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Louis Andriessen - De Volharding

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Published on Mar 4, 2012

Louis Andriessen (1939)

De volharding (Perseverance) for piano and wind instruments (1972)


Orkest De Volharding

dedicated to Arthur ten Bosch et al.


Louis Andriessen is a Dutch composer, son of Hendrik Andriessen. After a few youthful works influenced by neo-classicism and serialism in the manner of Boulez he moved steadily away from the postwar European avant garde and towards American minimalism, jazz and Stravinsky. Out of these elements he has developed a musical language marked by extremes of ritual and masquerade, of monumentality and intimacy, of formal rigour and intuitive empiricism. The epitome of the Hague School, he is regarded as the most influential Dutch composer of his generation.
Andriessen was born the youngest son of a musical family. His father and his elder brother Jurriaan, who passed on to him his musical experiences of Stravinskian neo-classicism and jazz, were his earliest mentors. Between 1957 and 1962 he studied composition at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague with Van Baaren. After receiving the composition prize there, he continued his studies with Berio in Berlin and Milan (1962--1965).
Back in the Netherlands he played an active role in the increasing politicization of the arts put into practice during the Holland Festival in 1969 with the collective work Reconstructie, a music-theatre morality based on the character of Che Guevara; the composers involved were Schat, van Vlijmen, Reinbert de Leeuw and Misha Mengelberg, all former students of Van Baaren. Later the same year Andriessen was involved in the Notenkrakersactie, the disruption of a concert by the Concertgebouw Orchestra, whose artistic policy the protesters regarded as reactionary. This controversial act has since come to be seen as a turning-point in postwar Dutch musical life. For Andriessen it led to a permanent abandonment of the medium of the symphony orchestra. Convinced that musical renewal cannot be separated from the renewal of performance practice, he set up in 1972 De Volharding ('Perseverance') to perform his composition of the same name, and similarly in 1977, Hoketus, the result of a project at the Royal Conservatory; both ensembles have gone on to stimulate extensive new repertories. Andriessen began to teach composition and instrumentation at the Royal Conservatory in 1973, and in the mid-1980s started to be in great demand as a guest lecturer, particularly in the USA.
It may be tempting to regard the première of De staat in 1976 as marking the birth of the 'real' Andriessen. A typically European response to the more ethereal American minimalism of the time, it made his name internationally. It is the first work in a line of monumental, for the most part 'didactic' compositions which mark moments of synthesis and re-orientation in his output; it also unveiled Andriessen's characteristic sonorities of brass, keyboards and bass guitars. However, his output from before De staat should not be viewed merely as a preliminary stage, since in it a number of distinctive (albeit short-lived) styles and techniques are discernible, becoming marked increasingly by personal features. At the extremes stand the graphic composition Registers (1963) and the exercise in youthful sentiment Souvenirs d'enfance (1966). In Ittrospezione III (Concept I) serial methods derived from Boulez are uneasily combined with a Cageian conceptualism, though pre-echoes of De staat are occasionally apparent in the work's instrumentation and form. Contra tempus of 1968 reveals Andriessen explicitly turning away from the avant garde's rejection of the past. The montage form, the mixture of static, 'chorale' continuos of sound, traced by the composer to such variable sources as Stockhausen's Momente, Stravinsky and pre-tonality, and the big-band-like instrumentation, all point in another direction. Most of all it is Stravinsky whom Andriessen considered -- 'with his hand on my shoulder' -- the model; the last chord of the work is the opening one of the Symphony of Psalms. With De volharding (1972), Andriessen moved a step closer to De staat. Composed in response to American minimalism in general and to Riley's In C in particular, the musico-political convictions which have determined Andriessen's development are reflected in the title, with its reference to the ideals of the early 20th-century labour movement.

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