Shakespeares plea for refugees
As soon as the Centraal Chamber Choir asked me to compose a new piece for them, I began to look for texts about refugees. This is a subject that moves me, and I had wanted to do something with it for some time. After some research, I found a beautiful and timeless text from William Shakespeare, from his play Sir Thomas More. The fragment I have chosen is from a monologue by the humanist Thomas More, during the May Day protests in London in 1517. Angry Londoners were protesting against the arrival of refugees from Lombardy in Northern Italy. More manages to calm the masses, and makes a plea for humane treatment of the refugees. The premiere of the resulting See the wretched strangers took place on 9 October, and the next performance in Amsterdam will be on 14 May 2017.
Here below is a fragment from the text:
Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
Plodding to the ports and coasts for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
New music-theatre choir
For a while I had been considering the idea, and as of 1 March 2016 it has come into being: De Plaats Music-Theatre Choir has formed, with myself at the helm! The choir will sing and perform in the music-theatre productions of De Plaats, a company that makes original shows in surprising locations in Arnhem and further afield in the east of the Netherlands. We will mainly concentrate on a capella choir repertoire across a range of classical music genres, and on vocal improvisation. Our first project will be The forbidden flower, a production framed with superb choral music by composers such as Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich.
In the past months I have been occupied with writing music for Ik Vertrek (Im leaving), a chamber opera in three acts which will be performed in September by Kameroperahuis in collaboration with the Dutch Touring Opera at the City Festival of Zwolle.
In the opera a couple has decided to leave everything behind and to move to an uninhabited area. The husband is hoping to get closer to his wife, but she hardly pays any attention to him. As soon as they set foot on this desolate piece of land, she is overwhelmed by her inner thoughts. These thoughts appear to her in the form of the four musicians and a singer. They test her, taunt her, and eventually seduce her into the ultimate consequence of her desires: raising oneself above the world.
The occult beauty of the finite
Severin von Eckardstein
As Young Composer in the Spotlights at the Musis Sacrum Concert Hall in Arnhem, I had the pleasure of writing a new work for four great musicians: clarinetist Lars Wouters van den Oudenweijer, violinist Franziska Hφlscher, cellist Danjulo Ishizaka and pianist Severin von Eckardstein. The piece, The occult beauty of the finite, is about the finite, exploring the realization that what we hold dear is impermanent and finding the beauty that lies therein. Hereby I want to thank Musis Sacrum and producer Benno Brugmans for giving a young composer a wonderful opportunity like this. On February 19, 20, and 21 the piece will be performed consecutively in Dόsseldorf, Amsterdam and Arnhem.
International Summer Course for New Musik Darmstadt
On August 14 my Sonata for 10 pedals for harp, Disklavier and live electronics was premiered during the 47th International Summer Course for New Music in Darmstadt. In the piece, the seven pedals of the harp and the three pedals of the Disklavier are central. It was a special honor to be invited to this famous and well-known festival where so many great composers have worked, taught, and debated since 1946. On September 13, the sonata was also performed during the Gaudeamus Music Week. It was a wonderful project, not in the least due to the excellent cooperation with Robert van Heumen, who created the sound design of the live electronics.
Young Composer in the Spotlights at Musis Sacrum
For the 2014-2015 season, I will be 'young composer in the spotlights at Musis Sacrum in Arnhem. A wide range of different ensembles and musicians will perform several pieces of mine: Orchestra De Ereprijs will play a new work, Ensemble Lunapark will perform Nineteen for string quartet and two percussionists, clarinettist Lars Wouters van den Oudenweijer and master pianist Severin von Eckardstein will premiere a new composition, and the Nederlands Kamerkoor will sing Eros. I consider it a great honour to be chosen, and I cannot wait for the season to begin!
Music-theatre work for the Kameroperahuis and Nederlandse Reisopera
I am currently working on a tragicomic music-theatre work about King Arthur for the Kameroperahuis and the Nederlandse Reisopera. In our contemporary world, Arthur would be shocked to see that the heroism and brotherhood of his day are becoming relics of a bygone time. With one foot in the past, Arthur will set our society under the microscope. Only by doing so, can he succeed on his quest for modern day honour, and discover what it really means to be a hero today. The libretto is by Anna Maria Versloot, and the stage direction is in the hands of Karin Netten. The work will be performed at the Operadagen in Rotterdam, the Oerol Festival on the island of Terschelling, and the City Festival of Zwolle.
