The recent Anais Nin is a monodrama for soprano the superb Cristlna Zavalloni and ensemble about the French-Cuban writer who had relationships with her father, the composer Joaquin Nin, and a raft of lovers. The braying chorale builds like the most gleeful of hyperdramatic soundtracks. Tomorrow, tomorrow, begins another romance! They are given expressive voice, both in the film clips and on tape, by the singer Hans Buhrs.
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Stripped of the usual vibrato and frills, the string section sometimes seems painfully straining at the bow, gnawing at the senses, with a thin, high-pitched whine. The libretto, by film-maker Peter Greenaway, sounds equally uncomfortable in the mouths of the young singers: "I miss your cock-eyed, slippery, rednosed, jumping, long purple-headed prick of a paintbrush," runs one passage.
After the rehearsal, and a few terse notes from Andriessen, the performers seem a little unsure of the merits of the piece: "Sometimes it sounds completely horrible," says Erwin Poel, a puckish year-old with spiky blonde hair who sings in the chorus, "the way that the different instruments clash.
I really find that very difficult to listen to. The music is certainly very dark and disturbing, but there is a nervous energy about it that draws you in. Since his days as a radical student composer at the Hague Conservatory in , his mercurial talent has been dividing audiences and goading critics.
Known as a left-wing composer in the s, his controversial work leapt out of the confines of concert hall or opera house and into the debating chamber of the Dutch parliament, where questions were asked about the justification for state funding of his "Marxist opera" Rekonstructie.
He had this tremendous influence on younger musicians. His early works were strictly serialist in the manner of Boulez or Stockhausen, then in the s he made a somersault from modernism to post-modernism, adopting a style that was much closer to the minimalism of Steve Reich, Philip Glass and Terry Reilly.
However, the best Andriessen pieces are a highly personal, aggressive combination of all his influences: De Staat The Republic , is an effervescent reinterpretation of minimalism with ethereal choral passages and quotations from Stravinsky; De Tijd Time, creeps slowly to startling conclusion; his opera De Materie Matter , opens with a violent orchestral assault; his earlier collaboration with Greenaway, Rosa, The Death of a Composer, according to a critic from this newspaper, "contains plenty of examples of his archetypal, gritty motoric writing but there are also moments of great lyrical beauty, blues-tinged vocal lines, affectionate remembrances of 19th-century music, witty parodies of film music from westerns, even a final hip-hop number".
And most important, he knows how to weave the seed of an idea into music almost seamlessly, which gives the work its urgency.
Dutch musical life is based around performance. We never had a composer the rest of the world could remember, such as Grieg in Norway or Smetana in Czechoslovakia, and that has a big negative influence on composition in Holland. But now people feel we have one called Louis Andriessen. And now for young composers in America he has become a kind of godfather of minimalism. It is wonderful to see how he has exported these influences back to America.
Having decided not to have children they are devoted to their two cats and to work, she as a musician and therapist, he as a composer: "If I am working on a piece, I compose every day, for four to five hours on average," he says.
Always jumping around and playing and full of theories and humour. I think this has now become part of the Dutch way of performing. He and Jeanette only got around to marrying six years ago - "We considered that a bourgeois convention. Despite living and working in Amsterdam, home of the Concertgebouw, with its strong links to the Teutonic tradition of Mahler and Bruckner, he says: "After Chopin and Mendelssohn music landed in the mudbath.
Because I am being compelled by it so much. It passes over me like a thunderstorm. Over his year career, there have been few constants: Ravel perhaps, Debussy and Stravinsky, whose Rite of Spring he considers "the most important historical and revolutionary piece for the next years". Your experiences are always surprising: people die, people get diseases, people fall in love. So I keep an open mind.
His uncle, Willem Andriessen, was a prominent concert pianist. His mother was a pianist and his father, Hendrik Andriessen, was conductor and organist first at Utrecht Cathedral and later in The Hague. His father - who detested the German tradition and adored Debussy and Ravel - would take him up to the cathedral organ loft: "I remember I climbed up a spiral staircase in the tower to sit next to my father at the organ.
It was an amazing, thundering noise. Louis was always improvising on the piano. Right from his teens, he could make wonderful music at the keyboard. That was very important for my education. His composition teacher Kees van Baaren was a staunch supporter of the tone revolution that had swept Europe and under his direction Andriessen produced "some of the first serial music ever written in the Netherlands", van Baaren says.
Andriessen also began to gather an offbeat clique of young avant-garde composers, including Reinbert De Leeuw, Peter Schat, Misha Mengelberg and Jan van Vlijmen, figures who would dominate Dutch music for the next few decades and with whom Andriessen would write Reconstructie. Also among his fellow students was a pretty young guitarist named Jeanette Yanikian. They said he was the wrong type of person to associate with. Does he have the wrong kind of mentality?
He associated with Rob Aussen and Misha Mengelberg. They were an idiosyncratic, strange group. Peter Schat was already studying with Boulez in Basle. Stockhausen was not exotic enough because, in Cologne, he was too close. So, Berio was the only logical choice. I never like to give a lecture when I teach. And he was the same, very pragmatic and practical. He was curious to bring different things together, to create a dialogue between different musical dimensions.
