NRC Handelsblad 10-5-2023
Madrigali dell'Estate at November Music
The 2024 edition of November Music in Den Bosch, the Netherlands, will feature
the premiere of Madrigali dell'Estate, a song cycle for soprano and piano,
on poems by Gabriele D’Annunzio.
The Madrigals of the Summer have gradually come to life over the past years. In 2017 I made a first song, Implorazione, for Lucy Shelton. Basically as a way to express my appreciation for letting me and my family stay at her New York apartment while she was at Tanglewood. In February 2019 she gave the first performance of the song at Merkin Hall, with pianist Kayo Iwama.
D’Annunzio’s poetry strongly resonates with me. It captures the transient, fleeting qualities of life and beauty, with a vivid imagery often linked to nature and art. Since Implorazione I composed five more songs, two still need to be completed. Together they form a cycle lasting about 30 minutes. The performers of the complete piece at November Music are yet to be determined.
I got to know D’Annunzio (1863-1938) through my fascination with diva Eleonara Duse, Sarah Bernhardt’s rival. The two were lovers for some time and lifelong friends, with D’Annunzio writing lots of sublime letters and poetry dedicated to her. It is still my wish to one day make a piece on Eleonara Duse, related to the opera divas as seen in silent movies such as Rapsodia satanica (1915), for which Pietro Mascagni made a wonderful score.
Arearea premiere postponed
Cellist Karlien Bartels has come down with a double pneumonia. I wish her a speedy recovery! As a result of that, the Gauguin Ensemble's premiere of Arearea on the 12th of January in Groningen has been postponed. The first performance will now take place either in Assen in late February, or in April at the Oosterpoort in Groningen. I will keep you posted. Below a short impression of the work we did on the piece some weeks ago at the Conservatory in Zwolle. It's a rehearsal, so some things are slightly below tempo etc., but overall it gives a good impression of the piece. Wonderful musicians!
UPDATE: Fortunately Karlien is doing much better! The first performance will now take place on February 26 at the Muziekkamer in Assen (Drenthe). The official presentation of the piece, where I will also be present, will be on April 25th at the Oosterpoort in Groningen, as part of the ensemble's anniversary festivities.
Nox in England"Three evocative movements from Robert Zuldam’s Nox were sandwiched between the Schumann and Ravel. Nox was specially written for Hannes who told the audience that (very appropriately) he would sometimes receive the composer’s emailed ideas in the middle of the night. The descriptive titles for each movement were added later, probably absent from the composer’s mind whilst writing the piece but highly appropriate nevertheless. The final movement, Perseids Passing, conjures up vivid images of a meteor shower cascading through the early August sky."
Recording of F'Olly by Anssi
Wonderful recording of F'Olly, performed by Anssi Karttunen. Wrote this last summer to commemorate the late and great Olly Knussen. Go to Anssi's channel (below the video) to find many other great pieces contributing to his 'Cellolament for Oliver Knussen'. The images are by Malevich (Victory over the Sun).
November 16 '22'
The Belly Dancer
On this All Souls Day, it has been just over ten years since Hans Werner Henze
passed away. I still miss him dearly. With the passing of time, it sometimes
seems as if my memories of him are slowly becoming more nebulous and faded. As
if in my imagination he has turned into some sort of character from a novel or a movie.
As if it were totally impossible that such a flamboyant, vivacious and outrageously
clever person could have ever existed in real life, where dullness so often prevails.
But then a smile appears on my face: No, I am not mistaken, such a gentleman truly existed, and I have been fortunate enough to have spent a considerable amount of time with him. I merely have to close my eyes to hear his thin and slightly raspy voice again, and to see him pacing up and down the room, orating, smoking a joint, abruptly pausing in front of me to gaze at me intently, weighing the effect of his words.
I have many recollections of Hans, which I wish to share some time before I dissolve
into the fog of time myself. For now, I will focus on a story that came to my mind
the other day, while I was looking at a painting by Gustave Moreau of a dancing Salomé.
I am actually not quite sure what this anecdote means to say. Is it a display of Hans’
remarkable talent to invent elaborate schemes in order to achieve what he wanted?
Or did it happen out of mischief and for the sake of fun? Perhaps a combination of
both? You be the judge of that, I will simply relate the facts :
It was a glorious spring day in May 1992. We were at his apartment on the Zweibrückenstraβe in Munich. Hans was on the phone with the Biennale-office, probably Christa Pfeffer. It concerned the choice of a venue for a dinner gathering with the people of the cultural department of BMW, the main sponsor of the Biennale. I was sitting opposite him at his beautifully ornamented, late 18th century desk, preparing some thin, spriggy joints for him to be consumed in the course of the afternoon. I was in Munich at that time as a member of the jury for the BMW Musiktheaterpreise. In fact, I was the chairman, nobody else raised their hand. Tania Leon was vice-chair.
