Dutch opener-loving composer Louis Andriessen is dead

Dutch composer Louis Andriessen died on 1is July, at the age of 82, in his house in Weesp, near Amsterdam. Erected against the established order, political or social, his works testify to an eclectic expression and a desire to abolish the border between scholarly music and popular music, which even becomes eccentric when it results from collaborations with the British filmmaker Peter Greenaway.

A thinker more than a school head, Louis Andriessen used the subversive bases of American minimalism to broaden the field of the European avant-garde, from the 1970s, and to make the Netherlands a musical El Dorado for the creators with a libertarian tendency. Unexpected journey, with regard to genealogy, for the last representative of a dynasty similar to that of the Bach. Grandfather, father, uncle, brother (Jurriaan, 1925-1996) and sister (Caecilia, 1931-2019), Louis Andriessen’s family horizon was almost entirely made up of composers.

Serial writing

Louis Andriessen was born on June 6, 1939 in Utrecht, where his father was organist at the cathedral. If Hendrik Andriessen (1892-1981) often allows the youngest of his six children to sit near him in the gallery and thus discover many works of Bach, it is his wife Johanna, pianist, who introduces him to keyboard practice. In 1949, the Andriessens moved to The Hague, where Hendrik taught, while Jurriaan received a scholarship to travel to the United States. He comes back with jazz records (Charlie Parker, Count Basie) which impress his younger brother. Intoxicated by freedom, “Even anarchy”, which he detects in this music, Louis Andriessen then enjoys improvising on the piano.

Louis Andriessen is looking for a sound “which would correspond as much to jazz as to classical avant-garde”. It begins with the rejection of the orchestra, a “capitalist” instrument

In 1957, he entered the Conservatory of The Hague, to study with Kees van Baaren (1906-1970), the first Dutch composer to convert to serial writing. This language interests him because he swears with that of the French repertoire (Francis Poulenc, Erik Satie) that his father is fond of. A change of course took place in 1962, when the new graduate went to study for two years with Luciano Berio (1925-2003), in Milan, then in Berlin.

Back in Amsterdam in 1965, Louis Andriessen distanced himself from the avant-garde movements that he approached through his Italian mentor, because they did not correspond to his political ideals as a leftist, eager to“Involve musicians in the world”. His activism is manifested in 1966 by a quartet of trombones with a vindictive title – Rage, rage against the dying of the light (“Rage, rage against the death of light”) then, the following year, with a collage of quotes from Charles Ives (1874-1954) and popular Italian songs, entitled Anachronie I. His motivations? The search for a sound “Which would correspond as much to jazz as to classical avant-garde”. This begins with the rejection of the orchestra, a “capitalist” instrument, which Louis Andriessen decides not only to ban from his future catalog but also to fight.

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