Oscar van Dillen – 12 Eludes, score and recording

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Oscar van Dillen wrote 12 Eludes in all key signatures dedicated as a musical offering to Elise van Rosmalen-van Dillen. The score has been published and the audio is released on a number of digital platforms such as Apple Music and Spotify…

The title Elude is derived from the verb to elude = to avoid cunningly or adroitly (Penguin Reference 2001), which has as noun the word elusion. However, the composer chose to create for this music the new noun Elude, in assonance to Prelude and words like it, such as Postlude, Interlude etc. Therefore, as pre-lude means fore-play, inter-lude in-between-play, and post-lude means after-play, thus e-lude means outside-play. This music plays outside of and around tonal, modal and atonal systems, even outside a single style, and enters and leaves such musics at will, never completely bound to each set of formulas and conventions. It is precisely therefore that there are 12, each in its unique key signature, and not 24, as in keys (major and minor set apart), as is the case in similar keyboard collections by Bach, Chopin and Shostakovich. The 12 Eludes each have their own way of playing outside of mode and key, using a simple, technically mostly 2-voice based, setting.

The setting a technically 2-voice mostly, this leaves an open space in harmonic sound, because all redundant tones are left out. The overall sound created by the open intervallic structure of the work as a whole results in a transparent sound and a unique harmony. The contrapuntal score is written in a concise and precise way to achieve this openness and transparency. Moreover, the precise register placement of a wealth of pitches within the time-frame of each phrase, enables several parallel and simultaneous harmonic interpretations. The tonally trained ears may hear various tonal implications, whereas the more modally trained ears will be keener to pick up on some modal suggestions and meanings, all contained in this fully chromatic music. This polysemy is intentional and is what lies behind the original idea of the Eludes in the first place: a common reality for an audience, yet with a truly wide variety of experiences and interpretations, both emotionally and technically.

The score on purpose omits indications of tempo, dynamics, phrasing and pedalling; the performer instead is trusted with all these to decide. Contrary to his custom in his other scores, the composer left this open, feeling that in this particular work a capable individual interpreter’s choices, of course logically based on and connected to the note text itself, should be preferred. This modus operandi allows for a wider variety of possible performances and expressions.

The work was originally conceived for piano, but should with some registration adaptations certainly allow for performance by various keyboard instruments too, such as organ and harpsichord, and beyond that for accordion, and marimba or vibraphone. A piano version realized by the composer was released on streaming media at the time of publishing of this score.

In a certain way, this book consists of two parts: the 7 parts I-VII and then the 5 parts VIII-XII, both parts being of similar duration, even though the second part of this cycle is slightly longer than the first. Thus, for performance purposes also a half cycle can be chosen, as can of course an individual piece.

Listen on Spotify

Listen on Apple Music

Score in the Donemus Catalogue