A new work for the Dutch Student Chamber Choir
Dutch Student Chamber Choir
As a commission for an upcoming tour of the Dutch Student Chamber Choir, I have composed Eros: a new work for mixed choir and harmonium. I chose a text from Plato's Symposium, a great ode to the god of love Eros, standing here as a symbol for love itself. In the piece I interwove fragments of ancient Greek music from between the 5th century AD and the 2nd century BC, providing it with a new text. For me, the piece is about a gathering of singers, a ritual in which love is serenaded and praised.
The opening of Isala Klinieken by Queen Mαxima
On October 17, the new Isala Klinieken in Zwolle will be opened by Queen Mαxima. To welcome her, the Kameroperahuis has been commissioned to create an opening act. I have composed a song for more than 200 employees who will sing to her, and I will conduct the piece too. In addition to this impressive choir, there is a large role for the soprano Bauwien van der Meer, as well as piano, cello and percussion. The lyrics are by Anna Maria Versloot and the direction is in the hands of Sjoeke-Marije Wallendal, as the singers will have to do much more than just singing!
Good news! Effective immediately, I am working as a composer for the Collective of the Chamberoperahouse. The Collective consists of two composers, two librettists, two directors, a dramaturge, a designer, singers, musicians and actors. With this group, I will work to plan various performances for the next two years. The projects will be very diverse, ranging from small-scale musical theatre to large-scale opera productions. Each project will be use different combinations of members from the Collective, occasionally collaborating with other institutions such as the National Reisopera. As a member of the Collective, I anticipate that we all will have built up a large network of lifelong colleagues by the end of our two-year tenure.
Manhattan School of Music
From August 22 till the middle of December 2012 I will be an exchange student at the Manhattan School of Music in New York: a wonderful school in a great city. I will start working on a large choral work for the school chorus of the Conservatory of Amsterdam, which will be performed in May 2013. In New York I also want to develop myself further in the field of music theatre and therefore MSM in New York is the right place. Furthermore, I will be following many courses, attending concerts and getting to know the city.
I look forward to it!
Conservatory of Amsterdam
Conservatory of Amsterdam
Totally forgot to mention: I got accepted to the master composition in Amsterdam! Over the next two years I will study composition with Willem Jeths and Richard Ayres, and electronic music with Jorrit Tamminga. My research will focus on music theatre and the collaboration between different disciplines - music, dance, theater and film.
I will also get piano lessons again and I will follow lessons at the University of Amsterdam. On Tuesdays I will conduct the Choir of the Barlaeus Gymnasium. Thus, it should be two great years!
Festival Tharaux Arts&Musique
From July 24 until July 29 2011 the 8th festival Tharaux Arts&Musique will take place. Pianist and initiator Marja Bon asked me as composer in residence to write three new compositions: one work for piano solo, one work for two clarinets and a sound sculpture made by Ernest Laeven and one work for musicians and villagers.
The concerts will include pieces from Claude Debussy, Francis Poulenc, Erik Satie, Ron Ford and Wolfgang Rihm. During Debussy's La Boξte a Joujoux artist Saskia Masselink will make live-illustrations.
Besides the concerts, ten artists will exhibit their work. See upcoming concerts and www.tharauxartsetmusique.fr
Commission Dutch Students Chamber Orchestra
Dutch Students Chamber Orchestra
In April, the Dutch Students Chamber Orchestra conducted by Harmen Cnossen will perform my new work Blazing a Trail. The harp is the instrument that is blazing the trail for the orchestra: she introduces notes and rhythms, supported by the percussion, that are then taken over by the orchestra.
Apart from my piece, Bruckners Drei Stόcke fόr Kammerorchester will be performed, as well as the Beethovens 6th Symphony and Mahler songs with Rosanne van Sandwijk as the soloist. The performances will take place in Groningen, Leiden, Maastricht, Nijmegen, Utrecht and Amsterdam. Blazing a Trail was created with financial support from the Fonds Podiumkunsten.