Hans said that for him it was absolutely necessary there would be vegetarian food on the menu as well. The office suggested a new and highly acclaimed Iranian restaurant, in the vicinity of the Isartor, that would certainly be able to accommodate his preferences. He then paused for a second, looked at me while a tinkle appeared in his eyes and proceeded: “And Christa dear, do you think it would be at all possible zhere could also be a belly dancer at zis place as well, ja? … Ja? … Zhis would be very nice for Robbie.” He was looking at me quite intensely now and briefly lifted an eyebrow.
When the evening of the gathering had arrived, I made my way into a rather dimly lit cellar (after all, that’s where things happen in Munich). It was tastefully decorated, both chic and exotic, with a lot of ochre and terra colours. Tania Leon was also there, and Hans and Fausto, as well as about four people from BMW. It was a very pleasant evening, Hans was seated on my righthand side, to my left was herr Richard Gaul, the head of the communications department. We chattered politely and nicely, very much like one does on such occasions. The food was excellent and the conversation was much more cultured than you might expect from the representatives of a car manufacturer. Really nice and kind-hearted people. So everything seemed completely normal, straightforward and predictable.
Then, all of a sudden , at the point where we were kind of done with the main course, the lights dimmed even further. A spotlight lit up and beamed its cone of light at the grey shutter doors of the kitchen. Arabic music sounded out from the speakers, fairly loud, tantalizing and percussive. The kitchen doors swayed open and out came a belly dancer, with raven black hair and a caramel complexion that made a striking contrast with the white translucent veil that covered her face and shoulders. Skilfully and seductive, she started to move in the direction of our table, while slowly unveiling herself. Two or three waiters clapped along with the music and faintly imitated some of her moves. Little bells, attached to a string around her pelvis and on her white laced brassiere, were tinkling as she wiggled her hips and shook her voluptuous bosom. I was pleasantly enchanted by her for a few moments. Until I started to sense a strange trembling, as if there was a minor earthquake, on my righthand side. It was Hans, who produced a grumbling that sounded like a distant but rapidly approaching train, a volcano about to erupt. His hands were shaking and he seemed poised to rise up from his chair. First he muttered “Das….. das ist ja doch furchtbar!!” still in a rather mezzopiano kind of voice. But then he went crescendo molto subito: “Das ist ja… ein SKANDAL!!!” He now was standing upright and the last words were shouted at the top of his voice.
Chaos and confusion enfolded in the restaurant. The music was cut off abruptly and its void was filled by a somewhat concerned murmur from the other guests. The danseuse stood still, looking somewhat bewildered and indecisive, until the headwaiter put his hand on her shoulder and started ushering her in the direction of the kitchen. Herr Gaul looked a bit pale around the nose and seemed to mainly concentrate his gaze on the part of the table right in front of him. Throughout all this, Fausto intermittingly tried to cool down the situation: “Hans, …piano … piano!!” he admonished sternly, while moving both his hands downwards simultaneously, as if pushing down air. What a wonderful counterpoint.
After the belly dancer had disappeared, Hans gradually seemed to calm down. Tania spoke some comforting words, and persuaded him to sit down. Less than a minute after that, he leans over to me and whispers in my ear: “Would you like to sleep wizh zhis woman? I can arrránge that, you know.” .
Rob Zuidam, November 2nd 2022.
Wonderful booklet from the concert at the vineyard in Bolzano (Italy) where Serres Impies recently was performed. You can hear the piece performed live again on December 6th at De Link in Tilburg (Ze Nezzerlands)
F'olly in Aldeburgh
Anssi Karttunen, the wonderful Finnish cellist, asked me to contribute to a collection of short pieces for the commemoration of Oliver Knussen, who sadly passed away in July 2018. This resulted in F'olly, a solo piece which will be performed on June 24th at the Aldeburgh Festival, in Snape Maltings, England. There will be three concerts throughout the day, filled with a wide array of pieces by people who loved and admired him, and still miss him dearly every day. And there will be some pieces by the late Herr Professor Doctor Maestro himself.
Serres Impies in Brussels
If you'd scroll down this page, you would find this announcement pass by a couple
of times. But lockdowns and covid-restrictions prevented it from happening so far.
