On Saturday the 30th of March 2019 three new carillon books were presented to the public in Bonn (Germany). These are composed by Mathieu Polak, composer and teacher at the Netherlands Carillon Center in Amersfoort. The compositions and arrangements are designed for a two-octave carillon with 23 tones (c3, d3, e3, f3 chromatic to c5), without pedal. The in total 18 new compositions and 30 arrangements form a substantial contribution to existing literature for this kind of instrument.
Out of the 48 pieces, comprising almost 90 pages spread out over 3 books, 12 pieces are written for carillon duet (this includes a suite in 5 parts which constitutes the first carillon book). This compensates for the absence of pedal, makes use of the complete size of the instrument with 2 octaves and encourages duet play. Because there is no pedal voice, the player can focus completely on manual play. For this reason, 7 pieces for solo carillonneur are titled “etude”. These etudes are all characteristic music pieces by themselves, that together form a 7-part suite.
Other compositions focus on the specific situation of the carillon the books are written for. The carillon in the German city of Bonn-Bad Godesberg is situated in a park, the playing booth is situated on the ground level and has large windows. This means that the players are easy to observe, and easy to address. In this way, many parents and children have become acquainted with this carillon. For their pleasure, but also to encourage playing together, the composer Mathieu Polak has written 6 specific pieces for duet that make up the 2nd volume together with the 7 etudes and 3 other character pieces.
The underlying concept of the 3rd carillon book is the celebration of the 250th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven in 2020. Several piano compositions by this famous son of the city of Bonn were arranged for the instrument in Bad Godesberg. The challenge was to choose compositions with a range that could be translated to the 23 tones of the Godesberg carillon. Also, well-known piano pieces by Robert Schumann from his “Kinderszenen” (Scenes for Childhood) and “Album für die Jugend” (Album for the Young) were arranged for carillon. Georg Wagner, carillonneur of the Godesberg instrument and city carillonneur for Aschaffenburg, also contributed 8 arrangements to this book. He also started the initiative to compose new carillon music for the instrument in Bonn-Bad Godesberg. Mathieu Polak accepted that challenge.
In a public, free to attend, concert on the carillon of Bad Godesberg selected pieces from the 3 books were presented to a large audience on March 30th, 2019. Carillonneurs Ariane Toffel and Georg Wagner have played the carillon of Bonn-Bad Godesberg since June 2018. In 2019 there were officially appointed carillonneurs. Mathieu Polak was their teacher during their training for carillonneur at the Netherlands Carillon Center in Amersfoort. In December 2018 they succeeded Wilhelm Ritter as city carillonneurs of Aschaffenburg.
About the composer:
Mathieu Daniël Polak attended the Dutch Carillon School in Amersfoort (part of the Utrecht School of the Arts, HKU). He obtained his master’s with a specialization in music pedagogy. Since then, he is a teacher at the Netherlands Carillon Center in Amersfoort. He is the carillonneur of Spakenburg since 2003 and the Erasmus University Rotterdam since 2008. He achieved two master’s degrees in composition, one from the Utrecht School of the Arts and one from the Lemmens Institute in Leuven. He has composed works over many different genres and arranged numerous pieces for carillon. In 2019, he was rewarded first place in the Johan Franco composition competition for his carillon piece "A Butterfly's Dance".
DThe 3 carillon books are available in print, as well as in PDF format, at the Netherlands Carillon Centre. All individual pieces can be obtained separately too.
You can listen to a selection of the works on YouTube: