Wednesday, June 10, 2009

De Volkskrant Review of Andriessen's Birthday Concerts in Amsterdam

Frits van der Waa wrote a review and provided an English translation:

Ecstatic chords and bitter dissonances

Precisely at the point where the music reaches its buoyant climax, an enigmatic figure emerges from the wings and pounds an enormous tam-tam. Then he comes forward and reads the last paragraphs of Kees de jongen [Young Kees] by Theo Thijssen: "It was a happy, ringing music, a jubilant march, that resounded within him."Amsterdam's mayor Job Cohen has chosen an apt quotation. Composer Louis Andriessen, on whom Cohen is about to bestow the Silver Medal of the City of Amsterdam, has never forgotten what it is like to be a boy, although he has turned seventy this very day. And the music that resounds within him has found its way to the outside world during at least half a century, and especially on this occasion, a musical marathon, organized by the Holland Festival to celebrate his anniversary.

The oldest work on the program, Ricercare, dates from 1949, when Andriessen really was a boy. It is a composition by his father Hendrik. By hindsight, the older Andriessen's music reveals some predilections of the younger one: references to Bach, long, ascetic melodic lines, and bittersweet dissonances. Nevertheless, it is clearly music from another era. The world of Canticum Sacrum by Igor Stravinsky, Andriessen's 'other' father, has a much more topical feeling to it, and from Andriessens's Nocturnen, composed when he was 20, it is evident that this world had quite an appeal for him. Soprano singer Barbara Kozelj projects straight, yet expressive tones that fit Andriessens music to a T.

Together with the Asko/Schönberg Ensemble, the piano playing sisters Katia and Marielle Labèque give a streamlined performance of The Hague Hacking, Andriessen's most recent composition. The word 'hacking' refers to the hoquet, his favorite compositional technique, where the instruments engage in a crossfire of rapidly interlocking notes and chords. Starting from a bare and austere beginning, the music embarks on some detours and interludes and finally unfolds into an almost ecstatic hymn - its major chords are still spiced with oblique pitches, though. Preludio all'Infinito, a new work by Diderik Wagenaar, with Andriessen one of the founding fathers of The Hague School, boasts similar ecstatic harmonies. For a piece from The Hague it is remarkably multidimensional. The clearly discernible segments are welded together by sophisticated correspondences, resulting in an unrelenting absorbing quality.

In a series of shorter compositions, written as homages for the septuagenarian, De Kruisfiguur, a quatre-mains work by Cornelis De Bondt stands out as a typically Haguian work with harsh traits. Thereupon singer Cristina Zavalloni and violinist Monica Germino take the limelight in La Passione from 2002, in which Andriessen confronts their soloist qualities with a robust ensemble. On texts by Italian poet Dino Campana, Andriessen practically condenses all of his compositions in one piece. It leads to a music that seemingly flies off the hook all the time, while maintaining a crushing impact which continues even when the final notes of this resounding birthday party have died away.

Frits van der Waa

Louis Andriessen 70. Concerts by the Radio Filharmonic Orchestra, Groot Omroepkoor and Asko/Schönberg Ensemble conducted by Reinbert de Leeuw and Jurjen Hempel. 6 juni. Concertgebouw and Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ, Amsterdam.

Original Dutch version published in De Volkskrant, June 8, 2009.

and can be found also on Frits van der Waa personal web site:

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