Luc Van Hove (Wilrijk, 3 February 1957) studied at the Royal Flemish Music Conservatory in Antwerp, where he earned his first prize in solfege, piano, chamber music, music history, counterpoint, fugue and composition, as well as diplomas in transposition, music analysis and musical form. He received instruction in composition from Willem Kersters. He subsequently pursued advanced studies at the Mozarteum in Salzburg and at the University of Surrey (Guildford, U.K.). He has been awarded numerous distinctions, such as the Albert de Vleeshouwer composition prize (1984), the Annie Rutzky prize, crowning the end of his studies (1984) and the Belgian Artistic Promotion prize from SABAM (Association of Belgian Authors) (1990). In 1991 he was guest composer of the Week for Contemporary Music in Ghent, in 1994 composer in residence of the Flanders Festival and in 1997 of I Fiamminghi in Campo. Luc Van Hove teaches composition and analysis at the Lemmens Institute in Leuven and at the Royal Flemish Music Conservatory in Antwerp.
After his studies, Luc Van Hove left his “Post-Romantic” early works behind him, seeking artistic refreshment through the intense study of the work of Bartók, Lutoslawsky and Ligeti. Starting from the first works produced after this period, such at the Quintet for woodwinds op. 10 and the Sonatine for piano op. 11 (both from 1982), the essential elements of his later compositional thought are clearly present. A preference for absolute and instrumental music is coupled with an almost hedonistic fascination for pure sound and a strong constructivist spirit. In this, his modernist orientation and deep roots in tradition are by no means contradictory.
The link with the past is evident not only in Van Hove’s clear preference for the great traditional genres such as the sonata, the string quartet, the symphony and the concerto, but also in his approach to form. Van Hove attaches great importance to an orderly, self-contained form and by no means rejects the use of traditional formal categories and patterns. From the nineteenth-century repertoire — with which this composer-analyst is well acquainted — he has consciously adopted a sense of rhetoric, which allows each fragment of the composition to define its own formal function, as it were: transitions, developments, conclusions and reprises are readily recognisable and fit into the larger formal schemes, such as an ABA structure (the first movement of the Sonatine) or even a sonata form (the first movement of the Second Symphony). In this connection, the fact that it was precisely the work of Bartók and Lutoslawsky — two composers highly typical of the attempt to arrive at a progressive tonal language supported by somewhat more traditional formal concepts – that Van Hove analysed so intensely can hardly be called coincidental; indeed, in some works the homage to these composers is explicit: the woodwind quintet with its short, introductory first movement and long, substantial second, is reminiscent of similar forms in Lutoslawsky’s music, and the “bridge form” of the String Quartet (slow – fast – fast -slow) recalls Bartók.
Van Hove shares with Bartók a thoroughgoing organic writing style: movements and sometimes whole works are resolutely constructed out of the constant variation and thematic reworking of a limited number of tones (the “pitch collection”). This applies as much to the first part of the early woodwind quintet, in which almost every note can be extrapolated from the harmonic, rhythmic and melodic content of the first bar, as it does to more recent works, such a the Second Symphony, which flows logically from the fortissimo chord with which it begins. Cyclical connections between the different movements of a work, which aim to emphasize the formal, closed quality of the work, are not surprising in such a context: both in the Sonatine for piano and the Sonata for cello and piano (1991), the material with which the work begins is ostentatiously reprised at the end of the final movement. It is again hardly astonishing — and here for a third time we see the influence of the analyst on the composer — that Van Hove makes achievements of the pitch-class set analysis useful for the treatment of his “pitch collection” in compositions. Characteristics of the pc set, such as interval content and relations with other pitch collections form the point of departure for the construction of chords and motives.
The East European characteristics of Van Hove’s music give it an unmistakably contemporary quality. This is evident not so much in the lightly aleatory elements, which he seems to have borrowed from Lutoslawsky during his purely atonal period (1982-1988); rather, it can be heard in a number of stylistic elements that betray the influence of Ligeti, such as the use of hammered clusters (for example in the Sonatine), the importance of (poly)rhythmic conflicts (as in the second movement of the wind quintet) and an interest in the kind of quickly evolving, dense textures that turn up in many of the orchestral works. In addition, a further link between Van Hove and Ligeti is their shared and paradoxical aim of returning to the traditional sound repertory of tonal music without in the process taking a step backwards by disavowing the achievements of atonality. Starting from the Septet op. 24 (1988), the “pitch collection”, the unchanging point of departure of a composition, is chosen and treated in such a way that it too can generate tonal sounds. This is by no means a return to functional tonality: the tonal sounds are approached as if they were atonal. For instance, the long g held at the beginning of the third movement (rapsodie) of the Septet — and this is a departure from original interpretations — is not the tonic of a root-position G major chord, but the point of departure of a construction in which a gradual saturation of the chromatic space is combined with a large-scale crescendo. This leads to a new section in which the concentration on the g is eclipsed. In the First Symphony op. 25 (1989), the opposite process is found: a multi-tone, atonal chord is systematically thinned out over the course of the composition, until only a triad remains. Clearer still is the integration of tonal elements into the atonality of the Nonet op. 31 (1994), which is based on the theme from Chopin’s Mazurka op. 68 no. 2. The actual theme is in fact barely present in the composition: it has been objectified into a seven-pitch collection, out of which both tonal and atonal sounds are extracted. In the later works by Van Hove, not only tonal material is used in an atonal way. The opposite procedure is also found: in the form of fifth relationships a functional tonality can, from a position in the background as it were, organise the essentially atonal sound world.
