Published in: Maya Trochimczyck (ed.) - The Music of Louis Andriessen,
Routledge Publishing, New York 2002.
Louis Andriessen and his Habitat
1. The Family and the Country
When asked how he became a composer, Louis Andriessen will usually answer:
"I merely joined my father's business."1) Indeed, with the Andriessens,
music is a veritable family trade. This trade, or trait, goes back to
Louis's great-grandfather, Cornelis Andriessen (1816-1893), who was a choir
conductor and music teacher in Hilversum. Three of his sons pursued a
musical career, notably Nicolaas Hendrik Andriessen (1845-1913),
Louis's grandfather, who in 1871 became the organist of the Sint-Jozefkerk
in Haarlem and also worked as a choir conductor, teacher, and composer.
After the early death of his first wife, Geertruida Koot (1847-1884), Nico
Andriessen married Gesina Vester (1857-1939). She was a painter and
through her the Andriessen genome became enriched with visual artistry as
The Andriessens came of good Roman-Catholic stock: Gesina Andriessen bore
nine children, of whom six reached adulthood and three became
nationally renowned and recognized artists. The eldest son, Willem
(1887-1964), became a well-known pianist. The youngest, Mari (1897-1979),
earned fame as a sculptor. He was the maker of the statue De Dokwerker, a
memorial of the strike of 25 February 1941 when thousands of people stopped
working to protest the German attacks on Amsterdam Jews. It was the second
son, Hendrik Franciscus, who not only was to become one of the most
esteemed Dutch composers of his time, but also the father of an even more
Hendrik Andriessen was born on 17 September 1892 in Haarlem, a quiet city
about 20 kilometres west of Amsterdam.2) He started professional life as a
journalist, but after the death of his father in 1913 he took over his
father's job as an organist. In 1919 he married Tine Anschütz, who, coming
from a Lutheran family, had to convert to the Roman-Catholic faith. Over
the years Hendrik Andriessen worked as music critic, teacher, conductor,
and organist. He had a remarkable talent for improvisation and was a
prolific composer. In 1937 he was appointed director of the Utrecht Conservatory. He was a teacher at the Amsterdam Conservatory and his brother Willem was the director there.
As a result, the Andriessen
family moved to Utrecht, where Louis was born on June 6, 1939. Hendrik
Andriessen was a great admirer of César Franck and an outspoken
francophile. He disliked Brahms and Wagner. His compositions bear witness
to these predilections: they are well-structured and rich in invention, and
clarity and colourfulness prevail. Although he was no modernist, Hendrik
Andriessen experimented with bitonality, and some of his later compositions
(the Fourth Symphony of 1954 and the string quartet Il Pensiero of 1961)
are based on twelve-tone-rows, which he used purely melodically. Spurred
on by his faith, he wrote a great deal of religious music and organ works, but
also songs, chamber music and several orchestral works. His Variations and
Fugue on a Theme by Johann Kuhnau (1935) for string orchestra is still
frequently played.3) From 1949 to 1957, Andriessen was director of the Royal
Conservatory in The Hague, and from 1952 to 1963, he was a professor at
Nijmegen University. He died on 12 April 1981. Hendrik Andriessen was not
a revolutionary or even a modern composer like his contemporaries
Stravinsky and Schoenberg. In fact, Dutch musical life was a kind of
backwater, only slightly perturbed by the stormy weather abroad, and would
remain so until well in the '60s.
The most innovative Dutch composer of the interwar period was undoubtedly
Willem Pijper (1894-1947).4) He also was pro-French and anti-German (a
natural reaction, as his predecessors had heavily been influenced by
Mendelssohn, Brahms and Mahler). Pijper introduced polytonality and
polymetrics in his music, worked with octotonic scales and introduced a
method of composition which he called "germ-cell technique." He wrote
several striking works, which sometimes are marred by his excessive
predilection for Spanish-flavoured rhythms. Later in his life, he adopted
a more austere style. Because Pijper had many students, his influence was
felt for many years after his early death.
