Roelof Temmingh was a member of a musically gifted family (father, two brothers and a sister were musicians) who emigrated from the Netherlands to South Africa in 1958. Initially, he studied theology at the University of Stel- lenbosch, then pursued a career in music, with mentors such as Gideon Fagan and Gunther Pulvermacher.
He became a lecturer in music at UNISA and the then University of Port Elizabeth. As the winner of a competi- tion for composers in 1972, he was able to continue with his studies in Darmstadt, at the time a leading centre for post-war avant-garde music. From 1973 to 2004 he was a lecturer at the University of Stellenbosch.
Early challenging compositions earned him a reputation as enfant terrible of South African music of that time. Since the mid-eighties more moderate and listener-friendly music evolved, representing the more important compositions. Apart from earlier electronic ventures, Temmingh delivered contributions in all genres, including the lied, choral preludes, instrumen- tal works, spiritual choir music and opera. His last large work is the violin concerto of 2010.
Temmingh’s work, being that of a creative artist, generally portrays originality in inspiration, form and technique. Distinctive titles are typical and often of an ironic or humorous nature.
The cantata on the 16th century German melody Wenn wir in höchsten Nöten sein is a composition that brings this liturgical Baroque genre to life in a new guise.
It was commissioned by the Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche of the Pfalz, Germany for choir, orchestra, organ and soloists.
The chorale melody follows the prelude, is sung by the choir and reappears elsewhere in the cantata. There are four movements containing all seven verses of the hymn. (Grové 2014)