Peter Leonard Klatzow was born in Springs in 1945 and spent his youth on the East Rand, where he received his first music education. Since 1964 he received training at, inter alia, the Royal College of Music in London and Nadia Boulanger in Paris. He lectured at the College of Music of the University of Cape Town from 1973 until his recent retirement.
Klatzow’s style can be seen as largely dependent on the Western Classical-Romantic canon, with more specific influences possibly being Brahms, Liszt, Ravel, Prokofiev, Copland, Messiaen and others. His clear affil- iation with his specific community in this country and his apparent hesitation to venture into a fundamental stylistic “Africanisation” have prompted doubts about the representativeness of his music as “truly South African,” according to some definitions.
An essential characteristic is his penchant for drawing inspiration from paintings and poetry. Numerous works originated under the impression of paintings by Paul Klee, Douglas Portway, Irma Stern and others. His interest in Afrikaans poetry while still at school occasioned a first setting of Eugène Marais’s iconic poem Winternag (Winter’s Night). Similarly, Van Wyk Louw’s work led to pieces involving that poet’s Drie Diere and Vier Gebede by Jaargetye in die Boland (Four Prayers at seasons in the Boland).
Klatzow’s piano suite From the Poets bears strong ties with indigenous poetry. It consists of four works which might be typified as free “ballades”, based on three Afrikaans poems and one English poem.
The title of the suite – and of the first piece – was taken from D.J. Opperman’s poem Gebed om die gebeente (Prayer for the Bones), the tale of the rebel Gideon Scheepers, as “related” by Scheepers’s mother. The final movement of the suite, Impundulu, reflects poet A.G. Visser’s version of the Zulu legend of the “lightning bird”. The other two poems included Dae voor Winter (Days Approaching Winter) by Phil du Plessis and The Watermaid’s Cave by R.M. Bruce. (Grové 2014)
Klatzow mentioned in his word of thanks after the prize ceremony that “we are no longer isolated from the international artistic society. But with the recent inter- nationalism we should not forget our own identity, that which is own to us must be protected and developed. High on this list is the Afrikaans language ...” (Klatzow 1994)