Hans Aerts was born on 28 September 1958 in Balen. He studied clarinet and piano at the Music Academy in Mol. After earning ‘governmental medals’ (regeringsmedailles) for both instruments, he continued his studies at the Royal Conservatory in Antwerp, where he took lessons with Walter Boeykens (clarinet), Marc Verhaegen (harmony) and August Verbesselt (analysis). He continued his studies at the Royal Conservatory in Brussels, taking counterpoint and fugue with Rafaël D’Haene. He rounded off his studies with Piet Swerts (composition) at the Lemmens Institute in Leuven. Since his graduation, a number of his works have received prizes. In 1984 he was given an honourable mention at the Clarinet Choir Composition Contest of the University of Maryland. In 1993, 1995 and 2005 he was a prizewinner in the Cantabile Composition Competition for the three piano works Berceuse triste – Canzonetta (1993), Rondino (1995) and Promenade (2005). In 1999 his song Tranen (Tears), on a text by Guido Gezelle, for soprano, clarinet in b-flat and piano (1998) was selected in a competition organised by the city of Roeselare. Hans Aerts composed At the lake of Connemara for harp (1995) and Contemplazione for violin and piano (1996) as the compulsory works for, respectively, the 1996 and 1997 editions of the Axion Classics National Competition for Music and Spoken Arts, organised by Dexia bank. Composing for the same competition, in 2004 he wrote Concertino da camera for woodwinds (flute, clarinet, oboe, alto saxophone and bassoon) and piano. The piano work Sentimental Waltz was nominated in the ISME Composition Competition in 2003 and released on CD. At present, Hans Aerts is active as a composer and a teacher of clarinet and chamber music at the Municipal Academy for Music, Word and Dance in Turnhout.
Hans Aerts’s oeuvre can by and large be characterised as a continuation of the late-Romantic style. His music is almost always tonal, although he does push the limits of this tonality. The generally clear traditional forms (often sonata and ABA form) are often somewhat blurred by transpositions and inserted passages. His compositions are never based on an abstract, mathematical element, but always on a particular musical idea that is then developed. His compositional style has been influenced by such composers as Francis Poulenc, Maurice Ravel, Samuel Barber and Aaron Copland. The total oeuvre of Hans Aerts can be divided into three different stylistic periods. His first works, written up to the beginning of the 1990s, are very accessible. They have an unambiguous, traditional form with simple structures and a clear tonal progression without many modulations. A second period begins in the course of the 1990s. Hans Aerts sought out his own harmonic language in order to achieve maximum expression. This is a period in which, among other things, he experimented with cluster chords and modality. Contemplazione for violin and piano (1996), with its many metre changes and unpredictable rhythms, is typical of this period. Indications such as calmando, lento e lugubre, animando and affrettando succeed one another in quick succession, and the tempo constantly changes. The harmonic language is strongly chromatic and interwoven with chords based on fourths, sevenths and ninths, giving each chord a heavy-laden sound. This is fairly sombre, very expressive music. A third period began in 2000, a year that represents a turning point in the compositional practice of Hans Aerts, when he abandoned what he had come to feel was an overburdened and far-fetched music, in order to come into closer contact with the listener. His music once again became more accessible, livelier and rhythmically more uniform. And yet the music of this period is not comparable with that of the first period. It is rather a synthesis of the first and second periods: the relatively simple musical language of the first period is combined with the powerful expression and the rich harmonies of the second. A good example from this period is the Concertino da camera for woodwinds and piano (2004). It consists of the classic three movements: a quick movement (Allegro man non troppo, nobilmente, in sonata form), followed by a slow movement (Largo e molto espressivo, with ABA form) and concluding with another quick movement (Allegramente, with ABA form). After the formulation of the main theme in the first movement, this theme is immediately developed and shortened through all manner of chromatic techniques. There is no real tonal stability, and cohesion is achieved mainly through the repetition and transformation of the main theme, which is constantly altered through the application of a wide range of techniques. A number of passages in this work are modally conceived, an aspect with which the composer had experimented extensively in his second period. For instance, the second theme in the first movement is modal and is accompanied by a harmony with many fourth-chords, in order to avoid any obvious triads. In the development, the main theme becomes almost unrecognisable because of the relatively virtuoso writing style. This style is exceptional in the oeuvre of Hans Aerts, but can be explained here by the fact that this work was written for a competition in which the compulsory work had to be technically demanding for the performer. The chords create a French mood, with many tension-filled sevenths, ninths, raised fifths and modal chords that never resolve into a simple triad, but rather into chords extended by sevenths and ninths. The fourth chords create the open atmosphere characteristic of the music of Hans Aerts.
