The Carrillon Compositions by Jan van Dijk are extraordinary.

In the essay below, 'An introduction into Jan van Dijk's Carillon Compositions',
prominent carillonneur Carl van Eyndhoven makes this point.

The essay can also be found in the book 'Hernieuwde Ontmoeting met Jan van Dijk', (Renewed Meeting with Jan van Dijk) compiled by J.A. den Ouden, published by The Steensplinter in Gouda.

An Introduction into the Jan van Dijk's Compositions for Carillon by Carl van Eyndhoven (1999).

The crowning of city bustle?
The sound of its carillon!


It was Ferdinand Timmermans who introduced Jan van Dijk to the carillon.
During World War II this organist and carillonneur from Rotterdam every now and again stayed with the van Dijk family in Lekkerkerk where he was the conductor of the local choir. This was also the period in which Timmermans was writing his book "Luidklokken en beiaarden in Nederland".

Jan van Dijk often accompanied Timmermans when he climbed the tower of the townhall in Rotterdam and saw how he played the Taylor-carillon (1920).
"I learned a lot regarding the technical possibilities of Timmermans' carillon playing and I have seen Vincent playing as well and much later Arie Abbenes. When I compose for carillon I can very well imagine how it can be played". In 1956 Timmermans was succeeded by Leen 't Hart. Jan van Dijk sees it happening without then having the slightest idea that so many years later he will challenge 't Hart in his function of director of the Nederlandse Beiaardschool (Dutch Carillon School) to start a training course for carillonneur at the Brabants Conservatorium (Brabant Academy of Music) in Tilburg. A year later, in 1957, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science commissioned him to compose a work for carillon.
His firstling (for carillon) is the Toccata (Opus 247). Donemus is the publisher. It is typically the work of an experienced composer, who clearly has insufficient knowledge of the specific technique of carillon playing.

No wonder that it is not a success.

But from then on the bells get a hold on him. During biking trips (around 1960) in French Flanders he hears several carillons and the Michiels-carillon in Veurne is one which he gets to like very much.

In Escalles (south of Calais) in 1964 he composes Sonatine II (Opus 380).
Four years earlier he had already written Sonatine I (Opus 274a) - a simple little work, "a bit alla Clementi". The final part of Sonatine II (Rondeau) builds upon the opening motif of Mendelssohn's well-known "Wedding March".
What is striking in this sonatina is his use of some interval combinations (second - fourth/third - sixth) which will continue to play a prominent role in the carillon compositions to come (and in all his other compositions).

"Occasionally the Sonatinas were played, but they have not been very successful".

It is only ten years and 110 opus numbers later that Jan van Dijk will write again for carillon. And this has everything to do with Tilburg and Arie Abbenes.


On 30 June 1966 the new Eysbouts carillon in the tower of the 'Heikese church' in Tilburg is put into use. From 1967 to 1987 Arie Abbenes will be the holder of instrument.
Jan van Dijk, who has then been a lecturer at the Brabant Academy of Music and Performing Arts since 1955 and has been playing a committed role in the cultural life of Tilburg, becomes a member of the new carillon committee. From 1974 until 1999 he is the chair of this committee and an enthusiastic advocate of the carillon as the "crowning of city bustle".

The Tilburg carillon often plays a pioneering role as a result of the fruitful cooperation between Jan van Dijk and Arie Abbenes.
In particular can be mentioned the carillon contest in 1971, the composition contest in 1985 and the start of a carillon course at the Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Tilburg, "to wake up sleeping Amersfoort".
In that period he produces only a few carillon compositions. "Perhaps this wasn't the right medium for my turbulent mind".
But they are works which are most relevant through their sheer quality and often daring structure. In Damme (Belgium) in 1970 Jan van Dijk writes the Toccata II (Opus 491) which he dedicates to Arie Abbenes.

