Déploration by ASKO|Schönberg

Olly in the Berserkshires, 1989

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)

September '20

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CD Nox released on September 24

Nox cd


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.
August 2020

UPDATE some reviews:
Het Parool (in Dutch)
Pizzicato (in German and English)
NRC Handelsblad (in Dutch)

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New work for Claron McFadden and Slagwerk Den Haag

Claron McFadden

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.

July '20

Claron McFadden


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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!

July '20

Katrien-Het Collectief


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Cancel culture reaches pandemic proportions !!!1!

OK and I

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 in May...
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



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Rage d'amours on cd

rage 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

March '20


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Nox for Hannes Minnaar

Hannes Minnaar
© Ivo van der Bent

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.

April '20


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