List of works
Chamber music: Prelude and Scherzo for clarinet and piano (1980); Sinfonietta for piano and brass ensemble (1980); 4 Jaargetijden for 3 clarinets in B-flat and bass clarinet (1980); Chamber concerto for piano and 9 solo instruments (1981); Kleine pastorale fantasie for clarinet choir (1982); Quartet for 3 clarinets in B-flat and bass clarinet (1982); 3 Studies for clarinet choir (1982); Minuet for 3 clarinets in B-flat (1983); Trio for 2 tenor trombones and bass trombone (1983); Sonatina for flute, oboe, clarinet in B-flat, horn and bassoon (1983); Sonata for clarinet in B-flat and piano (1984); When winter fades into the light of spring for clarinet choir (1985); Elegy and Burlesque for trumpet in B-flat and piano (1986); Ballade for trumpet in C and piano (1987); Quartet for 2 violins, viola and violoncello or for 1 clarinet in E-flat, 2 clarinets in B-flat and bass clarinet (1988); Kleine Lennon / Mc Cartney Suite for 3 clarinets in B-flat and bass clarinet (1989); Quintet for clarinet in B-flat, 2 violins, viola and violoncello (1989); Quartet for flute, violin, viola and violoncello (1990); Badinage for oboe and piano (1991); Summer Gardens for flute and piano (1991); Soldiers passing by for trumpet in B-flat and piano (1991); Sonatina for clarinet in B-flat and piano or harp (1992); Andantino festoso for 3 clarinets in B-flat and bass clarinet (1992); Sonata for bass clarinet and piano (1994); Trois pièces for violin, violoncello and piano (1994); Elegy for clarinet in A and organ (1994); Fantasia elegiaco for clarinet choir (1994); Contemplazione for violin and piano (1996); Prologue for violin, clarinet in B-flat, violoncello and piano (1997); Empty streets for bass clarinet and piano (2001); Trio for clarinet or violin, violoncello and piano (2003); Airs de ballet for flute, oboe, alto saxophone and clarinet in B-flat (2003); Le chant du troubadour for flute or violin and piano (2004); Souvenir de Buenos Aires for violin and piano (2004); Concertino da camera for clarinet and piano or for flute, oboe, alto saxophone and bassoon (2004); Summer Scenes for flute quartet (2005); Three Trumpet Tunes for trumpet in B-flat and piano (2005)
Vocal: Daedalion’s Lament for singing voice and piano, lyrics by Luc Hanegreefs (1983); Tranen, lyrics by Guido Gezelle for soprano, clarinet in B-flat and piano (1998); This is just to say, lyrics by W. Carlos Williams for singing voice and piano (1999); Song, lyrics by Christina Rosetti, for singing voice and piano (1999); Vier liederen, lyrics by Paul van Ostaijen for mixed choir a capella (2004)
Orchestral music: Concerto for clarinet in B-flat and string orchestra (1989); Divertimento for wind band (1990); Twee dansen for string orchestra or recorder quartet (1992); Prelude for wind band (1992); Un jour noir plus triste que les nuits for orchestra (1995); Landscape for orchestra (1998); Sinfonia for strings for string orchestra (2003); Four outdoor pieces for orchestra (2004); Evening moods for wind band (2004); Pocket Symphony for wind band (2005); The Awakening for wind band (2006)
Piano: Sonatina nr. 1 in B (1980); Sonatina nr. 2 in F (1981); 2 Romantische stukken (1981) ; Sonata (1982); 2 Impromptus (1983); 9 Preludes (1985); If ever it will be spring again (1986); 6 Preludes (1987); Suite miniature (1989); Berceuse triste – Canzonetta (1993); Rondino (1995); Melopee (1996); Légende (1996); Toccata (1997); Sonatine (1998); Night piece (1999); Dancing girls (2002); Suite for piano 4h (2002); Sentimental Waltz (2003); 10 Pieces for children (2003); Variations on a song (2004); Nocturnal dance (2005); Promenade (2005)
Solo: Corale e Toccata for organ (1989); At the lake of Connemara for harp (1995)
– Fantasia Elegiaco voor clarinet choir (Piet Jeegers Clarinet Choir), PIET JEEGERS CLARINET CHOIR VOLUME 4, Mirasound bv., 2002.
– Sentimental Walz voor piano (Line Vandekerkhove), UIT DE SCHADUW, ISME-Vlaanderen, 2004.
– Tranen voor sopraan, klarinet in bes en piano (Lotustrio), IN FLANDERS‘ FIELDS, Phaedra, 1999 Uitgever CeBeDeM (Brussel) Schott Frères (Brussel) Metropolis (Antwerpen) Golden River Music (Beveren-Leie) DMP (Antwerpen) Les Editions du Nord (Oostende)
Texts by Benedikt Spierings
Last update 2006, list of works 2014