The Netherlands had one really visionary "modern" composer, though, in the
person of Matthijs Vermeulen (1888-1967), a figure whose position
is comparable to that of Charles Ives, because his true stature was
recognized only in the last stages of his career. In 1920, Vermeulen left
the Netherlands for France, where he wrongly expected to find more
opportunities to get his music performed. At the end, his self-chosen
exile lasted for twenty-five years; only after his return to the
Netherlands, when the war was over, did he gain a certain recognition. The
bulk of his work consists of seven impressive but unwieldy symphonies that
are characterized by non-tonal, interwoven polymelodic textures that even
today are unpalatable to some listeners. Notwithstanding the mixed
reception of his work, Vermeulen was a much admired figure in Dutch musical
life, especially because of his passionate, high-minded reviews and essays
The end of the Second World War formed a
kind of watershed in Dutch musical life.
Although the country had been systematically robbed during the German
occupation, in the long term the arts benefited from it, because the
Germans had laid the foundation for a system of governmental subsidies.
During the years after the war, with prosperity increasing, nine of the
eleven Dutch provinces built up or established their own professional
orchestras. The Dutch broadcasting organisations formed their own
orchestras as well. Obviously, there were also the respectable, more or less
"national" orchestras: the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, the
Residentie Orkest (Hague Philharmonic) in The Hague, and the Rotterdam
Philharmonic. The postwar years saw the emergence of several organisations
that would be of vital significance for Dutch contemporary music, and
especially for composers. In 1945, the Donemus Foundation was established,
a combination of a (subsidized) publishing house and a marketing
organization for Dutch music.5) In the same year, Walter Maas, a German Jew
who throughout the war had been living in hiding in the Netherlands,
founded the Gaudeamus Foundation that developed into an international
meeting point for composers. Finally in 1948, the first Holland Festival
was organized. For many years to come it would be practically the only
institution that kept up with recent musical developments.
2. Andriessen's Musical Education
This was the cultural landscape that the young Louis Andriessen found
himself in at the end of the 1950s: A country that in a way had missed out
on modernity, but that boasted a solid infrastructure suitable not only for
the dissemination of symphonic, but also for contemporary music two
categories that initially had a good deal of overlap. Soon, however, times
Louis was the youngest of six children, four of whom chose music as their
profession (his sisters Heleen and Caecilia became musicians, and his
brother Jurriaan became a composer). His first teacher was,
naturally, his father. "To this day," Louis Andriessen said once, "whenever
I'm composing I still feel as if this very strict and critical father is
looking over my shoulder."6) Hendrik instilled him with a predilection for
French music and an antipathy for high-blown Romanticism. Even more
important, however, was the influence of his brother Jurriaan (1925-1996),
who was Louis's senior by 14 years, and an up-and-coming composer. In 1949,
Jurriaan went to the United States and returned with a collection of big
band music (Stan Kenton among others) the impact of which
can still be heard in Louis's music today. Louis was a precocious talent,
as was demonstrated in 1999 during the premiere of his String Quartet,7)
a youthful work from early 1957. For a 17-year old composer, it is a
remarkably self-assured and deftly written composition, even though it owes
a lot to Bartók and Stravinsky (note that the Quartet is the first
evidence of Andriessen's life-long fascination with the latter composer).
From the same year stems Andriessen's first published composition, a Sonata
for flute and piano; this work stylistically follows the tradition of 20th-century French music.
At the time, Andriessen was a first-year student at the Royal
Conservatory in The Hague, where he studied composition with his father's
successor, Kees van Baaren. Van Baaren (1906-1970) was one of the earliest
Dutch composers who used and taught twelve-tone techniques (although he
employed them rather freely). His open-minded approach was a crucial
influence on Louis and his co-students.8) It is significant in this context
that Andriessen's second published work scored for two pianos is
appropriately called Séries.9) Written in 1958, it is one of the earliest
wholly serially organized works by a Dutch composer. The very first Dutch
twelve-tone composition, however, may have been the orchestral piece Due
Canzoni composed by Otto Ketting a year earlier.10) But twelve-tone serialism
was much in the air at that time: not only members of Andriessen's
generation, but even older composers like Ton de Leeuw (1926-1996) went
through a serial phase.11)
Nonetheless, there was change in the air: For the first time developments
abroad were closely followed in the Netherlands. Henk Badings (1907-1987),
a prolific composer who didn't eschew experiments, was the pioneer of Dutch
electronic music. He was also involved in the development of the
electronic studio at Philips in Eindhoven, where Edgard Varèse produced his
famous Poème électronique for the World Exhibition of 1958 (Brussels).
