Roelof Temmingh

The first Helgaard Steyn Award for Musical Composition was presented to Stellenbosch composer dr. Roelof Temmingh at Potchefstroom in 1990. In 2002 he also received a Helgaard Steyn Award for the German cantata on the German choral melody Wenn wir in höchsten Nöten sein and, in 2006, for the expansive oratorium work Kantorium. Both works were commissioned by the Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche of the Pfalz, Germany.

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 repu- tation 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, instrumental 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 Drie Sonnette bear the strange titles of Flarde, Penta en Dodeka and d-moedWhere the first refers to the fragmentary nature of the material, the second movement refers to a popular facet of twentieth century music, i.e. the use of pentatonic material and the use of all twelve (duo-deca) chromatic tones of the available Western tonology. The third title is a play of words referring to both the character of the movement and the pitch or key signature of D. (Grové 2014)