Andriessen was born in Utrecht in 1939 into a musical family: his father Hendrik, and his brother Jurriaan were established composers in their own right. Andriessen studied with his father and Kees van Baaren at the Hague Conservatory, and between 1962 and 1964 undertook further studies in Milan and Berlin with Luciano Berio. Since 1974 he has combined teaching with his work as a composer and pianist. He is now widely regarded as the leading composer working in the Netherlands today and is a central figure in the international new music scene.
From a background of jazz and avant-garde composition, Andriessen has evolved a style employing elemental harmonic, melodic and rhythmic materials, heard in totally distinctive instrumentation. His acknowledged admiration for Stravinsky is illustrated by a parallel vigour, clarity of expression, and acute ear for colour. The range of Andriessen's inspiration is 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. He has tackled complex creative issues, exploring the relation between music and politics in De Staat, the nature of time and velocity in De Tijd and De Snelheid, and questions of mortality in Trilogy of the Last Day.
Andriessen's compositions have attracted many leading exponents of contemporary music, including the two Dutch groups named after his works De Volharding and Hoketus. Other eminent Dutch performers include ASKO | Schoenberg, Nieuw Amsterdams Peil, the Schoenberg Quartet, pianists Gerard Bouwhuis and Cees van Zeeland, and conductors Reinbert de Leeuw and Lucas Vis. Groups outside the Netherlands who have commissioned or performed his works include the San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Kronos Quartet, London Sinfonietta, Ensemble Modern, MusikFabrik, Icebreaker and the Bang on a Can All Stars.
Collaborative works with other artists include a series of dance projects, the full length theatre piece De Materie created with Robert Wilson for the Netherlands Opera, and three works created with Peter Greenaway: the film M is for Man, Music, Mozart, and the stage works ROSA Death of a Composer and Writing to Vermeer, premiered at the Netherlands Opera in 1994 and 1999 respectively. Collaborations with film maker Hal Hartley have included The New Math(s) in 2000 and La Commedia, an operatic setting of Dante for Netherlands Opera premiered at the Holland Festival in 2008. Nonesuch Records has released a series of recordings of Andriessen's major works, including the complete De Materie, ROSA Death of a Composer and Writing to Vermeer.
Recent commissions include the music theatre piece Anaïs Nin for singer Cristina Zavalloni and 8 musicians premiered in 2010 and released on DVD and CD by Nieuw Amsterdams Peil and the London Sinfonietta, and La Girò for violinist Monica Germino and large ensemble premiered at MITO SettembreMusica in 2011.
Louis Andriessen won the 2011 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for his opera La Commedia.
Louis Andriessen is published by Boosey & Hawkes.
This biography can be reproduced free of charge in concert programmes with the following credit: Reprinted by kind permission of Boosey & Hawkes