There was a sense that he was finding himself. Student uprisings were brewing and anti-war radicalism was in the air. By now, he was becoming well-known in musical circles and in he conducted his work Ittrospezione III at the Concertgebouw. However, the next milestone in his career was Reconstructie, written in conjunction with his old conservatory pals, De Leeuw, Mengelberg, Schat and van Vlijmen, with a libretto by Dutch writers Harry Mulisch and Hugo Claus.
However, the most controversial aspect proved to be the libretto, loosely based on Don Giovanni, but actually a diatribe attacking American imperialism in South America and adorned by a gigantic statue of Che Guevara. It split audiences, the press, even the composers themselves. Peter Schat now says it was a bit of an ideological and musical mess, "blocking natural composition development in Holland for a long time".
Whatever its shortcomings, Reconstructie made instant stars of its collaborators. It has even been credited with persuading Richard Nixon to cut Holland from his European tour that year. After Reconstructie, Andriessen took a year-long break from composition, using the time to plot a new musical direction. He also renounced the orchestra as an oppressive "hierarchical structure" and set up an ensemble of classical, jazz and pop musicians, also called De Volharding.
The piece, basically a series of repeated piano chords, had a sensational premiere in Amsterdam in "There was a lot of whistling and booing, but lots of enthusiasm also," says Dil Engelhard, a member of the group, "it was unlike anything by a Dutch composer. It is heavily influenced by both Reich and Glass. In , he also set up the ensemble Hoketus, which pushed minimalism into the electronic realm and was, he says, "closer to a rock band".
However, almost as soon as Andriessen had adopted minimalism, he began to shed its basic repetitive tenets. The idea came as Andriessen and some friends were driving in northern Italy: "On that winding road through the mountains we switched off all the lights. The question was: how long could we keep them off? It was our version of bungee jumping, but more dangerous. I realised that although they were from different families they were both made of wood.
You did different things with it, but the material, the matter - and this is when the word first hit me - was the same. Reality and imagination are essential in 20th-century art, and the only thing I find really interesting. Ironically, he happened to be working on a piece around the theme of death: Trilogy of the Last Day. As well as a rigorous regime of travelling to oversee his premieres, he has recently completed a new major large-scale work, La Passione, which will be premiered at the RFH festival.
And he is working on his next opera, based on the story of the Armenian goddess Inanna, to be premiered in Holland in The urgency that has characterised his career so far is in no danger of abating.
I am not important. Relationships: Jeanette Yanikian married
Notes on Louis Andriessen, Stravinsky, and The Apollonian Clockwork
Both are pianistic composers who treat the orchestra like a piano—or, relatedly, like a big percussion instrument. Both use rhythm as a structuring element in ways typically associated with melody. Both are open-minded to the point of eccleticism in their approach to musical form and style. Famed mezzo Cathy Berberian recorded some of these in , as Beatles Arias—an avant-pop prank that manages to stay interesting even after the joke has worn off.
Louis Andriessen - de Staat
Andriessen originally studied with his father and Kees van Baaren at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague , before embarking upon two years of study with Italian composer Luciano Berio in Milan and Berlin. He later joined the faculty of the Royal Conservatory. He also helped found the instrumental groups Orkest de Volharding and Hoketus , both of which performed compositions of the same names. He later became closely involved in the ongoing Schonberg and Asko ensembles and inspired the formation of the British ensemble Icebreaker. Andriessen, a widower, was married to guitarist Jeanette Yanikian — They were a couple for over 40 years and were married in
Iedereen schreef dat dit nieuwe stuk, speciaal voor de gelegenheid geschreven, was gecomponeerd door uitgerekend een voormalige Notenkraker, die vanaf ageerde tegen het zijns inziens weinige progressieve programmabeleid van het orkest, daarna in het orkest bestempelde als exponent van een verwerpelijke burgerlijke muziekcultuur en vervolgens in november met medestanders het begin van een concert van het CO verstoorde. Ook al kloppen al deze feiten, de berichtgeving ging gewoontegetrouw voorbij aan veel belangrijker zaken aangaande het Nederlandse muziekleven die — en daar was dit een mooie gelegenheid voor geweest - nu eens eindelijk onder de aandacht gebracht hadden kunnen worden. De eerste is dat een mens dus ook een componist zich ontwikkelt en dus dingen van vroeger niet meer onderschrijft en veranderingen ervaart als verbeteringen en niet slechts als verlies met nostalgie als mogelijke reactie. Die normale loop der dingen was bij Louis Andriessen vrijwel afwezig omdat hij zich, niet alleen bij de Notenkrakersactie, maar ook daarna in talloze interviews presenteerde als een volleerd ideoloog van zijn werk en daarmee leek te volharden in zijn jeugdige standpunten, alsof de jeugddaden geen jeugdzonden waren maar veeleer uitingen van een vroeg volwassen persoonlijkheid die met de jaren alleen verder is geconsolideerd en uitgekristalliseerd. Als Louis zo over zichzelf denkt, dan verklaart dat veel over het stuk dat hij schreef voor het KCO.