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Louis Andriessen-Curated Concerts Set to Take Place at Carnegie Hall

Louis Andriessen

Louis Andriessen's name is featured prominently on the posters affixed outside the hallowed walls of Carnegie Hall this month, as the Dutch composer is set to preside over ten days of concerts he has curated as holder of Carnegie's Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair for 2009–2010, with an additional, final event next month. The New Yorker calls Andriessen "a composer of our time: his matchless music has absorbed the energy of pop, the serenity of minimalism, and the darkness of modern history."

The New York Times music writer Allan Kozinn gave a preview of these events in an extensive profile of the composer for yesterday's Sunday Times. "Andriessen has a gift for embracing conflicting values, musical and otherwise, and making it seem as if they fit together naturally," writes Kozinn. Jeremy Geffen, Carnegie Hall's Director of Artistic Planning, tells the Times: "Louis is remarkable in that his ears are as open as his mind, and he is a sponge for musical ideas from a great variety of sources ... We therefore wanted to ensure that his residency reflected his omnivorous nature."

The events begin, fittingly enough, with the New York premiere of Andriessen's Symphony for Open Strings paired with three world premieres by young American composers who have been influenced by Andriessen, Missy Mazzoli, Michael Fiday, and John Korsrud. The program will be performed by American Composers Orchestra this Friday night in Carnegie's Zankel Hall.

Next Wednesday, April 14, offers an unusual double bill, featuring American tap dancer Maurice Chestnut and Czech singer-violinist Iva Bittová, in Weill Recital Hall. It is the first of three events in the Three Naughty Boys and Three Crazy Girls series of late-night improvisatory concerts.

The following night, Thursday, April 15, brings the centerpiece of the weeks' events: the US premiere of the concert version of Andriessen's latest opera, La Commedia, based on Dante's Divine Comedy. The piece, in the composer's words, combines “complexity, intellectualism, horror, beauty, multi-layering, allusions, historical and mythological references, and, above all, irony.” The performance, by the Asko | Schoeberg ensemble and conductor Reinbert de Leeuw, Synergy Vocals, and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, will take place in Stern Auditorium and will be preceded by a conversation between Andriessen and Geffen.

Asko | Schoeberg and de Leeuw return on Friday, April 16, to perform Andriessen's Zilver, along with works by Andriessen protégé Martjin Padding and by de Leeuw in Zankel Hall. Later that night, in Weill Recital Hall, the composer will be at the piano, accompanying Dutch singer Greetje Bijma, on a double bill with British saxophonist Evan Parker. This is the second of the Three Naughty Boys and Three Crazy Girls concerts.

Saturday also brings two events, beginning with the multimedia Making Music: Louis Andriessen, in which a wide range of musicians, including Dawn Upshaw, Bang on a Can All-Stars, and the Zankel Band, led by Alarm Will Sound Artistic Director Alan Pierson, perform two works by Andriessen—Dances and the US premiere of Life—plus another work by his pupil Padding, all in Zankel Hall. The event also features commentary by the composer, moderated by Jeremy Geffen. Later that Saturday, in Weill, comes the third and final concert in the Three Naughty Boys and Three Crazy Girls series of improvisatory concerts, featuring cello, piano, and vocals.

The venue shifts downtown on the evening of Sunday, April 18, for the last of this month's Andriessen events. The Greenwich Village club (Le) Poisson Rouge plays host to an all-Andriessen concert by the American Contemporary Music Ensemble, focused on the composer's chamber music, including M Is for Man, Music, and Mozart, featuring a film by Peter Greenaway. The piece is included on a 1994 Nonesuch recording and will undoubtedly be a topic of discussion in the pre-concert talk between Andriessen and Nonesuch President Robert Hurwitz.

While that concludes the April concerts curated by Andriessen for his Debs Composer’s Chair, one culminating event carries over into May: John Adams will lead the Ensemble ACJW in a performance of his Son of Chamber Symphony, paired with Stravinsky's Concerto for Piano and Winds and capped by the piece that began Andriessen's recording relationship with Nonesuch: De Staat, which Kozinn describes as "a Minimalist classic." Andriessen considers the piece, which includes text from Plato’s The Republic, his “essay” on the concept of music, democracy, and the state. (Fittingly, Adams previously the Debs chair, and Brad Mehldau will hold it next season, the first jazz artist to do so. Elliott Carter held the chair last season.)

For more information on and tickets to all of these events, along with a host of video and audio interviews and clips, visit For a look through the complete Andriessen catalog on Nonesuch Records, including De Staat, M Is for Man, Music, Mozart, and many others, visit the Nonesuch Store.


One small correction: La Commedia is being performed earlier in Los Angeles, on April 13 (I'll be there), so the NY performance can't be the US premiere.

I had the extreme privilege of escorting Louis around our paralyzingly frigid Canadian prairie city in January 1995 when he was international composer-in-residence at the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (my employer at the time) New Music Festival. The orchestra performed De Staat "loudly and with great enthusiasm" (his words) and the Kronos Quartet gave the premiere of "Facing Death", his quartet in memory of Charlie Parker. We drank cognac, listened to Steve Lacy recordings with Irene Aebi's vocals and lamented the lack of recognition afforded John Carisi. Wish I could be in New York - kill 'em Louis!

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