Sunday, 7 June 2009

Holland and the BBC honour Louis Andriessen

Holland's greatest living composer, Louis Andriessen, celebrates his 70th birthday this year. He's being honoured by the Holland Festival which started this week. Pity I couldn't be there this year. But on BBC Radio 3 there's a programme (Hear and Now) for online on demand listening for the next few days. There's also a good interview by the standards of this series, as the interviewer, Zoe Martlew, did her homework well. Andriessen is an articulate guy, so the talk factor here is informative. Listen for his description of Indonesian women's choirs at the court in Jogjakarta. Eat your heart out, Steve Reich.

First piece is De Stijl, inspired by the paintings of Piet Mondrian.
Mondrian loved jazz and modernity and so does Andriessen. Mondrian "paints" the brightness of boogie woogie in cells of colour, Andriessen with lively riffs. De Stijl is vibrant, exuberant yet also quite nostalgic, for there's a long semi Sprechgesang passage describing Mondrian in his last years – an old man who loved to dance.

Then Reinbert de Leeuw conducts the Schoenberg and Asko Ensembles in De Staat. Round and round the sequential progressions go, barely changing til they reach a new plateau. It's so much like gamelan, which isn't notated in the western style. Instead it grows out of actual performance, the players lighting on developments simply by listening to subtle changes in each other's playing. The piece was written for Orkest Volharding, the innovative non-hierarchical orchestra which Andriessen was involved with. Volharding was an attempt to create a communal, co-operative ensemble so the gamelan idea is probably apt.

Andriessen wrote De Staat a full 12 years before Steve Reich's Different Trains: listen to them together and Andriessen's influence is clear. Indeed, even the idea of trains is suggested by Andriessen's driving, relentless movement. De Staat, though, concerns itself with ideas about the place of music in society. The text comes from Plato. It is a political work in the deepest sense and an important piece of music for many different reasons. The Netherlands Wind Ensemble (Louis Vis conductor) will be performing it at the Proms on 28th August. It's very visual, so worth hearing live. A full review of the Proms De Staat is posted on this blog, please see HERE
LOTS ON ANDRIESSEN on this blog ! Even something about his father.

Esa Pekka Salonen will conduct the UK premiere of Andriessen's Hague Hacking which Salonen conducted in LA in January. Review of that is on this blog, too, see HERE

photo credit : Meltdown Festival

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