Of course unforeseen situations could still occur, but let me not jinx it: As it
seems now, Serres Impies will be
performed on May 15th at Bozar in Brussels, by the
outstanding musicians of Het Collectief and the celestial voice of soprano Katrien Baerts
Hope to see you there, in a state of utter wellbeing!
'Arearea' for the Gauguin EnsembleArearea - Paul Gauguin (1893) Musée d'Orsay
The Gauguin Ensemble has commissioned me to write a piece for their upcoming 25th anniversary season. From January '23 onwards they will depart on a series of concerts to commemorate this milestone. The first performance will take place on the 12th of January 2023, at the Oosterpoort in Groningen, in the north of the Netherlands, where these wonderful musicians are based. Arearea, which will be about 12 minutes long, will attempt to translate the exotic and exuberant mysticism of Gauguin's painting into a captivating and energetic soundscape for clarinet, cello and piano.March '22
Piet Zuidam 100 !!!
Today, January 24th, it is exactly a century ago my dad Piet Zuidam was born
in Capelle aan de IJssel. Sadly, he passed away on April 4th 1993.
Nonetheless: Cheers mate!
Vijfhonderd jaar geleden, op 9 januari 1522, werd Adriaan Floriszoon Boeyens, geboren in de Brandstraat in Utrecht, in Rome verkozen tot paus. In een artikel dat ik in '99 voor de NRC schreef over de cd van Johannes Paulus II komt onze enige Nederpaus Adrianus VI ook ter sprake.
'Méditation' on Brisk-CD
In 2011 I composed Méditations sur la liberté et l'égalité an exploration into melodic and contrapuntal possibilities, commissioned by Brisk, the Amsterdam based recorder quartet. Flotando, the third movement of that piece, is on their recently released cd Four in One, a collection of highlights of the Brisk quartet's 35 years of performance practice. The album is available for purchase online and through Spotify.
'The Pit and the Pendulum' premiere in May '23
The Pit and the Pendulum, a new work for soprano Claron McFadden. and percussion ensemble Slagwerk Den Haag, will receive its first performance on
May 11th 2023 at the Muziekgebouw aan het IJ in Amsterdam. The piece will be
accompanied by sections of George Crumb's American Songbook. More
performances are planned, which will be announced later.
The Pit and the Pendulum is about an individual who is gradually being crushed by a tyrannical regime. It is based on the short story by Edgar Allen Poe in which he describes the torments and psychological torture endured by a prisoner of the Inquisition. It is an archetypical horror story, a feverish dreamlike hallucination in which Poe expresses the unconditional nature of our desire for life and to live in truthfulness. “Even in the grave all is not lost. Else there is no immortality for man.”
'Orewoet' for the Concertgebouw Orchestra
Very happy to announce that the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra has commissioned me to write a new work for their 2023/’24 season. Orewoet is based on texts derived from the Visiones haywigis, the visions of the 13th-century lowlands mystic Hadewijch. The piece will be about half an hour long, and consists of three movements and a finale for female voice and orchestra. I am planning to have the score of Orewoet finished by September ’22. The first date of performance, as well as the singer and the conductor are yet to be determined, but will be announced in due course.Drawing by Marie Creemers (1925)
Rage d'amours at Dag in de Branding
On April 10th Rage d’amours will be streamed by
Dag in de Branding, the wonderful festival based in The Hague that takes place
every three months, albeit mostly online in these peculiar times.
It is a reprise of the grand performance by Claron McFadden, Katrien Baerts, Young-Hee-Kim and the Residentie Orchestra conducted by Otto Tausk, that took place in December 2010. Alongside there will be a brand new interview with yours truly.
Fortunately, there are also some really interesting developments regarding large new pieces, with great singers and actual live-performances shaping up on the background. I expect to be able to make some announcements about them in the near future. Over the past months I kept myself busy orchestrating Norbert Gilbert's score for the animation film Around the World, which will be released as soon as movie theaters are opening up again, and will be available on Netflix.
Once more, the link to : Dag in de Branding
UPDATE: Concerts postponed / cancelled / streamed online
I had a number of nice concerts lined up for November, but it seems the Wuhan
flu is at it again. Hannes
Minnaar's concert of Nox at the Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam has been
postponed until March 21 next year. November Music in Den Bosch, where he was
also scheduled to perform, has been cancelled altogether. Fortunately, the
performance of Serres Impies
on November 17 at Bozar in Brussels, is still on, but sadly enough not for a live
audience. It will be streamed through Youtube and recorded by Musique 3, a Belgian
As a small consolation, below a clip of Hannes playing a good chunk of Perseids passing (the fifth movement of Nox) on Podium Witteman for Dutch television.
