Louis Andriessen

© Marco Borggreve

Louis Andriessen

It is all too easy to classify the Dutch composer Louis Andriessen (* 1939) as a representative of Minimal Music. However, he distinguishes himself from many, above all American colleagues of this style, by a less pleasing, more rebellious, but immediately accessible musical language. Andriessen’s music is not aimed at the opulence of the late-Romantic orchestra, but is rather influenced by the hardened sound of Stravinsky's music and has also received significant impulses from jazz. The composer has created a number of great orchestral works in which he also uses, for example, electric guitars and drum sets, as most recently in the October 2018 commissioned by the New York Philharmonic premiere piece “Agamemnon”. However, he prefers smaller chamber music ensembles, whereby works for singing voice play an important part.

Louis Andriessen was born in 1939 into a musical family. Both his father Hendrik (1892 – 1981) and his younger brother Juriaan (1925 – 1996) are distinguished composers. Andriessen studied among others with his father, later with Kees van Baaren at the Hague Conservatory and with Luciano Berio. After compositional beginnings in the name of political protest and the polemics against the routine of concert life, he succeeded in 1976 with “De Staat” for women’s voices and a large wind ensemble; this was the international breakthrough as one of the important voices of contemporary music. In this multi-award-winning and worldwide played work Andriessen musically deals with a basic text of Western philosophy and political science, Plato’s “Politeia”.

In his extensive, multifaceted oeuvre, which also includes six works of dramatic music, Louis Andriessen has been inspired by very different sources from the classical antiquity to the abstract paintings of Piet Mondriaan and repeatedly thematised philosophical subjects. For example in his work “De Materie” (1985 – 1988), whose four parts can also be performed separately, it is about the relationship between mind and matter, and in his work cycle “Trilogy of the Last Day” about mortality and death. Louis Andriessen has collaborated on several projects with artists and directors such as Robert Wilson and Hal Hartley. Particularly productive was the artistic partnership with the director Peter Greenaway in the 1990s, who wrote, among other things, the libretto to Andriessen’s opera “Writing to Vermeer” (1997 – 1998).

Andriessen on Andriessen (Video on the website of Boosey & Hawkes)

As of May 2019

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