Today’s ‘Inside Story’ feature is composer Peter Greve, a resident of the Netherlands; along with compilation artist, Hans Bakker; a chemist, composer, arranger, conductor, and pianist. Enjoy!
When did you realize you wanted to be an artist/composer/creator?
I must have been 6-7 years old when I realized that I wanted to become a composer. Music of the great classical composers came daily to our home by radio: my parents were ardent music lovers and encouraged me to actively listen to it: when the music was on, it was forbidden to speak, as in a real concert hall. My mother taught me note-reading when I was 5: I read notes before I could read letters. With those great examples every day at hand, it felt quite natural that I wanted to imitate them: in fact, my first preserved compositions date from April 1938, when I was 7. Of course, I did not realize then what it ensued to really become a composer, but I did not give up, acquired the necessary skills in part-time studies until, at 70, I felt I was far enough to step forward as an accomplished composer. It felt like “at last coming home”.
Who was your favorite artist(s) growing up?
My biggest favorite as a young boy was Mozart. I remember myself, probably 10 years old, sitting on the staircase late at night, secretly listening to my favorite Jupiter Symphony which my parents were listening to over the radio, supposing that I was sleeping in my bed. I was caught in the act and severely sent to bed, but my parents were also endeared by my devotion to Mozart, and my risking a reprimand for it. Later, Bach came into the picture and ended as my other big favorite: I can not decide who of the two is the bigger genius, but geniuses they are: let’s say, ex aequo.
If you weren’t a composer/performer, what would you be? AND If you could do any job in the world and make a living at it, what would that be?
(a joint answer, because the two questions are closely related)
The answer is easy insofar, that I already faced that question when I was 17 and solved it by becoming a full-time chemist and a part-time musician. So I had a job making my living, and a vocation fulfilling my dreams. I think, it was a wise decision: at that time (1948) much was insecure after WOII, but the future was bright for chemists, and not for composers. So I went to a University, acquired a Ph.D. in chemistry, could do interesting research, met interesting people and worked in interesting countries. But parallel, I took lessons in piano and trumpet, studied music theory, played in and conducted orchestras, and learned orchestration and composition by doing. So now, as a pensioner, I can afford to write the music I want, do not have to write complicated applications for money and can work with competent, professional and friendly people like, – for example -, the PARMA-staff.
If you could spend creative time anywhere in the world, where would it be? And why?
Musically, my hometown could be situated somewhere in the triangle Prague-Budapest-St.Petersburg, but conditions for working there as a composer are unfavourable, because of, – before the nineties of last century -, the pressure from the authorities of the time to write politically correct music, and, – now -, because of the drastic cutbacks in state expenditures for music (in fact, all aspects of culture)..
The latter also applies to the Netherlands, where Economy is first and Culture luxury, but I don’t mind living there because Dutch is my mother tongue, I know the system and the people who run it, there are excellent performers, and there is plenty of freedom to organize whatever you want. Interest from the public at large in contemporary classical music is, however, small, so best is, to have independent resources of one’s own, count one’s blessings and enjoy the advantages of freedom from political or commercial constraints.
But, apart from these personal considerations, I think that the best general climate for doing creative work is found nowadays in Germany, where more than in other countries I know, culture is commonly perceptible in architecture, education, and society, in big as well as small cities.