The composition starts from a twelve-tone row, but "adds a modern element to the dodecaphony, notably the aspect of improvisation".
The row stresses the interval-combination of second-third-fourth-sixth.
It is van Dijk's 'basic tune': "As a matter of fact a composer always composes the same thing. He will always start out from the same material, then he will vary on that. That is the very essence of the act of composing. Think of the great variations of van Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms. [...]

My basic tune dates from 1935, a tango: second - third -third - fourth. And often chords with fourth over sixth".
With respect to composition technique the Toccata differs substantially from his first three works for carillon, in that he uses an explicitly linear notation, thus making full use of the technical and dynamic possibilities of the carillon. The cooperation between the carillonneur and the composer is paying off.

Variation I

Jan van Dijk had already asked Ferdinand Timmermans if it wasn't possible to compose for carillon and orchestra. When he meets Staf Nees (van Dijk has seen and heard Staf Nees play) in Mechelen around 1950, he repeats his question. Nees urges him to write something for this combination himself.

Not until in Tilburg several attempts were undertaken to combine the carillon with an orchestra or a smaller ensemble, all without a satisfying result, does he decide to start writing himself.
The result is three beautiful works for carillon and wind orchestra, in particular Concertino (Opus 680/1), Ballade (Opus 680/2) and Scherzo (Opus 680/3).

The Concertino consists of three parts: prelude, entr'acte and finale.
Arie Abbenes and the wind orchestra Orpheus under the direction of Rinus van Hamont played the premiere of these works on 25 September 1983. The review in the newspaper said: "pleasant musical city decoration".

He plays the Scherzo (in the version for carillon and brass band - Opus 680-3a) on the carillon of Oirschot together with the brass band of St. Oedenrode under the direction of Herman Jeurissen for an album recording.

The composer skillfully solves the problem of the performance by having the brass band and the carillon play in turn and thus creating the illusion of the two playing together.
"Through the sophisticated way in which Jan wrote the score, performing the work is no problem at all, not even for the amateur orchestras."

The Toccata II is followed by a carillon composition with a remarkable history.

After the foundation of the Nederlandse Pianola Vereniging (Dutch Pianola Society) in Tilburg in 1978, Jan van Dijk and Lucius Voorhorst take up the idea of writing a work for pianola and orchestra.
They punch the role for the pianola themselves and the performance with the Brabants Orkest is a big event. Arie Abbenes programs the automatic carillon (hour and half hour) with fragments from this pianola concerto.
He makes the arrangements on the basis of sketches by Jan van Dijk who also adapts some for carillon.
As a sequel to this project he writes Fancy for Bells (Opus 591) in 1976.
It is obvious that its rythmic opening motif is a variation on his basic tune (second - third - sixth). It is a vibrant piece, extremely well-structured, which stands symbol for the stimulating interaction between Jan van Dijk and Arie Abbenes, who in this period lay the foundation for the pioneering role which Tilburg has ever since wanted to play in the domain of the carillon (in particular with respect to new music and experiments).

It is in this vibe that Jan van Dijk, when Arie Abbenes leaves for Utrecht and hands the baton on to Carl van Eyndhoven, composes his Epiloog, Intermezzo and Proloog.

Intermezzo I

"Tilburg is known as the town with the most superior carillon of light bells."

Apart from the first three compositions all Jan van Dijk's works are written with the tones of the Tilburg carillon in his ears. This instrument consists of 50 bells: e1 - g1 -a2(c2) - b1 - a5.
Two of these were cast by Petit & Fritsen (1950) and the others by Eijsbouts (1966/79). It is a light carillion the sound of which is sonourous in the low register bells and powerful and clear in the discant section as a result of the remarkably thick-walled bells.

Before he came to Tilburg Jan van Dijk knew both the carillons of Rotterdam, and Delft, The Oude Kerk.
"At that time I thought that nothing was possible on a carillon except playing bluntly. And that is how it sounded to me, until I heard the little carillon of Gouda; I liked that!
When I hear the carillon of Tilburg, what comes to my mind is chamber music. It has all got to do with my idea of the 'silent meeting': the silence between the notes."