This studio would be the origin of the well-known Utrecht Institute of
Sonology, housed since 1986 at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague. Though
The Netherlands became an important centre for electronic music and, with
Jan Boerman (b. 1923), even brought forth one of the greatest composers in
this field,12) electronic composition still occupies a marginal position in
Dutch musical life. It is also marginal in the life of Louis Andriessen
who realized only two compositions for tape, In Memoriam (1971) and Il Duce
(1973). After graduating from the Royal Conservatory in 1961, Andriessen
continued his studies with Luciano Berio, first in Milan (1962-63), later
in Berlin (1964-65). Berio taught him the importance of "good bass notes";
prominent bass lines are still a striking feature of Andriessen's music.
3. Musical Revolutions
For Andriessen, the 1960s were formative years. Having come to terms with
serialism, he and his co-students discovered fresh musical ideas in the
music of such wildly divergent composers as Charles Ives, Erik Satie and
Guillaume de Machaut. Andriessen dabbled in collage music, graphic
notation, live electronics, improvisation and so on, thereby proving his
capacity for musical mimicry that he retained through his career, but not
yet showing a real identity. In hindsight, however, several works offer
interesting glimpses of an Andriessen-to-come, especially
Contra Tempus (1968) which opens with four pianos, producing a mishmash of
Hoketus-like blows, and also contains the isolated trumpet interjections that
appear in De Materie, part 1.13)
The most noticeable young composer of the '60s was Andriessen's
co-student from The Hague, Peter Schat (b.1935). Schat shared Andriessen's
early fascination with twelve-tone composition but later shed the shell of
serialism and like Andriessen engaged in experiments of all kinds.
However, his grip was more secure and his experimentation resulted in a
number of striking works, such as the multi-media-performance Labyrint (a
kind of opera) (1966) or To You (1972), a noisy manifesto for soprano,
guitars, keyboards and six giant hummingtops.14) Later,
Schat set out on a quest with the aim of providing Schoenberg's
dodecaphonic principles with a harmonic foundation. After the formulation
of his Tone Clock theory in the 1980s,15) his music took on traits that most
people would perceive as neo-Romantic.
In the 1960s, Schat and Andriessen were revolutionaries, as were their
colleagues and former co-students Reinbert de Leeuw (b.1938), Misha
Mengelberg (b.1935), and Jan van Vlijmen (b.1935), each of them brilliant
in their own right. This group became known as "The Five" because of their
joint composition, Reconstructie, a political opera that was produced by
the Holland Festival in 1969. The subject of this opera was the struggle
of two main characters: the Commendatore and Don Giovanni (or, as they were referred to,
Che Guevara and the
"imperialist.") With five so vastly different composers, it was no wonder
that Reconstructie turned out, as Leo Samama put it, a "hotchpotch which
was at the time very exciting and got on everybody's nerves, be it
positively or negatively."16)
The Five had attracted attention earlier: In 1966 they organized a
public protest against the artistic direction taken by the Concertgebouw
Orchestra. At stake was the alleged conservatism of the programs (which,
as far as new music was concerned, was indeed dominated by the older
generation, the Pijper-pupils). The protesters hoped to have Bruno
Maderna,17) champion of new and old music, appointed as second conductor, next
to Bernard Haitink.18) It didn't work out. The Five, however, did not
stand alone; they were the spokesmen for a larger group that called
themselves the "Notenkrakers" ("Nutcrackers", a play on the Dutch word
"noot" which means "nut" as well as "musical note"). By the end of 1969, things
came to a standstill when the Notenkrakers, still fighting for a more
progressive artistic course, disturbed a concert in the Concertgebouw,
which led to a minor riot. To the great disappointment of the Nutcrackers,
the old Matthijs Vermeulen, whom they held in great esteem for his critical
views, condemned their actions. By that time the 1960s already belonged to
the past and a lot of illusions had gone with them. Nonetheless, in
the 1970s the hoped-for revolution took the form of a gradual evolution
which resulted in considerable changes in the Dutch musical landscape. Its
main feature was the emergence of the "ensemble culture", as it is called
Louis Andriessen was a key figure in that development, though certainly
not the only one. During the 1960s and 1970s, numerous composers and
musicians were involved in all kinds of "alternative" concerts. These
adventurous music-makers included the Nederlands Blazers Ensemble, formed
in 1959 by the musicians of the Concertgebouw itself, who loved equally Mozart
and modernist composers, such as Stravinsky and Schat. In
1966 the Amsterdams Studenten Kamer Orkest was founded by Peter de Buck and
composer Jan Vriend (b. 1938). This orchestra, consisting of amateurs and
music students, soon focused exclusively on contemporary music, with works
by modernist composers Edgard Varèse and Iannis Xenakis highlighting the
direction of the programming. During the seventies the student group
gradually evolved into the fully professional Asko Ensemble.