List of works
Vocal: Nacht-stilte voor gemengd koor op. 7 (1981); Twee liederen voor bariton en piano op. 8 (1981); Drie liederen voor sopraan en klarinettenkwartet op. 12 (1983); Trois Poèmes de Paul Verlaine voor sopraan, koor en kamerorkest op. 14 (1984); Four Sacred Songs op. 42 voor gemengd koor (2003); Psalm 22 (2-22) voor gemengd koor op. 44 (2004); La Strada: opera in twee bedrijven op. 45 (2007)
Orchestral: Divertimento voor slagwerkorkest op. 5 (1980); Largo per orchestra op. 13 (1984); Scherzo op. 16 (1985); Carnaval op het strand op. 17 (1985); Elise’s Dance voor orkest op. 21 (1987); Eerste Symfonie op. 25 (1989); Stacked Time. Concerto voor elektrische gitaar op. 26 (1990); Triptiek. Concerto voor hobo op. 29 (1993); Concerto voor piano op. 32 (1995); Strings op. 33 (1997); Tweede Symfonie op. 34 (1997); Kammerkonzert voor cello en ensemble op. 36 (1998); Derde Symfonie op. 39 (2001); Diabelli Veränderung op. 43 (2004), La Sfida op. 47 (2010), Pianoconcerto II op. 48 (2010); Chamber Symphony op. 49 (2012)
Chamber music: Trio op. 1 nr.1 (1977); Klarinetkwintet op. 1 nr. 2 (1977); Vijf Preludiën op. 2 (1979); Prelude en toccata voor slagwerk en piano op. 6 (1981); Tema con variazioni voor ensemble van 13 instrumenten op. 9 (1981); Kwintet voor houtblazers op. 10 (1982); Sonatine voor piano op. 11 (1982); Three Guildford dances op. 19 (1986); Five inventions voor piano op. 20 (1987); Two pieces for three trumpets op. 22 (1988); Dansen voor vier handen op. 23 (1988); Septet op. 24 (1988); Sonate voor cello en piano op. 27 (1991); Aria voor cello op. 28 (1992); Strijkkwartet op. 30 (1994); Nonet op. 31 (1994); Le vieux port de Marseille voor klarinet en piano op. 35 (1998); Klarinetkwintet op. 37 (1999); Modo perpetuo voor cello op. 38 (2000); Piano Quartet op. 40 (2002); Haydn-Veränderung op. 41 (2003), Octet op. 45 (2009), Triptiek II voor viool en piano (2013)
– M. DELAERE, Harmonie in het oeuvre van Luc Van Hove, in Ons Erfdeel, 36, 1993, p. 85-90
– Y. KNOCKAERT, De klank, niets dan de klank. Vlaamse componisten (10): Luc Van Hove, in Kunst en Cultuur, 1993-94, p. 10-11
– Y. KNOCKAERT, Luc Van Hove, in M. DELAERE, Y. KNOCKAERT en H. SABBE, Nieuwe muziek in Vlaanderen, Brugge, 1998, p. 125-127
– Y. KNOCKAERT, Symfonische eensgezindheid. De symfonie in het oeuvre van Brewaeys, Buckinx, Swerts en Van Hove, in Contra., 3, nr. 3, 2003, p. 46-49
– M. DELAERE, art. Van Hove, Luc, in S. SADIE (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2de uitg., 2001, verschijnt in 2001, deel, pag.
– M. BEIRENS, De symfonicus in Luc Van Hove, in De Standaard, 26/11/2001
– R. TAMBUYSER, Diabelli Veränderung. Nieuw werk van Luc Van Hove, in Contra., 3, nr.5, 2003, p. 45-46
– Luc Van Hove. Chamber Music (vol. 1), Prometheus Ensemble cond. by Etienne Siebens, Rene Gailly CD87 164
– Symphonic works, Vlaams Radio-Orkest cond. by Etienne Siebens, Megadisc MDC 7823/24
CeBeDem (between 1951 and 2015)
Texts by Steven Vande Moortele and Klaas Coulembier
Last update: 2005, list of works 2014