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Roelof Temmingh

The Helgaard Steyn Award for 2006 was significant for two reasons. Firstly, the prize money was worth over R100 000, which made this award one of the most valuable for arts in South Africa. Secondly, the previous winner for Composition (in 2002), Prof. Roelof Temmingh, was once again selected as the winner.

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.

Temmingh received the award for his cantorium for choir, soloists and orchestra. The work was commis- sioned by the Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche in Pfalz, Germany for binary festivities in 2004 – 475 years since the Reformation, as well as the centenary of the massive Gedächtniskirche in Speyer. 

The title Kantorium suggests a hybrid form between cantata and oratorium – based on texts selected by the composer himself. The work distinctly shows six structural similarities with Händel’s Messiah oratorium. It is binary: the first refers to the creation narrative and concludes with the promise of consolation, while the longer second part has a New Testament theme and includes the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. (Grové 2014)