After his hilarious The Nine Symphonies of Beethoven (for Orchestra and
Ice-Cream Vendor's Bell) of 1970, Andriessen vowed to never again write
music for the symphony orchestra (a vow which he has more or less kept).
Instead, he formed a group of musicians for whom he wrote a minimalist
piece in the vein of Terry Riley's In C, called De Volharding
[Perseverance].20) The group decided to stay together under that name, and to
perform as a political orchestra meant to cross or even erase
the borders between musicians and composers, between improvised and
composed music, and between high and low culture. Although these lofty
ideals had to give way to the principle of high-standard performances over
the years, De Volharding Orchestra still flourishes with its characteristic
stubborn sound. During the first years of the group's existence Andriessen
served as its pianist and he composed several pieces for them. Later on
in 1975-77, another composition the by now well-known Hoketus
led to the establishment of the group of the same name. This group
explored its rough-hewn, amplified sound and minimalist aesthetics until it
disbanded in 1986. For his Symphony for Open Strings (1978) Andriessen
again organized a new orchestra; this one, however, did not survive and the
experiment had no further consequences. Its lack of longevity perhaps had
to do with the practical limitations of writing for open strings.
Meanwhile, Andriessen had found his own voice,21) partly through his
temporary adoption of minimalist techniques, partly through his exploration
of unison playing. This device he gleaned from his younger colleague Diderik
Wagenaar (b.1946), who ended his Kaleidofonen I for alto saxophone of
1969 with a section where piano and sax play in unison.22) As Gene Carl later
wrote: "Gilius van Bergeijk tells the story that Andriessen was sitting in the
first row at the première, and, when it ended said: 'Monophonic, great!
I'm going to do that, too!'"23) This idea pervades the music he composed in the early
'70s (of course, the concept of "unanimity" served as a political
metaphor for the anarchist-Marxist-oriented composer).
Andriessen's first unison piece is the rather simplistic Volkslied (1971)
in which the "Wilhelmus", the Dutch national anthem, through exchanging of
notes, gradually makes way for the socialist hymn "The International". More
subtle are the wavering unisons in Melodie (1972-74) for recorder and
piano. Obviously, De Staat [The Republic], a work that provided Andriessen
with an international breakthrough in 1976, is the apogee in his exploitation
of unison playing.24) Elmer Schönberger wrote in 1993: "If there is one post-war
composition that has changed Dutch music thoroughly, it is The Republic
[...] Now, there is a split between those who were witness to it, and
those who were not."25)
4. The Hague School and the Five
Two years later, in 1978, Andriessen was appointed as teacher at the Royal
Conservatory, where, by that time, several composers had gathered; the
group became known as The Hague School. As composer Gene Carl, one of the
first to mention the term in writing, put it in 1987: "The Hague School may
be characterized as writing loud, aggressive, rhythmically energetic music
devoid of all neo-Romantic sentiment, and often manipulated
electronically."26) He names, among others, Andriessen, Wagenaar, Huib Emmer
(b.1951), Cornelis de Bondt (b.1953), and Gilius van Bergeijk (b.1945) as
The Hague School's typical representatives. The latter one belongs to the
small group of Holland "conceptual" composers. His ideas are often based on
technical manipulation that he very steadfastly takes to its extremes.
