Born in Utrecht in 1939 into a musical family: his father Hendrik and his brother Juriaan were established composers. Andriessen studied with his father and Kees van Baaren at The Hague Conservatoire, 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 developed a style employing elemental harmonic, melodic and rhythmic materials, heard in totally distinctive instrumentation. His acknowledged admiration for Stravinsky is illustrated by a similar vigour, clarity of expression, and an acute ear for colour.
The range of Andriessen’s inspiration is wide, from the music of Charles Ives in Anachronie I, the art of Mondrian 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 andDe Snelheid, and questions of mortality in Trilogy of the Last Day.
Andriessen’s compositions have attracted many leading exponents of contemporary music, including two Dutch groups named after his works: De Volharding and Hoketus. Other eminent Dutch performers include the Schoenberg Ensemble, ASKO Ensemble, Netherlands Chamber Choir, Schoenberg Quartet, pianists Gerard Bouwhuis and Cees van Zeeland, and conductors Reinbert de Leeuw and Edo de Waart. Groups outside the Netherlands who have commissioned or performed his works include the San Francisco Symphony, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Kronos Quartet, London Sinfonietta, Ensemble Modern, Ensemble intercontemporain, Icebreaker, Bang on a Can All Stars, and the California EAR Unit.
Collaborative works with other artists include a series of dance projects, the full-length theatre piece De Materiecreated 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. Recent film collaborations include The New Math(s) created with Hal Hartley in 2000 and La Commedia, a staging of Dante’s work at The Netherlands Opera during the Holland Festival in 2008. Nonesuch Records has released a series of recordings of Andriessen’s major works.
His commissions of 2010 include the theatre music Anaïs Nin for singer Cristina Zavalloni and eight musicians, as well as La Girò for violinist Monica Germino and a large ensemble, performed at the 2011 MITO Settembre Musica. In the 2013/14 season, Mysteriën were premiered by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Mariss Jansons, while Tapdance for percussion and large ensemble was presented by Colin Currie at the Amsterdam Zaterdag Matinee concert series. His latest opera, Theatre of the World, dedicated to the science of seventeenth-century master Athanasius Kircher, was premiered in Los Angeles and Amsterdam in 2016 and was published the following year by Nonesuch. In the 2009/10 season, Andriessen held the Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair at Carnegie Hall, and in 2010 the magazine Musical America voted him Composer of the Year. In 2011, he received the Grawemeyer Award in composition for his opera La Commedia.
The works of Louis Andriessen are published by Boosey & Hawkes.
© Boosey & Hawkes
Selected works (from 1998): The First Lover for boy soprano and organ (1998), Writing to Vermeer, opera for three women, two children, chorus and large ensemble, to a libretto by Peter Greenaway (1997–99), Woodpecker for percussion (1999), Image de Moreau for piano (1999), Dirck Sweelinck Missed the Prince for harpsichord (1999), Passeggiata in tram in America e ritorno for female voice, violin and piano, to words by Dino Campana (1999; version for larger ensemble, 2001), What Shall I Buy You, Son? for voice and piano (2000), Boodschappenlijstje van een gifmengster for singer and voice, to words by the composer (2000), Inanna’s Descent for mezzo-soprano, piccolo, oboe, violin, piano and two percussions (2000), The New Math(s) for soprano, flute, violin, marimba and CD, to words by Hal Hartley (2000), 2000, film music (2000), Feli–citazione for piano (2000), De vleugels van de herinnering for voice and piano, to words by Larissa Tiginashvili (2001), Fanfare om te beginnen for six groups of horns (2001), La Passione for female jazz voice, violin and chamber orchestra, to words by Dino Campana (2000–2), Bells for Haarlem for two keyboards and percussion (2002), Very Sharp Trumpet Sonata for trumpet (2002), Tuin van Eros for string quartet (2002; version for violin and piano, 2003), La Passione for voice, violin and ensemble (2002), Pupazzetti, transcription of a work by Alfredo Casella for ensemble (2002–3), Inanna for four actors, mixed choir, contrabass clarinet, four saxophones, violin and film tape, to words by Hal Hartley and eo Krispijn (2003), Letter from Cathy for female jazz voice, harp, violin, double bass, piano and percussion, to words by Cathy Berberian (2003), RUTTMANN Opus II, III, IV, music to a film by Walter Ruttmann (2003), Haags Hakkûh Stukje for two pianos (2003), Racconto dall’inferno for female jazz voice and chamber ensemble, 2nd part of La Commedia after Dante (2004), De Opening for ensemble (2005), Vermeer Pictures, concert suite for orchestra derived from Writing to Vermeer (2005), Xeniafor violin (2005), Hymne to the Memory of Darius Milhaud for ensemble (1974–2006), Hellende Fanfare for voice and ensemble, to words by Dino Campana (2006), Raadsels for violin (2006), ...miserere... for string quartet (2006–7), La Commedia for voices and ensemble, film opera in five parts to words by Dante, Joost van der Vondel and the Old Testament (2004–8), TheCity of Dis or The Ship of Fools for voices and ensemble with electronic music fragment by Anke Brouwer (2007), Driewerf Victorie! for three brass ensembles (2008), Christiaan Andriessen’s View on the River Amstel for ensemble (2009), Life for ensemble and video by Marijke van Warmerdam (2009), Anaïs Nin for amplified soprano, ensemble and video (2009–10), La Girò for amplified violin and large ensemble (2010–11), Shared Memory for oboe and violin (2012), Welk interval vind je het mooist for cello and piano (2012), Mysteriënfor orchestra (2013), Tapdance, concerto for percussion and large ensemble (2013), Theatreof the World, grotesque to a libretto by Helmut Krausser (2013‒15), Two Way Ticket for piano (2014), Ahania Weeping for a cappella choir (2016), Mach’s mit mir for organ (2016), Signs and Symbols for wind ensemble (2016), De goddelijke routine for organ (2017), Rimsky or La Monte Young for piano (2017).