Déploration by ASKO|Schönberg
On September 24th the ASKO|Schönberg Ensemble will premiere Déploration, a seven minute piece for seven musicians and a petit hommage to Olly Knussen, a great composer and conductor, and above all a wonderful human being and great friend, who unexpectedly passed away in July 2018.
It will be conducted by Bas Wiegers at the Muziekgebouw aan het IJ in Amsterdam.
Olly had a long standing relationship with the ensemble. The seven musicians of
Déploration have worked with him as a conductor extensively over the years. I got
to know him in 1989 as a composition student at Tanglewood, where he ran the
Contemporary Music Festival.
Déploration is somewhat modeled after Oliver Knussen's Two Organa (1995), which refer to the vocal music (organum) of the Notre Dame School from around the year 1200. It makes use of cantus firmus-techniques, where a slow melody, usually originating from Gregorian plainchant, serves as the basis and backbone for the piece. The other, faster moving voices are placed on top of this slow melody. It was a method of composition that was common practice for centuries. It was still in use when Josquin des Prez composed his Déploration sur le mort d'Ockeghem in 1497, which forms the basis for my piece.I have applied the idea of the cantus firmus in various ways. By piling up the notes that comprise the melodies into chords and harmonies,so in other words by making vertical what was horizontal, and vice versa. By cutting melodic fragments into short overlapping bits, occuring simultaneously at different velocities. The cantus firmus that lies at the root of Josquin's piece appears towards the end, at a high speed and in a canon form. At its conclusion fragments of the original music start to shine through.
The picture above is taken somewhere in the middle of August of 1989, around the time the Tanglewood summer was winding down. We were on our way to Williamstown, where over 25 Renoir paintings, and some marvelous Turners as well, were on display at a privately owned museum. He had halted his Ollymobile here, to pose with the mountainous slopes that inspired Herman Melville to write Moby Dick as a backdrop. It is right outside of Pittsfield MA. Olly got his drivers license not long before then, and loved to go out for a ride through the Berserkshires. During these roadtrips we had lively conversations, which strangely undulated between speech and thought. Sometimes we wouldn't talk for a while, but would just pick up effortlessly on our chain of thought and continued speaking, as if we both knew what the other had been thinking, which we found very peculiar. And indeed it was, this mode of non-verbal communication did not return after that summer. Sometimes though we still go for a ride, in my imagination. Most of all, I miss his generous laughter.
The musicians performing Déploration are:
Jeanette Landré (flute)
Marieke Schut (oboe)
David Kweksilber (clarinet)
Jan Harshagen (horn)
Joe Puglia (violin)
Pauline Post (piano)
Ernestine Stoop (harp)
CD Nox released on September 24
The cd of Nox, the new piano solo work I composed for Hannes Minnaar., will be released by Challenge Records on September 24. The piece is flanked by Schumann's Nachtstücke Op.23 and Gaspard de la Nuit by Maurice Ravel, so it is in the most excellent company and in the good hands of an outstanding pianist.
It will be widely available for purchase online and through Spotify etc. The
premiere concert performance is scheduled for November 7, at the Muziekgebouw aan het IJ
in Amsterdam, and there will be plenty of opportunities to hear Hannes perform
these pieces live, on the 12th at November Music in Den Bosch, zum Beispiel.
UPDATE some reviews:
Het Parool (in Dutch)
Pizzicato (in German and English)
NRC Handelsblad (in Dutch)
New work for Claron McFadden and Slagwerk Den Haag
The percussion ensemble Slagwerk Den Haag has commissioned me to write them a new piece, featuring the marvelous and recently knighted soprano Claron McFadden.
The first performance of the composition,
which will be about 45 minutes long, is scheduled for May 11th 2023 at the
Muziekgebouw aan het IJ in Amsterdam.
The overall shape, text, musical content, title, etc. of the new piece are yet
to be determined. I will keep you posted as these ideas develop. The planned
concert series will combine my piece with George Crumb's American Songbook,
which Claron McFadden performed to much acclaim at the Holland Festival in 2017.
Claron and I have worked together on a number of occasions. She sang the leading
role in Rage d'amours both with the Residentie Orchestra and the
ASKO|Schönberg Ensemble with Reinbert de Leeuw (available on cd, see below).
I also have very fond memories of her performance in Adam in Ballingschap
at the Holland Festival in 2009. We are both looking forward to the opportunity
to explore new adventurous paths.
Serres Impies in Brussels and Bolzano
On November 17th there will be another performance of Serres Impies (2017) by ensemble Het Collectief and soprano Katrien Baerts during the Ars Musica Festival in Brussels.