For example, his composition BAC (1968-1970) is an arrangement for
a barrel organ of Bach's Double Concerto for violin and oboe, with the last
beat of each bar removed (as is Bach's name in the title) and finally put
together to form a fourth movement. It may seem a gimmick, but in general
Van Bergeijks techniques poetically justify themselves, as can be heard in
the second movement of his On Death and Time (1980), a subtle and
gradual deformation of Schubert's lied Der Tod und das Mädchen.
Van Bergeijk had a distinct influence on Andriessen's approach of integrating
ideas and formal design. The systematic note-exchange in Andriessen's
Volkslied is a case in point.
The other members of the group of The Five did not spend their days in
idleness, either. Reinbert de Leeuw and Jan van Vlijmen again attempted a
collective composition, the opera Axel that was produced in 1977.
Nonetheless, their effort to simultaneously combine Wagner and Satie, as
well as transcend their music, failed and the opera ended up on the shelves
of Donemus. After that, De Leeuw virtually stopped composing and
concentrated on his activities as a performing musician, especially as the
conductor of the Schönberg Ensemble. This group had been founded in 1974
by the viola player Henk Guittart who was at the time a student at the
Royal Conservatory at The Hague. The group's primary objective was the
performance and promotion of the music of the Second Viennese School
(Schoenberg, Berg, Webern), but it played contemporary music as well.
Since the 1980s Schönberg Ensemble has been cooperating closely with the
Asko Ensemble, and this combination has been involved in most performances
of Andriessen's major works.
Reinbert de Leeuw was also active in several functions, such as chair
of the Netherlands' Composers Association, Geneco (short for Genootschap
voor Nederlandse Componisten). One of the achievements that was at least
partly due to his efforts was the establishment of the Fonds voor de
Scheppende Toonkunst (Fund for the Creation of Music), a semi-governmental
organisation that since its initiation in 1982 has been responsible for the
administration of the financial resources earmarked for composers.
Jan van Vlijmen served in several important positions. In 1970 he
succeeded his former teacher Kees van Baaren as director of the Royal
Conservatory. From 1984 to 1987, he was the manager of the Netherlandse
Opera that in 1986 received its own venue in the Amsterdam Muziektheater
the first opera house The Netherlands has ever had. In later years, van
Vlijmen directed the Holland Festival (until 1997). In the meantime, he
managed to compose a considerable amount of fine music that is in many
ways indebted to serial thinking.
Misha Mengelberg, pianist and chess player, the least academic musician of
them all, accomplished for improvised music what Reinbert de Leeuw did for composed
music. In the 1960s, thanks to him and other innovative musicians, such as
Willem Breuker (b. 1944) and Han Bennink (b. 1942), The Netherlands
developed its own, peculiar kind of avant-garde jazz that, for lack of a
better term, is now called "improvised music." Actually, there is a fair
amount of composing involved in this kind of music, and several
musicians/composers such as Theo Loevendie (b. 1930), Maarten Altena (b.
1943), and Guus Janssen (b. 1951) are, or have been working in both fields.
In 1971, the improvisers set up the BIM, short for Bond van Improviserende
Musici (Union of Improvising Musicians) with Mengelberg as its first
chair. Another organisation, the SJIN (Stichting Jazz in Nederland),
was responsible for the distribution of government funds; this institution was
comparable to the Fund for the Creation of Music established later. In
1973, Breuker, Mengelberg and other musicians rented an old warehouse on
the Oude Schans in Amsterdam and christened it the BIMhuis ("Bim-house").
Up to this day it is the Netherlands's most important stage for all kinds
of improvised music.27) The BIMhuis was an example for all those musicians
who were active in the field of twentieth-century music. In 1980, horn
player Jan Wolff (a former member of the Concertgebouw Orchestra as well as
De Volharding), established a Centre for New Music on the Weesperzijde.
