Louis Andriessen

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Louis Andriessen
Louis Andriessen, Bestanddeelnr 932-5716.jpg
Andriessen in 1983
Born6 June 1939 (1939-06-06)
Utrecht, Netherlands
Died1 July 2021(2021-07-01) (aged 82)
Weesp, Netherlands
Education Royal Conservatory of The Hague
  • Composer
  • Pianist
  • Academic teacher
(m. 1996;died 2008)
(m. 2012)

Louis Joseph Andriessen (Dutch: [luˈiˈɑndrisə(n)] ; 6 June 1939 – 1 July 2021) was a Dutch composer, pianist and academic teacher. Considered the most influential Dutch composer of his generation, he was a central proponent of The Hague school of composition. [1] Although his music was initially dominated by neoclassicism and serialism, his style gradually shifted to a synthesis of American minimalism, jazz and the manner of Stravinsky.


Born in Utrecht into a musical family, Andriessen studied with his father, the composer Hendrik Andriessen as well as composers Kees van Baaren and Luciano Berio. Andriessen taught at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague from 1974 to 2012, influencing notable composers. His opera La Commedia , based on Dante's Divine Comedy , won the 2011 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition and was selected in 2019 by critics at The Guardian as one of the most outstanding compositions of the 21st century.

Life and career

Andriessen was born in Utrecht on 6 June 1939 to a musical family, [2] the son of the composer Hendrik Andriessen [2] and Johanna Justina Anschütz (1898–1975). [3] His father was professor of composition at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague, and later its director. His siblings are composers Jurriaan Andriessen and Caecilia Andriessen (1931–2019), and he is the nephew of Willem Andriessen (1887–1964). [2]

Andriessen originally studied with his father and Kees van Baaren at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague, graduating in 1961 with a first prize, [4] [5] before embarking upon two years of study with Italian composer Luciano Berio in Milan and Berlin. [2] [6] His father introduced him to the works of Francis Poulenc and Eric Satie which he came to love. [6] From 1961–65, Andriessen wrote for the daily De Volkskrant , and for De Gids magazine from 1966–69. [7] Andriessen lived in Amsterdam starting in 1965. [7]

In 1969, he was part of a group of protesters at a concert of the Concertgebouw Orchestra. They disrupted the concert with nutcrackers and bicycle horns, handing out leaflets on the dismal representation of Dutch new music in the orchestra's programming. The next year, he and the other "Nutcrackers" were given one-week prison sentences, and yet their protest sparked something of a social reform in the Dutch music scene. [8]

Andriessen was internationally recognised as a composer with his 1976 De Staat which included texts from Plato's Republic . [9] He was one of the founders of the Hague School, an avant-garde and minimalist movement from the second half of the 20th century. [10] In later decades, he accepted commissions from major orchestras, including the San Francisco Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic. [11] Andriessen was the focus of festivals in Tanglewood (1994), London (1994; 2002), Tokyo (2000), Brisbane (2001) and New York (2004). [7] In 2008, he was elected an honorary member of the International Society for Contemporary Music ISCM. [12] He held the Richard and Barbara Debs Composer's Chair at Carnegie Hall during the 2009–10 season. [11]


Andriessen at the Roundhouse in Vancouver (2009) Louis Andriessen at the Roundhouse.jpg
Andriessen at the Roundhouse in Vancouver (2009)

In 1969, Andriessen co-founded Studio voor Elektro-Instrumentale Muziek STEIM in Amsterdam. [13] [14] In opposition to the classical orchestra, a structure seen as "hierarchical", [6] he also helped founding the instrumental groups Orkest de Volharding [2] and Hoketus, both of which performed compositions of the same names, [6] [15] formed by classical, jazz and pop musicians. [6] He later became closely involved with the Schonberg and Asko ensembles and inspired the formation of the British ensemble Icebreaker. [16]


Andriessen joined the faculty of the Royal Conservatory in 1974. [4] He taught instrumentation from 1974 to 1978 and taught composition there from 1978 to 2012, [2] [4] [11] where he influenced notable students including Michel van der Aa, Richard Ayres and Steve Martland. [9] Yale University invited him in 1987 to lecture on theory and composition, [11] he was also guest lecturer at New York State University, Buffalo (1989) and Princeton (1996). [1] The arts faculty of the University of Leiden appointed him professor in 2004. [11] One of his students was Raminta Šerkšnytė, a lithuanian pianist and composer. [17]

Personal life

Andriessen was married to guitarist Jeanette Yanikian (1935–2008). They were a couple for over 40 years, and were married in 1996. [18] La Commedia is dedicated to Yanikian. [19] He was married in 2012 a second time to violinist Monica Germino, for whom he wrote several works. [11] [14] In December 2020, she announced that the composer was suffering from dementia. [20] [21] [22] He died on 1 July 2021 in Weesp at age 82. [2] [11] [21] [23] Louis Andriessen has one son, Lodewijk Torenbos-Andriessen, with dancer and theatre director Betsy Torenbos.

Style and notable works

Andriessen began in the style of an intentionally dry neoclassicism, but then turned into a strict serialist. [14] His early works show experimentation with various contemporary trends: post-war serialism (Series, 1958), pastiche (Anachronie I, 1966–67), [24] and tape (Il Duce, 1973). His reaction to what he perceived as the conservatism of much of the Dutch contemporary music scene quickly moved him to form a radically alternative musical aesthetic of his own. From the early 1970s on he refused to write for conventional symphony orchestras and instead opted to write for his own idiosyncratic instrumental combinations, which often retain some traditional orchestral instruments alongside electric guitars, electric basses, and congas. [14] Andriessen repeatedly used his music for political confessions and messages, but he also referred to painting and philosophy. [14] His range of inspiration was wide, from the music of Charles Ives in Anachronie I, the art of Mondriaan in De Stijl, and medieval poetic visions in Hadewijch, to writings on shipbuilding and atomic theory in De Materie Part I. [25]

Andriessen's later style is a unique blend of American sounds and European forms. [11] His mature music combines the influences of jazz, American minimalism, [2] Igor Stravinsky, and Claude Vivier. [26] [27] The music consists of minimalist polyrhythms, lyrical melodic fragments, predominantly consonant harmonies disrupted by explosive blocks of concentrated dissonance. [28] Andriessen's music thus departs from post-war European serialism and its offshoots. By the 21st century he was widely regarded as Europe's most important minimalist composer. [29]

His notable works include Workers Union (1975), a melodically indeterminate piece "for any loud sounding group of instruments" whose score specifies rhythm and contour but not exact pitch; Mausoleum (1979) for two baritones and large ensemble; De Tijd (Time, 1979–81) for female singers and ensemble; De Snelheid (Velocity, 1982–83), for three amplified ensembles; De Materie (Matter, 1984–88), a large four-part work for voices and ensemble; collaborations with filmmaker and librettist Peter Greenaway on the film M is for Man, Music, Mozart and the operas Rosa: A Horse Drama (1994) and Writing to Vermeer (1998); [11] and La Passione (2000–02) for female voice, violin and ensemble. His opera La Commedia , based on Dante's Divine Comedy , is particularly renowned; it won the 2011 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition and was selected in 2019 by critics at The Guardian as No 7 of the then most outstanding compositions of the 21st century. [30]

Awards and honours


Andriessen's primary publishers are Boosey & Hawkes and Donemus. Complete list of works: [4]

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Further reading