Jan van Dijk's works are at their best when played on light carillons and carillons of medium weight. The melodious lines which, if anything, need space - the 'silence' between the notes - are best expressed by these carillons. Particularly in the slow movements a line develops which seems to consist of dots: linear pointillism.
Apart from the first two works all compositions are meant for a carillon in equal temperament. Before he came to Tilburg he had heard some carillons in meantone tuning.
He also had immersed himself in the problem of tuning during the period of his cooperation with Adriaan Fokker II, with whom he apprenticed himself on the advice of Willem Pijper. It was there that he came into contact with the theories of Leonhard Euler.
As all carillon works from 1970 onwards were written for the Tilburg carillon there was no reason to start composing in meantone tuning (something he did in his 'Orgelboekje').
"However, should there be a concrete question, I would certainly consider it".

When composing Jan van Dijk is always very well aware of the instrument for which he writes and it is for that reason that his carillon works are from a musical and technical point of view extremely suitable for the instrument.

About the Sinfonia he says:
"It is a symphony intended for bells, in the same way as you intend another symphony for orchestra."

Variation II

On the occasion of Carl van Eyndhoven's appointment as city carillonneur of Tilburg Jan van Dijk writes the Epiloog - Intermezzo - Proloog (Opus 762). Especially in the Proloog the variations on van Dijk's recurring central motif can clearly be heard.

During the premiere of this composition (10 January 1988) the outgoing carilloneur Arie Abbenes plays the Epiloog and the Intermezzo is played four-handed. The Proloog, played by the new city carillonneur is at the same time the announcement of the beginning of a series of carillon compositions which are the result of the relation between composer and carillonneur. On this foundation laid during the 'period Arie Abbenes', the new duo continues to build with great enthusiasm.
A year later he writes his masterpiece: the Preludio, Arietta e Rondo (Opus 786). The Preludio has the atmosphere of a French ouverture, the Arietta is pure serenity ; it will be the basis of Jan van Dijk's filosophy and the title 'Stille Ontmoeting' ('Silent Meeting') of his (auto)biography compiled by Jan den Ouden in 1999.

" ... it is about the still moments in the meeting. Where people are listening to each other. The non-verbal element in the meeting.
Where words are superfluous, as in music. The still moments between the notes."

The idea of 'stille ontmoeting' dates from 1994. In Gallery 'Bremmer' in Tilburg the 'mixed performance' takes place of works of different visual artists and Jan van Dijk's harmonium compositions, performed by Klaas Trapman.
The Rondo is written with great virtuosity and has an overwhelming, dynamic structure. The 'stille ontmoeting' in the Preludio, Arietta e Rondo (and in his following works) is carillon music of breathtaking beauty.

The premiere of this composition, however, was boisterous.
Carl van Eyndhoven plays the work in Antwerp during one of the Monday evening's concerts (1989). For the occasion the complete Tilburg carillon committee has come to 'Den Bellaert' to listen. Den Bellaert, the house in the shadow of the cathedral, which is still haunted by the ghost of Jef van Hoof.
There is therefore no 'stille ontmoeting' whatsoever, when Carl van Eyndhoven starts playing the Rondo on the major carillon of Eysbouts on Sunday 11 november, just before noon during the live broadcast of the programme 'Reiziger in Muziek' on Dutch television.

In 1992 Wim Brandse uses the tingling refrain of this Rondo in his 'Zes Stadsgezichten voor beiaard' (Opus 52) (Six Cityscapes for Carillon). With the appropriate title 'Rondo alla Francese' it is a tribute to the city of Tilburg and (the francophile) Jan van Dijk.

