Monday, November 29, 2010

Grawemeyer Award for "La Commedia"

Louis Andriessen has won the 2011 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for his Dante-inspired multimedia opera "La Commedia", premiered in 2008.

Andriessen’s "La Commedia" was selected from a wide international field of entries, and the Grawemeyer’s prize announcement describes how the composer “uses Dante’s epic poem as a springboard for subtle and ironic commentary on modern life, drawing a multilingual libretto from the Bible and other sources.

Andriessen on winning the Grawemeyer Award:
“Just before the Second World War, I was born in a sidestreet by a small canal in the medieval centre of Utrecht. Believe me, 71 years later, getting the world-famous Grawemeyer Award for La Commedia seems to be completely unreal. How could this happen?"
“When I was four years old my father walked with me over the bridge of the canal to St Catherine’s Cathedral. In that church he played the organ and conducted the choir which twice a week included 40 boy trebles (girl sopranos were permitted only 25 years later). Did it all start sometime then? Perhaps it was hearing him play the organ when I started composing ten years later (I simply began by imitating my father and my 14-year-older brother Jurriaan). My father taught me: “Don’t think you are important, we are just worms, but we have the duty to serve the music and write as well as we can”.
“I am very grateful for the prize. Let us remember my wife Jeanette, who always provided valuable critical input about my compositions and supported me throughout the 50 years we lived together. She suffered a serious illness during the time I was working on "La Commedia" and died before the first performance. The complete five-part score is dedicated to her.”

To read the entire press release click here.
Foto: "La Commedia"

Friday, November 12, 2010

Anaïs Nin in Utrecht Tonight

Two more performances of "Anais Nin": tonight at Vredenburg Leeuwenbergh Kerk in Utrecht, 20.00h, and tomorrow at Den Bosch Verkadefabriek, 20.30h within November Music festival.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Anaïs Nin Review

Frits van der Waa, exclusively for this blog, reports about Amsterdam performance of "Anaïs Nin":

The Dutch premiere of Louis Andriessen's Anaïs Nin was presented Thursday night in a crowded Muziekgebouw - which may be the result of the composers' appearance, the day before in the prime time show De wereld draait door. The new monodrama was performed by ensemble Nieuw Amsterdams Peil, who opened the program with Martijn Padding's Mordants en Guus Janssens Hu Hu Baley - excellent music and on a par with LA's work.
The book of Anaïs Nin is culled by Andriessen from Nin's diaries and from writings by Antonin Artaud and René Allendy, two of her lovers. She reminisces about her affairs, notably about her incestuous relationship with her own father, the composer Joaquín Nin. The role of the slightly vapid Anaïs fits Cristina Zavalloni, Louis Andriessen's muse since many years, like a glove. The only props are a chaise longue and a tea tray. Furthermore, director Jeroen de Man, added a video screen, where we can see snippets of Anaïs's past, with spoken quotations. But the audience cannot be swept away by this, because at times the 'tape' is spooled back and forth by Anaïs. In the beginning there is some interplay between music and video, but after some time the music takes over.
The score is certainly among Andriessen's finest, although the piece is at most 45 minutes long. The texture and vocal lines hark back to M is for Man, Music, Mozart (1991), but over the years Andriessen’'s style has become more supple and versatile. Helped by the 8-piece ensemble, fine musicians such as reed players David Kweksilber and Michiel van Dijk, pianist Gerard Bouwhuis and violinist Heleen Hulst, the composer suggests small orchestral miracles. At the same time, the music contains subtle traces of older music, like Weill's songs from the thirties, or American fifties' jazz. Beneath the surface, there's a lot going on, such as the wobbly, but nonetheless sure-footed octave jumps.
 Aided by the amplification, Mrs Zavalloni gives a powerful performance, although her voice isn't particularly beautiful and sometimes has a grating effect. The good thing is that the music is not 'expressive' in the classical sense, but rather straightforward, sung declamation - which doesn't prevent Andriessen from slipping in howling 'seufzers' at the great melancholy climax.
This music is thoroughly theatrical, and Andriessen employs a lot of time-honoured tricks. The most overt one is also the most effective: In the last minute the musicians stop playing, and we hear, far off, a melancholy song, accompanied by a muffled instrument - a guitar, a harp, a piano? It's an old song by Joaquín Nin, Anaïs father and lover, and it has a melancholy Andriessen probably never could have realized by himself, but which is so strongly reinforced and put in perspective by all what went before that it has become an integral part of his composition.

(The photo of Cristina Zavalloni as Anaïs Nin from the world premiere in Siena)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Anais Nin, Dutch Premiere

During my recent stay in Amsterdam I made a photo of the poster for Andriessen's "Anais Nin" that will have its Dutch Premiere on November 4th, 8.15 pm. at Muziekgebouw aan het IJ. It will be performed by Cristina Zavalonni and Nieuw Amsterdams Peil ensemble. 
In the meantime, you can read interview about the piece with the composer.