Ode to Cecilia
Foundation Le Pavillon asked writer Marije Korthof and me to create a work based on Cecilia, the patroness of music. It didnt end up becoming a simple piece. Each choir member has a great responsibility, not least because the chords are often 8, 10 and in the final chord even 16-voiced. The harmonies usually start simple and then evolve into clusters.
Over the centuries, there are hundreds if not thousands of texts and compositions dedicated to Cecilia, so in advance I was curious about what Marije would do with this theme. Marije's text has become more than a tribute to Cecilia. It celebrates not only her story but is also a plea for life itself.
The Lelikoor led by JanJoost van Elburg will perform the work on the 20th and 21nd of November in Amsterdam and Utrecht (see agenda).
The Werewolf of Millingen
The Werewolf of Millingen
For the past few weeks I have been occupied with a special project: writing music to De Weerwolf van Millingen. This saga from the past of Gelderland (a Dutch province) relates the story of Dorus van de Dries, who turns into a werewolf each time the moon is full. One day, the villagers decide that enough is enough and they gather at Dorus' house to cure him of his 'werewolving'.
The work will be performed by the HGO Rebels (musicians from the Gelders Orkest) conducted by Alexander de Blaeij, together with actor Nard Verdonschot. Performances on 16th and 23rd October (see the Agenda). The programme also features works by Barnacle and Debussy.
From 4-16 March, four musicians who had won prizes in the Princess Christina Concours toured India. This ensemble - the Princess Ensemble - consisted of Nora Fischer (soprano), Rianne Jongsma (flute), Bas Treub (violin) and Andrea Vasi (piano). I was asked to write a piece for this occasion. The text I used was a poem by Robert Anker, Valentijn - een week te laat. The quartet played the work twice: on March 11th in Mumbai during a private concert at the residence of ambassador Marijke van Drunen Littel, and on March 16th at an open air concert in David Hall, Kochi.
Contestants HB prize
During the final concert of the Dutch Music days, all five nominees' works for the Henriλtte Bosmansprize 2009 were performed. After a very good performance by the New Ensemble conducted by Hans Leenders, the evening was already a success for me.
After the break the prizes were awarded. The chairman of the Association of Dutch Composers, Jeff Hamburg, addressed the audience. and told them about the record number of almost 50 entries this year. Afterwards he presented the results: the Henriλtte Bosmansprize (juryprize) was awarded to the British Hilary Jeffery (Vishnu Stokkings), the Tera de Marez Oyensprize was awarded to the Colombian Natalia Dominguez Rangel (Speech Perceptions), and the audience prize was awarded for my piece Broken Lines. Hurrah!
11 October is the date! During the final concert my composition Broken Lines will be performed by the Nieuw Ensemble conducted by Hans Leenders. This piece has been nominated for the Henriλtte Bosmansprijs, a prize for young emerging composers living in the Netherlands. Other nominees are Silvia Borzelli (sur-itinιraire), Hilary Jeffery (Vishnu Stokkings), Ezequiel Menalled (Brωjula) and Natalia Dominguez Rangel (Speech Perceptions).
Apart from a performance of all these pieces, the programme will also include works bij Micha Hamel, Wim Laman and Rodney Sharman.
Following this concert the jury as well as the audience will make their decision.
24 April finally came: my piece Broken Lines for Nieuw Ensemble was premiered in het Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ.
All pieces played formed the culmination of a wonderful project where young composers had several sessions in which fragments of their work were played by the Nieuw Ensemble. We received excellent advice from the musicians of the Nieuw Ensemble, conductor Lucas Vis, artistic leader Joλl Bons and various guest teachers. For me personally, the high point was the final session with the ensemble when guest composer Brian Ferneyhough not only gave great advice but also spoke animatedly about our work.
