Variations and Fugue on an Original Theme (Vita Aeterna Variations). Version for Symphony Orchestra, Op. 62 no. 2a 

Introduction and Theme. Adagio
Variation I. Allegro energico
Variation II. Tempo di valse in modo subdolo
Variation III. Allegro tempestuoso
Variation IV. Largo
Variation V. Adagio
Variation VI. Tempo di marcia
Finale: Fugue Apotheosis. Allegro vivace

In 2007, Pim van Lommel’s scientific research on near death experiences Eindeloos Bewustzijn (Consciousness Beyond Life) was published. The book gives strong evidence for the assumption that life doesn’t end with death and human beings indeed do have a soul that lives on eternally, as all religions claim. I was intrigued by the subject and started reading books that attempt to describe life ‘on the other side’, like Life in the World Unseen and A Wanderer in the Spirit World.

In 2010 I was commissioned to write a piece for the Koninklijke Fanfare ‘Sint Caecilia’, from the Dutch town Puth, to commemorate one of its members, the recently deceased young euphonium player Jeffrey Lindelauf.  As coincidence would have it, Jeffrey’s parents asked me to express the viewpoint that life goes on after death in the composition, and they proposed that Vita Aeterna (Eternal Life) would be an appropriate title. They also sent me sheet music of the pieces that Jeffrey was fond of playing, and in my composition there are lots of hints to these pieces.

When I was asked to compose the test piece for the EBBC 2012 in Rotterdam, I soon came to the conclusion that I wanted to use the lyrical theme from Vita Aeterna as a theme for a set of variations, and to dedicate the new composition to Jeffrey’s parents. Not only do I use this musical theme from the previous piece, I also wanted to elaborate a bit more on the subject of ongoing life, now combined with what in Hinduism and Buddhism is called Karma.

As a result, the Vita Aeterna Variations have the sort of rudimentary ‘program’ that many composers from the past have wisely kept to themselves. Here it is:

Introduction and Theme. Adagio                             Tentative beginning of Life.
Variation I. Allegro energico                                       Full of vital energy.
Variation II. Tempo di valse in modo subdolo   Evil seeks to seduce and gradually succeeds.
Variation III. Allegro tempestuoso                          Fate strikes.
Variation IV. Largo                                                           Despair.
Variation V. Adagio                                                          Redemption.
Variation VI. Tempo di marcia                                    Gradual return of life power.
Finale: Fugue and Apotheosis. Allegro vivace.   Boisterous, overflowing with vitality and delight in the beauty of life.

There is one more person that put his stamp on the music of this composition. His name is Walter Saler. He was Naturheiler (naturopath), a very special person with an outspoken positive attitude to life, who has helped me on numerous occasions. As a way to thank him, I wrote Musik für Walter for him, a Theme with Variations for cello and organ, which reflects this positive attitude.

Since I wanted the music of the Vita Aeterna Variations to be uplifting for the soul and life asserting, my mind automatically returned to the composition for Walter, too, and then it turned out that elements from Vita Aeterna and Musik für Walter easily blended together. Some examples: the opening bars of the Walter theme can be played in counterpoint with the opening bars of the Vita Aeterna theme—which is exactly what happens towards the end of the composition, of course. The first and the fourth variation of the Vita Aeterna Variations have been derived from variations from the Walter piece, respectively called Super Super Super! and Immer Vorwärts (Onwards and Upwards).

Both men had their influence in shaping the music to what it has become; for which I am very grateful. And I am very happy that the piece has already reached such a wide audience. I hope that this version for symphonic wind orchestra will contribute to making a even wider audience acquainted with both men, their stories and the music they both influenced, each in his own way.

There are also versions for brass band, Op. 62 no. 2 (Youtube:, for symphonic wind orchestra, Op. 62 no. 2b. and for fanfare orchestra (Youtube:

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