The building was on the bank of the river Amstel, on the very spot where in
former centuries the city's icebreaker had been moored; therefore it was
appropriately called De IJsbreker.28) Within a few years this term was a
household word, a synonym for modern music; the place itself was a stage
for all those as yet unmentioned groups who had been formed during the
1970s, and whose number only would increase in the years to come.
Within a span of about a dozen years, the contemporary music scene has become
an integral part of Dutch musical life (as have the early music movement and
the phenomenon now called "world music"). Obviously, this was only possible because the governmental
administration (national or local) was willing to pay for it. Without that
support, all these organisations, from Donemus through the Fund for the
Creation of Music, to De IJsbreker, could not have been possible. Up to
the 1980s, most of the Dutch orchestras had steered along, following their
old course. The one exception was the Residentie Orchestra of The Hague
that developed an adventurous style of programming in the 1970s. The
Orchestra's concerts featured all kinds of 20th-century music as well as
pioneering work in the field of Dutch early music. The
Concertgebouw Orchestra (which was not such a paragon of conservatism as
the Nutcrackers would have it) remained faithful to the old repertoire with
the occasional performance of a contemporary composition. Actually, the
most conservative orchestras were located in the provinces these groups
were under the greatest pressure to pander to the taste of their public. In
contrast, the radio orchestras with programs determined by the various
broadcasting organisations were much more adventurous.
In the 1980s, a shift came about. This transformation was partly related
to the emergence of the early music movement. In 1981, recorder player
Frans Brüggen (the dedicatee of Andriessen's Melodie) set up the Orchestra
of the Eighteenth Century that soon presented stunning performances of
Viennese classics. This was a straight blow to the face of the traditional
orchestras that saw a part of their territory taken from them. At the same
time, the political pressure and the lobbying of the previous years began
to bear fruit. Dutch politicians began to realize there was an imbalance
between the publicly-supported sectors of the symphony orchestras and of
the ensemble (or chamber) music. This new awareness resulted in a
reorganization in the mid-1980s: some orchestras were dissolved and others
had to merge. The money freed by these changes went to the several
initiatives mentioned above (it certainly was not Big Money the total
investment in the arts being less than 0.4 percent of the national budget but it
helped),29) and musical culture blossomed. Many Dutch cities built
new concert halls, the first and foremost being the Utrecht Muziekcentrum
Vredenburg, which opened its doors in 1979. The notion that an original
way of programming was likely to yield more subsidies led to a
proliferation of mini-festivals beside which the once-so-unique Holland
Festival seemed to pale. And the "ensemble culture" continued budding and
By this time, the Five clearly had gained importance and became members of
the new establishment. Even Schat, the most independent of them, has not
lacked opportunities for getting his music performed. For Andriessen, De
Staat [The Republic, 1976], was the beginning of a series of monumental
works such as Mausoleum (1979), De Tijd [Time, 1981], and De Snelheid
[Velocity, 1983], culminating in his large four-part music theater piece De
Materie [Matter] which was staged by Robert Wilson in 1989 in the Amsterdam
Muziektheater.30) Although written with an eye set toward theatrical performance,
De Materie is actually conceived as "absolute" music a kind of
four-part symphony as such it constitutes the summit of Andriessen's
output. Clearly, though, he is very prolific and his list of works
includes, besides the major pieces mentioned above, numerous smaller
compositions of all kinds: from simple ditties, through theatre music, film
scores, to choral, chamber and "ensemble" music, often exploring new
grounds, as in the unexpected micro-tonality in the quartertone bassoon duet
Lacrimosa (1991). In the same year Andriessen collaborated for the first
time with the British film director Peter Greenaway (b.1942), providing
music for the video M is for Man, Music, Mozart (performed by De
Volharding). Greenaway and Andriessen joined forces again in the highly
successful operas Rosa (1994) and Writing to Vermeer (1999); both premieres
took place at the Nederlandse Opera in Amsterdam under the musical
leadership of Reinbert de Leeuw; the musicians came from both the Schönberg
and Asko Ensembles.
