Canto Ostinato



I’m not sure whether it’s a personal failure or a more general Dutch failing that we don’t know our best musical talents, but it took the obituary of Simeon ten Holt to hear his most famous composition, the Canto Ostinato, written in 1976 – 1979. As you notice after a few minutes listening, it “consists of small, entirely tonal cells which are repeated“, with the duration of any performance left to the performers. Usually played on two or four pianos, it has also been adapted to other instruments, like the harp.

It’s a beautiful piece of music and while firmly in the classical musical tradition, you could almost describe it as a post-punk composition: experimental, minimalist and stripped down to the bare essence but grounded in traditional virtues of musical craft nonetheless…

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