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Andriessen series at the Barbican in London

(November 2015)

AndriessenCentenary2014.jpg Dutch composer Louis Andriessen is featured in a series of events at the Barbican in London in February, including the UK premiere of his Dante-inspired opera La Commedia and a Total Immersion day devoted to his music.

The Barbican in London presents M is for Man, Music & Mystery, a series exploring the works of Dutch composer Louis Andriessen, one of the most distinctive and influential voices in contemporary music. Events between 9 and 13 February feature three UK premieres including his opera La Commedia, and a Total Immersion day of concerts, talks and education projects, with performances by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia and students of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Andriessen’s music, with influences ranging from early music and jazz to art, poetry, religion and politics, is set in the context of works by Bach, Stravinsky and fellow minimalists Steve Reich and Steve Martland.

The highlight of the Barbican series promises to be the first UK performance of Andriessen’s opera La Commedia on Saturday 12 February, performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Martyn Brabbins. The full-evening stagework was composed between 2004 and 2008, charting a course through Dante’s Divine Comedy with a series of tableaux describing heaven, hell and all human nature between. It was first staged by Dutch National Opera at the Holland Festival in 2008 and concert performances followed in Los Angeles and New York in 2010 and Washington in 2014. A recording of La Commedia was released by Nonesuch in 2014 both as a sound recording on CD and on a DVD with the film by Hal Hartley which accompanied the Amsterdam staging. The opera won the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for Composition in 2010 and the recording won this year’s Caecilia Prize awarded by Belgium's classical music press. The Barbican performance reunites members of the original cast including soprano Claron McFadden, vocalist Cristina Zavalloni and the voices of Synergy Vocals, joined by baritone and actor Andrew Sauvageau.

The weekend of Andriessen events at the Barbican is completed by a Total Immersion day on Sunday 13 February. The main evening concert by the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Clark Rundell includes the UK premiere of Andriessen’s Mysteriën exploring the 16th century religious writings of Thomas a Kempis – the composer’s first large-scale orchestral work for 45 years. The score was commissioned by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Concertgebouw concert hall in Amsterdam and the premiere performance in 2013 conducted by Mariss Jansons was released as a DVD video on the orchestra’s own label. The work has received further performances in the Netherlands, Czech Republic and Canada, and most recently Gustavo Dudamel conducted its US premiere in October with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

The evening concert also includes the UK premiere of Rosa’s Horses, an orchestral suite arranged by Clark Rundell from Andriessen’s opera ROSA The Death of a Composer, first staged in 1994 in collaboration with Peter Greenaway. The concert opens with the composer’s classic De Stijl, the third part of his stagework De Materie, which collides boogie woogie with the art of Piet Mondriaan. The Total Immersion day starts with a lunchtime event in which Andriessen discusses his music in tandem with performances of his chamber works by students from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. The afternoon concert at Milton Court sees the Britten Sinfonia in a dance influenced programme including Tapdance for percussion and ensemble, with Colin Currie as soloist, Dances for string orchestra and Stravinsky’s Danses Concertantes.

On 9 February, as an upbeat to the Andriessen weekend, the Britten Sinfonia performs his 2002 song cycle La Passione, setting Italian texts by Dino Campana, with vocalist Cristina Zavalloni and violinist Monica Germino. The programme also includes Steve Reich’s The Desert Music setting texts by William Carlos Williams, and Tiger Dancing by Steve Martland who studied with Andriessen in the 1980s and presented the 1992 BBC documentary on the composer A Temporary Arrangement with the Sea. After the concert Andriessen joins conductor Clark Rundell in discussion about his music.

> Visit the Barbican website

2016 also brings the first performances of Andriessen’s new opera, Theatre of the World, which explores life, learning and experience through the eyes of 17th century scholar Athanasius Kircher. The premiere production by Pierre Audi, designed by the brothers Quay, is first performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic on 6 and 8 May, and then travels to Amsterdam for its European premiere by Dutch National Opera at the Holland Festival on 11-19 June with the Asko|Schönberg ensemble. The opera is conducted both in Los Angeles and Amsterdam by Reinbert de Leeuw with a cast including Leigh Melrose, Lindsay Kesselman and Christina Zavalloni.

> Watch a video about Andriessen and his music

>  Further information on Work: La Commedia

Photo: Francesca Patella

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