That is to say, if the ramifications of Covid-19 allow for this, and the
Conservatory of Brussels, where the event is to take place, hasn't collapsed
by then due to lack of maintenance. Several days before that, on Friday
November 13th, the piece will also come to life at
a very well kept wine estate near Bolzano, Italy.
The song cycle Serres Impies was commissioned by November Music in Den Bosch (NL) and the Transit Festival in Leuven (BE), where it was premiered on October 21st 2017. This registration of Serres Impies at the Amsterdam Muziekgebouw aan het IJ in February 2019, is in my humble opinion the strongest performance thus far. Check it out!
Cancel culture reaches pandemic proportions !!!1!
I was working along nicely on a short piece for Oliver Knussen's Memorial Concert on May 14th at the Amsterdam Muziekgebouw. Two performances of Feu, a wonderful piece for choir, ensemble and organ on texts by Blaise Pascal were scheduled at the Dom in Utrecht on May 30 and 31...
...Calefax was going to do
a tour on which they were to perform my Three Dances on ten
concerts in New Zealand. And then I almost forgot to mention the short
piece I made for the 75th birthday of Klaas de Vries, which was to be
performed at the Orgelpark on March 22nd, and an excerpt from Hercules
sung by Bastiaan Everink at the Abraham Kuyper Lezing at the Westerkerk
Alas... all events in the Netherlands got canceled until the 1st of June. At this moment it is still uncertain whether these concerts will take place at a later date, or are to be postponed indefintely forever. I will keep you posted.
Update: Feu will be performed in 2021, when the Domcantorij Utrecht will be celebrating its 50th anniversary. May '20
Rage d'amours on cd
It has taken a while, but the groundbreaking performance of the 2005 Holland Festival production of Rage d’amours has now finally been released on cd. A wonderful registration of my second opera, brought to life by the exuberant vocal forces of Claron McFadden, Barbara Hannigan, Pascal Bertin, Hillary Summers and many others, accompanied by the outstanding musicians of the ASKO|Schönberg Ensemble, conducted by the unsurpassed Reinbert de Leeuw.
The main reason it took so long, is that for years I thought only the
third performance had been recorded. This was done on a Monday night for a
live radio broadcast, and was the least strong of the six shows. Though
still more than adequate, it was not as stunning as the opening night and I
abandoned the idea of doing anything with it. Then, years later, I accidentally
found out through Ron Ford, sound engineer on the occasion, that actually three
nights had been recorded, including the premiere performance. So I had ample
material to edit. I went to work with Guido Tichelman in his Azazello studio
in Haarlem and in a couple of days we came up with a terrific master. The excitement
was followed by a tedious period of obtaining permission of all the parties involved etc.,
in which I was greatly supported by Ber Deuss and the outstanding Sieuwert Verster
of the Attacca label.
So now it is finally here. If you wish, you can obtain a signed copy through me. Otherwise, it is widely available for purchase online and in the near future it hopefully can be streamed as well. Below are some reviews. They are in Dutch, but they are really good, otherwise I wouldn’t have put them up here.
NRC Handelsblad, Joep Stapel
Groene Amsterdammer, Bas van Putten
Nox for Hannes Minnaar
Currently I am working on Nox, a new piece for the outstanding pianist Hannes Minnaar. The five nocturnes, spanning about 25 minutes, will be premiered in November 2020. So far, performances have been scheduled at the Muziekgebouw aan het IJ in Amsterdam, the November Music Festival in Den Bosch, the Steinway Society festival in San Jose (USA), and a nightly concert at the Oranjewoud festival in Friesland.
These four venues have all generously contributed to the commission of
the piece, for which I am utterly grateful, because without this support I would
not be able to write the music. The exact dates of these performances, and others,
will be announced shortly.
I first met Hannes in October 2016, when he performed the Dutch premiere of my Tanglewood Concerto in a Matinee concert at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. I wrote this piece for the 75th anniversary of the Tanglewood Music Center in 2015, where it was performed by Emanuel Ax and the TMC Orchestra. Hannes Minnaar received the Muziekprijs at this Matinee concert, to celebrate his excellent musicianship and (I am quoting the jury report here) ‘ his absolutely natural, pure, clear and unadorned style’. An opinion I can wholeheartedly agree with, to which I want to add that I like him very much as a person as well. Apparently he enjoys performing my work, so I am honoured to have such an excellent ambassador of my music.
Two Nocturnes were already completed and performed in 2018. But I wasn’t completely satisfied with them, and so they are currently being reworked, along with the composition of new movements. The plan is to release Nox on cd, around the time of the premiere concert performance, most likely to take place at the Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam.