well-known is the paradiddle.”

In order to transfer percussion patterns successfully to the piano one obviously needs more than the above tricks. And of course we are confronted with the inevitable problem of tone. Furthermore, there is no hierarchy of the right hand being more important than the left in percussion music, as is the case in so much of the mainstream piano repertoire. In percussion music the left hand often plays the same rhythms as the right hand, at a different time. The two hands hardly ever play at the same time.

When you transfer that to a piano you end up with three melodies. One melody in the left hand, a second in the right hand and a third melody played by the two hands together. In order to turn this into music you have to have knowledge about counterpoint. Counterpoint occurs when two or more melodies are played at the same time, without getting in each other’s way. A canon is an example of counterpoint. The counterpoint bloomed and grew in the 15th and 16th century, the so-called Franco-Flemish style.

As a child, I was already interested in the counterpoint of the Franco-Flemish style. Two very interesting inventions from that time have turned out to be very helpful when transposing percussion patterns to the piano. The first of these is the syncopated dissonance that makes it possible to compose rhythms that had disappeared from the western art music until they were reintroduced and made common by the development of jazz and Latin music. The second musical invention from that period is the mirror canon in which the one voice rises while the other falls and vice versa. This principle works splendidly on the piano as one hand is, of course, the mirror image of the other.