On Sunday 18 Novenber the world premiere of the Concerto for carillon and symphony orchestra (Opus 787) takes place in the municipal theatre in Tilburg. Musicians are the Tilburg city carillonneur and the Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest (Dutch Philharmonic Orchestra) under the direction of Jacques Wijnen.
This Concerto is living proof of the fact that Jan van Dijk can solve the challenges and problems of composing for carillon and orchestra. The result is a fascinating four-part concerto in which especially the third movement (Andante) has a musical tensity and expressivity which more than surpasses the experimental character of this endeavor.
However, the premiere doesn't go smoothly, as the exceptional weather conditions (wind force 8) and the resulting technical problems with the sound amplification caused the loudspeakers in the large municipal theatre to be more and more deformed. To such a degree that the sound even for the non-critical listener was no longer acceptable (...)
Fortunately the problem was solved during the interval and quite rightly van Dijk's Opus 787 was repeated in its entirety after the interval.
The Concerto is twice more performed in Eindhoven and in the Sint Pieter en Pauwelkerk in Mol on 9 October 1993 with the Helikon ensemble under the direction of Jacques Wijnen.
Between 1992 and 1995 Jan van Dijk writes Higgajon V (Opus 896/1) , the premiere of which takes place in Tilburg on Sunday 23 June 1996.
That same year Carl van Eyndhoven plays the work twice more in Mol. From 1989 onwards Jan van Dijk's works have always been premiered in Mol, most of the time in his presence.

In 1995 Jan van Dijk writes for the 'Brabants Beiaardboek 1996" the short Alla Marcia (Opus 896/2). It is a miniature of only 29 bars, but it is the ultimate van Dijk.
The combination of a main structure (two themes - in three parts) and a mirror structure (in the re-exposition theme 2 is before theme 1) results in a fascinating arrangement which is a logical consequence of the melodious material used.

Intermezzo II

"The idiosyncrasy of my style lies in the fact that they are my notes."

For Jan van Dijk composing is a craft. Knowledge and mastery of the technique are used to give shape to musical ideas.
The starting point of his compositions is always a concrete occasion (an impression, an event, an emotion), but "my music is no programme music. Compare it to the Debussy's 'Préludes': it's about a musical notion that is made concrete, a musical problem that is solved. The title follows the prelude, 'in between brackets'."

In the explanatory notes to the 'Sinfonia per campani' he words it as follows:
"This Sinfonia is a triptych of sound variations in all kinds of configurations. There are no underlying extra-musical principles, nor concepts which are symbolized by sound. The music is the created relaxation as a result of the conversion of the amorphous impulses the creator of that music received (dissonant - consonant). He who cannot do without a story, can think of one himself! Feel free!"
He is a great admirer of Debussy - "probably the greatest composer of this century"
. Admiration which among other things has to do with the feeling of 'I couldn't do what he can'.

For Jan van Dijk composing is also something of a challenge:

The conversion of material in an arrangement. Whether the material is based on a dodecaphonic series, or the ideas of Fokker or Euler, is not relevant. His style is personal, because they are his notes. In essence this goes back to the issue of the choice: from the countless possibilities he has at his disposal the composer selects one and it is that which makes his work a unique work.
For Jan van Dijk, it is "the notes which determine the orchestration, the choice of the instruments."
He who plays or listens to his carillon compositions can only affirm this: it is music for bells.
His style can perhaps best be described as neo-impressionistic. His technique can be labelled as: neo-modality and harmonious polyphony.
His starting-point is melody-lines (or motifs) with specific interval-characteristics (= modality) and then finds a balance between its linear, horizontal aspect (polyphony) and its vertical consonance (= harmony).
The role of the listener (the audience) in all this is not without relevance: he should (knowingly or unknowingly) "listen in the right way".

Variation III

In 1997 Van Dijk writes in a short time three carillon compositions which each in its own way are typical for the versatility of his carillon oeuvre.
Bruyère (Opus 924) is subtitled 'grande, silencieuse'. A reference to the well-known Dutch folksong 'De Herder' (The Shepherd) by J. Worp, text by P. Louwerse, the opening sentence of which goes as follows: 'Op de groote stille heide dwaalt de herder eenzaam rond' ('On the large still moor, the shepherd is wandering all alone).

