Canto Ostinato

Nederlands Saxofoon Octet

(1 customer review)
(6 press reviews)
Original Recording Format: DSD 256
Learn about choosing Quality and Channels

Whilst in the early 1970s many composers – most of them operating from the Randstad, the most densely populated region of the Netherlands – occupied themselves with serial, atonal or electronic music, Simeon ten Holt from Bergen, North Holland, returned to tonality. He wasn’t conservative nor aiming for easy success, Ten Holt felt he had to do this. He was suffering from what he called ‘artistic and creative anemia’.

It wasn’t that Ten Holt had not mastered modern, for listeners sometimes hard to comprehend, complex musical techniques. Indeed, between 1950 and 1970, he had composed several compelling, well-written pieces in a post-serial style. These included: Bagatellen (1954); Cyclus aan de waanzin (Cycle To Insanity) (1962); and the impressive A/.ta-lon (1967) for mezzosoprano and 36 speaking and playing musicians. But modern was never truly his idiom and composing language. 

‘Until then, intellect played an important role in my life and atonal music seemed to be the only way to innovate’, Ten Holt once declared. In the late 60s, early 70s, however, he began to doubt the music he was composing. ‘I realized I was passing myself, allowing a process of impoverishment of my music.’ He fell into a sort of crisis, realizing that his approach had to change. One evening between 1973 and 1976, he sat behind the piano and rediscovered the physical aspect of composing. ‘The ecstasy, the flesh and blood of my own hands’, as he described that moment, ‘It was stronger than me and this gave me so much fulfillment that I continued.’ There and then, in his little house in Bergen, the first notes appeared of what would become Canto Ostinato, an evening-long composition for keyboard instruments – a musical landscape without a horizon; a composition without beginning or end.

The musical piece itself was a beginning. It was the start to a series of musical pieces based on the same principle, and it initiated the beginning of unprecedented popularity. Canto Ostinato came in like a wrecking ball. From the early 80s, almost every performance turned into a musical marathon attracting hordes of people. Simeon ten Holt had finally found the idiom that suited him. It gave him wings and thus he created one composition after another for two or more pianos, including the dramatic Lemniscaat (1983), the apocalyptic Horizon (1985), and Méandres (1999), featuring a more chromatic and a more explicit allocation of roles for the performers.



Please note that the below previews are loaded as 44.1 kHz / 16 bit.
Canto Ostinato, Section 1 - 16
Canto Ostinato, Section 17 - 49
Canto Ostinato, Section 41 - 73
Canto Ostinato, Section 74 - Theme I - 87
Canto Ostinato, Section 88 - 90
Canto Ostinato, Section 91 - 94
Canto Ostinato, Section 95 - Theme II - 106

Total time: 01:09:31

Additional information





, , , , , ,


, , , , ,






Acoustic Revive

Digital Converters

HAPI, Merging Technologies

Editing Software


Mastering Engineer

Tom Peeters


Bruel & Kjaer 4003, Neumann modified by Rens Heijnis


, , ,

Original Recording Format


Tom Peeters

Recording Engineer

Tom Peeters

Recording Location

Cunerakerk, Rhenen, Nederland in April 2019

Recording Software

Pyramix, Merging Technologies

Recording Type & Bit Rate

DSD 256

Release DateOctober 18, 2019

Press reviews

Nieuwe Noten, mei 2020

Als je het stuk beluistert en ik kan het u beslist aanraden, vallen een aantal zaken op. Ten eerste hoe goed dit stuk eigenlijk past bij saxofoons. Het is wellicht vloeken in de kerk, maar misschien nog wel beter dan voor piano(‘s). Door de klanken van de saxofoons die zo prachtig in elkaar vervloeien, geholpen door de prachtige akoestiek van de kerk in Rhenen, heb je continu het gevoel één grote supersaxofoon te horen, in plaats van David Cristóbal Litago en Lisa Wyss op sopraansax; Dineke Nauta en Tom Sanderman op altsax; Nina van Helvert en Jenita Veurink op tenorsax en Marijke Schröer en Juan Manuel Dominguez op baritonsax. Ten tweede valt op, en dat ligt in het verlengde, hoe enthousiast en bevlogen hier wordt gemusiceerd, je zou er zelf zin in krijgen. Voeg daarbij de eerder genoemde akoestiek en de prachtige opname en je hebt een prachtig schijf om deze barre tijden door te komen.

