Louis Andriessen’s new orchestral work Mysteriën provides an upbeat to his 75th birthday, celebrated internationally in 2014.
Louis Andriessen's Mysteriën is his first large-scale orchestral work for 45 years, commissioned to celebrate the joint 125th anniversary of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Concertgebouw concert hall in Amsterdam. The premiere on 3 November, conducted by Mariss Jansons, revealed an orchestra containing distinctive Andriessen colours, with a reduced string section, soprano sax, low clarinets, two pianos and three harps - one of which is detuned to accentuate microtonal sonorities within one of the work’s movements.
The Mysteries of the title are the 16th century writings of Thomas a Kempis, which the composer draws upon for the headings and subjects of the six movements that make up the 30-minute work. Spiritual and worldly observations mingle, in a manner described by the composer as a sequence of frescoes. Andriessen recalls Thomas a Kempis texts being set as songs by his composer father Hendrik Andriessen, and one of these materialises as a memory from childhood in the central fourth movement, opening up a further dimension.
"Andriessen’s first orchestral work in 45 years is an impressive, extremely personal and complex work with numerous layers and meanings, a veritable sampling of the 74-year-old composer's musical toolbox. It often seems timeless but at other moments sounds very ‘2013’, a hundred years after The Rite of Spring."
"Mysteriën is flawless, mature Andriessen, nimbly set in six movements lasting 30 minutes. The work was inspired by the 16th century writer Thomas a Kempis. Gritty block chords express the world's vanity that the mystic Renaissance author berates and criticizes... Short melodic motifs arouse circling energy. Every rhythmic layer has its own sense of time."
"Andriessen pulled out all the stops... Mysteriën is a fascinating composition in which melodic phrases are conceived vertically, in sturdy blocks of chords with ingenious orchestration. In the third movement, Andriessen’s sound palette dares to introduce original quarter-tone effects which create at times a totally mysterious atmosphere."
> Read an interview with the composer about Mysteriën
75th birthday in 2014
Louis Andriessen is 75 on 6 June 2014 and the birthday year brings new works, high profile performances and CD releases. Amsterdam leads the celebrations with two birthday concerts by the Asko/Schoenberg Ensemble and Reinbert de Leeuw at the Muziekgebouw on 8 and 9 May, and the Concertgebouw hosts the world premiere on 24 May of Andriessen’s new concerto Tapdance for percussionist Colin Currie within the Zaterdag Matinee series. Further performances of Tapdance are scheduled in autumn 2014 at the Southbank Centre in London and at the Tromp International Percussion Competition in Eindhoven.
In the USA the birthday celebrations are focussed on April with an Andriessen festival in the Washington DC area - a joint collaboration between venues and performing groups in the region between 6 and 13 April including a concert performance of La Commedia - and Reinbert de Leeuw conducts the West Coast premiere of De Materie on 18 April with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Susan Narucki and Synergy Vocals. De Materie receives a staging by Heiner Goebbels to open the Ruhr Triennale on 15 August in Duisburg, the work’s German premiere and its first stage production since the premiere in Amsterdam in 1989. CD releases for the Andriessen 75th include the first recording of La Commedia on the Nonesuch label.
> Read more about Andriessen 75th events
> Further information on Work: Mysteriën
Photo: Francesca Patella
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