Starting from this song Jan van Dijk writes "variations á base d'une chanson hollandaise". But in this case he flips the idea of 'a theme with variations'. He starts with the most varied version and finishes (at the end of the fourth variation) with the theme. Thus out of motivic fractions the entity is created.
This work shows in a magnificent (and whimsical) way how van Dijk succeeds in arranging his choice of notes.
A concrete occasion, namely the transfer of Helga Overeem, who until then was connected to the carillon committee as administrative secretary, is the basis of Helga (Opus 929).
"A sheet for a poetry book "
, that is what the composer calls it.

The opening motif is based on the notes of the name Helga (H - E - L(a) - G - A). After the two fourths (h - e - la) the secondary motif (a - g - a), because it is repeated, reminds you quite automatically of Beethoven's 'Für Elise' motif.
The parting gift 'for Helga' becomes a gift with a wink.

But the anecdotical is only occasion: in the end this motif is the starting point of what becomes a complex ABA-arrangement, the different elements of which again and again go back to the basic motif 'Helga' through variation (or call it mutation, transformation).

As the crowning achievement the Sinfonia per campani (Opus 931) follows in that same year. Jan van Dijk describes it as his "Tenth Symphony, a symphony for bells".
This Sinfonia consists of three parts: allegro poco maestoso, andante and allegro ma non troppo.
"The unity of tone-material is based on the fact that each of the three parts is written in one and the same genus with three fifths, one third and one seventh. Initiatives and transformations
of exposed melodious data are (also) determined by that genus.
Of the three parts the first and the third have some characteristics of a 'main arrangement'. Also in relation with the earlier mentioned tone-material unity the musical coherence seems to be realized by recognizable tones, intervals, cells, rythms (shifts) and a recognizable vertical sound."

This Sinfonia, which sets a high standard on its performer was due to premiere in Tilburg on Sunday 14 June 1998. Because of all kinds of festivities in the neighbourhood of the Heikese tower on that date there was so much noise pollution that a worthwile performance of/listening to the Sinfonia was out of the question.
In spite of this, a diligent reporter of a local newspaper wrote a review of the organ concert, which took place after the cancelled carillon concert, but with the program of the carillon concert in hand.
This organ work by Saint-Saëns, performed by Louis Toebosch, was reviewed as if it were Jan van Dijk's Sinfonia. The closing sentence "Wonderful music with an exceptional finale" applies without any doubt to both works ...
Eventually the world premiere of Sinfonia took place in Mol on Sunday 28 June 1998, whereas Tilburg didn't get to hear this magnificent work for the first time until Thursday 10 September.
The middle section, Andante, belongs to the most beautiful works for carillon Jan van Dijk has written, it has "the intensity of a Bruckner".

The notes and the silence speak for themselves: any comment is superfluous. If you do study the Sinfonia you can only agree with the composer: "a good work of art is created to the nature of the material."


"A carillonneur is not a specific type of musician, but is a musician like all others".

The context of Tilburg with its special relation between composer and carillonneur has played an important role in the creation of Jan van Dijk's carillon oeuvre.
But, in the same way as a carillonneur cannot be seen as a specific type of musician, Jan van Dijk's carillon oeuvre cannot be separated from the rest of his oeuvre: it goes without saying that it is an essential part of it.

In Oirschot on Saturday 24 July 1999 Arie Abbenes and Carl van Eyndhoven will play the premiere of 'Per Due' - a composition by Jan van Dijk for two carillons.
Therefore this epilogue is no more than an intermezzo, announcing a new prologue.

Carl van Eyndhoven

Six carillon works digitized

The six selected carillon works have been meticulously overhauled by Gijs Meeusen and Frans Vuursteen in a completely new digital version.
These works have therefore been released to the general public and may be stored for playing under the guidelines of Creative Commons 3.0.





Masonic music

Music sample

 Fancy for Bells 591 B 5 1976 JvD      
 Preludio, Arietta en Rondo 786 B 8 1989 JvD      
 Bruyère, grande, silencieuse 924 B 11 1997 JvD      
 Sinfonia per campane 931 B 13 1997 JvD      
 Cathédrale 972 B 15 1999 JvD      
 Toccata 3 1013 B 17 2002 JvD