On 6 February my piece Te Deum for organ and cello performed by DuoVanCampvanDelft was premiered in de Oranjekerk, Amsterdam. This concert formed a platform for poets and composers to work together and I found my inspiration for Te Deum in a poem, specially written for this occasion by Anneke Brassinga. I interpreted this poem as being about sounds, sounds which were together as well as independent from each other and finally melting into the ether: to the immensity, the far away sigh of yesteryear.
The organ and cello begin playing in different tempos, independently from each other but at certain moments come together and gradually blend into each other.
Nineteen was premiered in the Rabobankzaal of Music center Frits Philips in Eindhoven on 19 November. This is a piece for string quartet and tubular bells and formed part of the Tromp Festival (held especially for string quartet and percussion every two years) in Eindhoven. The piece is based on the number nineteen, as the title suggests. Two instrumental groups (violin 1, cello and tubular bells set 1 against violin 2, viola and tubular bells set 2) weave rhythmic patterns through each other allowing the note values of 'nineteen sixteenth' to keep appearing. I strayed from the concept when I thought it necessary.
Contra turrim Trajectensem
Dom Tower of Utrecht
Contra turrim Trajectensem, my composition for two voices and orchestra, had its premiere in the Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ (Amsterdam) on Monday 29 September. Lucas Vis conducted the Geert Groote Orchestra, soprano Annet Lans and alto Ananda Goud. I wrote this piece for the 75th anniversary of the Geert Groote School in Amsterdam and used a text from a tract by Groote: Opus contra magna edifica superflua principaliter contra turrim Trjectensem, published in 1376. Geert Groote felt strongly against the building of the Dom tower of Utrecht. He believed this would only lead to vanity and pride and above all would be built at the expense of the poor.
The piano recital of the Royal Conservatory's Young Talents Programme took place on 7 December 2007. It was a varied programme but all pianists were obliged to play Troubled Thoughts, which I had written especially for this examination. Everyone interpreted this piece in their own way, one in extremely fast tempo, another in a slow and expressive way. Many of the pianists evidently enjoyed playing this piece, since it was later played at the Christina Concours, the Steinway Concours and by Ghil Bae at the international piano concours in Maria Campini (Portugal) where it was awarded the 2nd prize.
International Young Composers Meeting
orchestra the ereprijs
The Young Composers' Meeting took place from 4 up to and including 9 March 2007 in Apeldoorn. I was one of the 16 composers selected to compose a three-minute piece for orchestra 'de ereprijs' and five singers studying at the Conservatory in The Hague, conducted by Rob Vermeulen. We received lessons and workshops from composers Louis Andriessen, Richard Ayres, Joe Cutler, Mary Finsterer, Martijn Padding and voice coach Gerda van Zelm. This was followed by several rehearsals where we could work on our compositions as preparation for the final concert held later that week. It was a wonderful week, especially thanks to the excellent lessons we received and the great atmosphere within our group of
On 14, 21 and 28 January the qualifying rounds were held for the Iordens Violin competition in the Schφnberghall, The Hague. The closing concert was Saturday February 4. All participants were between 12 and 14 years old and were obliged to play Overdrive, a piece I had specially written for this occasion. I heard my piece at least 35 times!This was an extremely special and valuable experience for me.
The piece was also performed on 15 April during a lunch-time concert in the Dr. Anton Philipszaal by Gabriele Kuchenbecker (and aired on Radio West) and was also recorded for an information film Where is the door? This film about dementia was directed by Najib Taoujni. In this recording, Jan-Erik van Regteren Altena was the violinist and Kimball Huigens was the pianist.
As part of the 'Virtuoso! Unheard-of-Rembrandt' project, held on Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 November 2006, the newest compositions by the Royal Conservatory students of composition were played alongside works by 17th century composers. My piece named after Portret van een vrouw op 83 jarige leeftijd (Portrait of an 83 year old woman) was also played. It proved an exciting challenge to transform such an expressive painting into music. Rembrandt evokes an illusion of
clarity while his technique suggests intimation and detachment. It is a jumble of fine and rough strokes criss-crossing each other. The complicated details were painted with unbelievable precision. With this in mind I set to work . This composition was performed by the Rembrandt Ensemble conducted by Bas Wiegers in the Scheltema Complex in Leiden.
copyright Janco Verduin 2009