Ever since the 1960s, Dutch composers have been very open-minded; this
attitude has resulted in a widely varied palette of styles and idioms. If
there is any general trend traceable, it is similarly to other countries
a shift toward greater comprehensibility. In this area, important Dutch
figures are Ton de Leeuw (1926-1996), who, influenced by Eastern
philosophy, developed an original modal way of writing, and Tristan Keuris
(1946-1996), who, never at ease with the serial doctrine, evolved towards
an "expanded" tonality, culminating in the Symphony in D
that he wrote in 1995 (its title already was a manifesto). Of the younger generation,
the only composer who
from an early age has been as remarkable a personality as Andriessen and
his fellow-travellers is Guus Janssen. In his
compositions as well as his improvisations, his fresh and uninhibited
approach to musical conventions results in music that can be lucid,
hilarious and disturbing at the same time. These qualities came especially
to the fore in his two operas on libretto's by Friso Haverkamp, Noach
(1994) and Hier° (2000).31)
There are a lot of composers in the Netherlands. In 1996, the Donemus
catalogue contained 541 names, almost thrice as much as 25 years before
(and one has to pass a ballot to be admitted).32) This growth is partly due
to the influx of composers from other countries. With facilities such as
Donemus and Gaudeamus, with its ensembles and conservatories, The
Netherlands has become an attractive country for composers. Over the years
dozens of foreign composers, many of whom came initially as students, have
become part of Dutch musical life. Among them are many Americans
(Gene Carl, Ron Ford, David Dramm, Jeff Hamburg and Vanessa Lann), but also
the by now internationally known Klas Torstensson from Sweden, Calliope
Tsoupaki from Greece, and Hanna Kulenty from Poland. A majority of them
would not have come to Holland at all if it had not been for Louis
Andriessen. It is a strange notion that The Netherlands, traditionally a
country with little self-esteem as far as music is concerned, has brought
forth a composer of international significance and influence. In fact,
this has not happened since the days of Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck
(1562-1621). It may of interest, therefore, to close this article by
observing that Andriessen created a homage to his predecessor in the
Dutch-themed opera Writing to Vermeer (1997-8) by quoting a number of
melodies for which Sweelinck had composed keyboard variations.
1. This quotation comes from an unpublished interview I conducted with Louis
Andriessen in Amsterdam on October 16, 1992.
2. Anton de Jager, Paul Op de Coul, and Leo Samama, eds., Duizend kleuren van
muziek: leven en werk van Hendrik Andriessen (Zutphen: Walburg Pers, 1992).
3. This work was released (with several other compositions by Hendrik Andriessen) on
NM Classics 92023.
4. This and the following biographical accounts are based on entries in The Essential
Guide to Dutch Music: 100 Composers and Their Work, Jolande van der Klis, ed.
(Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press/Muziekgroep Nederland, 2000).
5. Johan Kolsteeg, Eén groot oeuvre: Donemus: vijftig jaar tussen componisten en
publiek (Amsterdam, Donemus, 1997).
6. Unpublished interview with Andriessen, op. cit., October 16, 1992.
7. The String Quartet was performed on June 2, 1999 by the Camilli Quartett, in the Walloon
Church, Amsterdam; the concert was a live broadcast on the Dutch Radio celebrating Andriessen's
sixtieth birthday (that took place four days later).
8. See Ernst Vermeulen, "Kees van Baaren's Antischool," Key Notes 26, no. 1 (1992):
9. This work for two pianos was released in 1999 on NM Classics 92074.
10. According to Louis Andriessen's comment, Ketting's work was preceded by Ton de Leeuw's
String Quartet no. 1, also of 1958. Otto Ketting (b. 3 September 1935, Amsterdam) is a composer
and conductor; he studied with K. A. Hartmann in Munich. Ketting composed several operas, three
symphonies, chamber, and electronic music.
11. Ton (Antonius) de Leeuw (1926-66) studied with Henk Badings, Oliver Messiaen, and Hartmann.
He also studied ethnomusicology with Jaap Kunst. From 1959 until his death, he directed composition
classes in the conservatories in Amsterdam and Utrecht; he also lectured at the University of Amsterdam
and directed the Amsterdam Conservatory beginning in 1972.
