Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe
On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
GROVE, Izak. Between Bethlehem and Bloubergstrand: from the old towards the own in Stefans Grové's oeuvre. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2013, vol.53, n.2, pp. 138-155. ISSN 2224-7912.
The traditional concept of style in an artist's output usually amounts to no more than descriptions of detail facets about the artist's work. In a musical context these could include more or less vague descriptions of characteristic qualities such as rhythmic and melodic features, preferred formal approach and colourist qualities that can be regarded as typical for the composer's work in general, or works from a certain period of his/her creative life. In the case of the latter, it could mean that the composer adopted certain changes in approach to style, thereby rendering previous work stylistically "different" than later work. As a result stylistic qualities often lead to the well-known triple division of early, middle and late style. When applied to Grové's work the earliest style orientation (around the late 1940s) might suggest elements of Debussy's fashionable Impressionism of the time, and slightly later Hindemith's neo-Baroque and Bartók's rhythmic drive. Works such as the Violin Concerto (1959) and Symphony (1962) form the apex of his second (expressionist) phase, with strong hints towards dodecaphony. According to the composer himself, his adult (third) style came into being with a Piano Toccata from 1966, in which both textural and thematic orientation heralded a "new" stylistic phase. Since his return from the United States to South Africa in 1972, this phase gradually gave way to a fourth (!) phase, his "African" style approach in which his discovery of his "original African self" led towards the exploitation of largely simulated African musical elements. The composer's own strong emphasis on this style change as his "Damascus moment", "final home coming" and similar descriptions has even led to his remarking that he should destroy all previous music on a moonlit night on Blaauwberg beach, thereby rendering the "African" phase as the only musical legacy worth representing him as leading South African resident composer. However, upon closer scrutiny and in accordance with the composer's definition of his style as "African impulses within Eurocentric form" underlying older stylistic features such as contrapuntal orientation and specific colourist approach to orchestral music can still be detected beneath an "African" motive collage.} This article attempts to approach Grové's work from the point of an underlying "sameness" as far as stylistic development is concerned. To this end his stylistic development is treated according to Leonard Meyer's style definition and approach to "sketch analysis", i.e. a survey of all stylistic features independently, and approaching a possible argument for their mutual "interrelatedness", thereby ensuring a unified stylistic body. Related stylistic features tend to reappear in different works that originated at different periods in his career. In this regard the composer's own recent realisation that the "African" elements in the works dating from 1983 can possibly be traced back to one of his earliest works from 1948 is noteworthy, thereby underlining the hypothesis of a unified style profile as proposed in this article.
Keywords : Stefans Grové; Elegy for strings; Raka concerto; Toccata; African art music; musical style; unity of musical style; African music series..