MusicWeb International, febr 2020

With a dancing tempo which keeps its momentum and with plenty of little details that emerge and I certainly hadn’t noticed as much in the piano versions I’ve heard, this is far more than just a recording for the Canto Ostinato completist. I particularly like the way the closer intervals interact and quasi-resolve. Certain sections call up new associations, and you might catch yourself thinking of Michael Nyman when the lower instruments come to the fore, or Wim Mertens with the soprano saxophone sonorities. The recording is nicely balanced and there is reasonable distance between the listener and the instruments, but this to my ears is a more ‘wide awake’ version of this work than some of the piano recordings I’ve heard, where the temptation is to turn the volume down a bit and have some dreamtime. I imagine that you will be less likely to find yourself entering a meditative state with eight saxophones, and this is by no means a bad thing.

Luister, jan 2020 5 out of 5

Gelukkig zorgt de jongste bewerking van Canto Ostinato ervoor dat we teruggebracht worden naar de componist en zijn zeer nauwkeurige werk en berekenende opbouw. Of het nu komt door de noodzaak om adem te halen of het ritmisch geklepper van de kleppen, de versie die saxofonist Stefan de Wijs maakte voor acht saxofoons en die meeslepend gespeeld wordt door het Nederlands Saxofoon Octet (NS8) doet de trance die velen beleven, uitblijven, terwijl de fascinatie voor de structuur en wijze waarop Ten Holt toewerkte naar de statements van de volledige melodie alleen maar toeneemt. En zo’n soort uitvoering van Canto Ostinato was er nog niet.

RP Online

Geschrieben wurde „Canto ostinato“ für ein oder mehrere Klaviere, doch schon kurz nach der Uraufführung zirkulierte das Werk auch in anderen Besetzungen. Nun gibt es beim Label Cobra Records eine herrliche Neuaufnahme mit dem Nederlands Saxofoon Octet, die dem Werk auf faszinierende Weise Atem und Leben einhaucht. Es wirkt keine Sekunde maschinenhaft, sondern humanistisch inspiriert. /”Canto ostinato” was written for one or more pianos, but shortly after the premiere the work began to be played by other instrumentations. Now the Cobra Records label has a wonderful new recording by the Dutch Saxophone Octet; the players breathe life into the piece in a fascinating way. It doesn’t sound machine-like for a second, but inspired by humanism.

Opus Klassiek

Deze uitvoering door het Nederlands Saxofoon Octet verdient een waardig plekje in het nog steeds groeiend aantal opnamen (en bewerkingen) van het stuk. Wie ‘Canto Ostinato’ een warm hart toedraagt moet dit nieuwe album zeker kopen. Het is het meer dan waard. /This performance by the Dutch Saxophone Octet deserves a worthy place in the still growing number of recordings (and adaptations) of the piece. Those who have a warm heart for ‘Canto Ostinato’ should definitely buy this new album. It is more than worth it.

Pizzicato 4 out of 5

In the eighties Dutch composer Simeon ten Holt landed a real hit with his Canto ostinato. The work thrives on an ancient musical principle of constant repetition, which the minimalists had chosen as one of their principles. Canto ostinato also has the wonderful characteristic that, at the composer’s express request, it can be performed in a wide variety of formations, leaving the performer plenty of freedom within the given structure. The Nederlands Saxofoon Octet uses these freedom pleasurably and very musically. The music is constantly in motion, the tension never diminishes, the repetitive sequences are hardly noticeable as such, since the music is constantly in flux and new melodic passages can be discovered again and again. The present instrumentation also offers the wonderful opportunity to experience the saxophone in its most beautiful timbres.

1 review for Canto Ostinato

    Impressive, melancholic music to soothe the soul. As usual, the technical aspect is of a very high standard.

Only logged in customers who have purchased this product may leave a review.

Cobra Records 69 albums

More from this label