12. Boerman's complete tape music was released as 5 CDs on CV-NEAR 04-08.
13. An interesting collection of early Andriessen (Nocturnen, 1959; Ittrospezzione III,
1965; Anachronie I, 1967; Contra Tempus, 1968 and Anachronie II, 1969) has been
released on Donemus Composer's Voice CV 54.
14. A hummingtop [in Dutch: bromtol] is a children's toy, a top that rapidly spins around when its
corkscrew-like axis/handle is pushed, and thereby emits a buzzing, humming sound. Schat's hummingtops were
speŽtacularly big, almost a man's height, and they made a very low sound.
15. Peter Schat, "The Tone Clock, or, The Zodiac of the Twelve Tonalities," Key Notes 17 (1983): 7-14;
for a recent English version see the reprint in a collection of essays, Peter Schat, The Tone Clock,
trans. Jenny McLeod, Contemporary Music Studies no. 7 (Chur, Switzerland: Harwood, 1993).
16. Leo Samama, Zeventig jaar Nederlandse muziek 1915-1985 (Amsterdam: Querido, 1986),228.
17. Bruno Maderna (1920-73), ltalian conductor and composer; student of Malipiero (composition) and Herman
Scherchen (conducting). Maderna was associated with the Darmstadt new music courses and the international
modernist avant-garde; from 1967 he was a professor at the University of Rotterdam; from 1972 he conducted
the RAl symphony orchestra in Milan.
18. Bernard Haitink (b. 1929 in Amsterdam) debuted as a conductor with the Concertgebouw Orchestra and served as its
director from 1961 to 1988; he also conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra (1967-79), and the Covent
Garden orchestra (since 1987). Haitink specializes in performances of Mahler, Bruckner, and Beethoven.
19. See P. Janssen and J. Bons, eds., Ssst! Nieuwe Ensembles voor Nieuwe Muziek (Amsterdam: Uitgeverij
International Theatre & Film Books, 1996); E. Voermans, "A Yacht, a Barge and Loads of Surtboards" (on Dutch
ensemble culture), Key Notes 29 no. 4 (1995): 7-9.
20. See Kevin Whitehead, "Once You Start, You Keep Playing Till the End: De Volharding at 25," Key Notes
31 no. 3 (1997): 4-7; and Rudy Koopmans, 10 jaar Volharding. (Amsterdam: Van Gennep, 1982). A
recording of Andriessen's composition De Volharding was issued by Emergo Classics EC 3940-2.
21. While reading through a draft of this text, the composer comrnented, "Own voice? Never searched for it."
22. The composer claimed yet another source for this technique, borrowed also "from Bach, who had it from
23. Gene Carl, "A Sense of Escalation: Diderik Wagenaar's Discrete Evolution," Key Notes no. 24
(1987): 14-22; cited from p. 15.
24. Released on Elektra Nonesuch 7559 792512.
25. Elmer Schönberger in Frits van der Waa, ed., De Slag van Andriessen (Amsterdam:
De Bezige Bij, cited from p. 210).
26. Gene Carl, op. cit.
27. Kevin Whitehead offers an excellent survey of this subject in New Dutch Swing: Jazz + Classical Music
+ Absurdism (New York: Billboard Books, 1998).
28. Sytze Smit, "De IJsbreker," Key Notes 26 no. 3 (1992): 8-13; G. Mak, Een bres in de stad: de
geschiedenis van de IJsbreker (Amsterdam: De IJsbreker/Trouw, 1987).
29. Jan Blokker, "Wij zullen dan maar hopen dat we er met een kleiner bedrag afkom,en:" Het Holland
Festival en de Hollandse samenleving (The Hague: Staatsuitgeverij, 1987).
30. Mausoleum is recorded on Composers' Voice CV 20; De Tijd on Elektra Nonesuch 7559;
De Materie on Elektra Nonesuch 79367-2; De Snelheid is as yet not available on CD.
31. Noach was released on Composers' Voice 42/43.
32. Johan Kolsteeg, Eén groot oeuvre: Donemus: vijftig jaar tussen componisten en publiek
(Amsterdam: Donemus, 1997), 205.
See also my Louis Andriessen cartoon
© Frits van der Waa 2007