Highlighted composer: Joey Roukens

There will be many performances of three major works by Joey Roukens in the month of February: Boundless (Royal Concertgebouw-orchestra), Visions at Sea (Amsterdam Sinfonietta) and In Transit (Dutch National Ballet). In addition, there are several future commissions which are currently being developed…  

There will be many performances of three major works by Joey Roukens in the month of February. The first piece, Boundless, is a commission from the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and an homage to the great composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein on the centennial of his birth. The piece will have its world premiere on Feb. 8 at the Concertgebouw, followed by two more performances on Feb. 9 and 11.

A string orchestra version of Visions at Sea (originally for string quartet) will be performed by the Amsterdam Sinfonietta at the Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ on Feb. 10 and on Feb. 17 in Leiden.

Free download Visions at Sea

Finally, In Transit will be performed as part of the ballet series Made in Amsterdam 1 at the Dutch National Opera & Ballet. Made in Amsterdam 1 & 2 consist of recent works choreographed especially for the company, and In Transit will be presented as part of this series on Feb. 11, 19, 21, and 24, followed by two more performances in March.

More information about Boundless, Visions at Sea, or In Transit


Current and future projects

Roukens is currently busy working on a double piano concerto for the Jussen brothers for the Radio Filharmonisch Orkest which will be performed during the ZaterdagMatinee series. There will also be several upcoming performances of his Percussion Concerto with Colin Currie as soloist – in April with Sinfonia Rotterdam in De Doelen, and in May with the Gelders Orkest.

In addition, there are several future commissions which are currently being developed. These include a string quartet commission by Festival OModernt in Sweden, a piece for wind quintet for the Orlando Quintet, a piece for the Cello Biennale 2018, and a string quartet for the String Quartet Biennale 2020.

More about Joey Roukens

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra honors Leonard Bernstein

On the centennial of his birth, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra honors the American composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein with the concert series RCO/Bernstein 2017, which include ‘Boundless’ by Joey Roukens, and ‘Leonard Bernstein, Security Matter – C’ by Bram Kortekaas…  

On the centennial of his birth, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra honors the American composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein with the concert series RCO/Bernstein 2017. The series include Boundless, by Joey Roukens, which will have its world premiere on Feb. 8 at the Concertgebouw, followed by two more performances on Feb. 9 and 11.

Additionally, Bram Kortekaas received a commission for a new work for voice and wind quintet to accompany the orchestra’s East Side/West Side concert in the Horizon series. Leonard Bernstein, Security Matter – C, is based on Bernstein’s FBI files. The agency investigated Bernstein because of alleged communist sympathies.

Leonard Bernstein, Security Matter – C, is to be performed by musicians of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and alto Carina Vinke on Feb. 1 during a lecture from the John Adams Institute in the West-Indisch Huis and on Feb. 2 during the Entrée Late Night in the Koorzaal of the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.

More about Bram Kortekaas

More about Joey Roukens

The David Kweksilber Big Band performs Guus Janssen’s works

The David Kweksilber Big Band performs Guus Janssen’s De Janssen Songboek, Bonanza and more works in Bimhuis Amsterdam (Feb. 4) and De Doelen Rotterdam (Feb. 25). Guus Janssen will participate in two roles: as a composer and as a big band pianist…  

The David Kweksilber Big Band performs Guus Janssen’s De Janssen Songboek, Bonanza and more works in Bimhuis Amsterdam (Feb. 4) and De Doelen Rotterdam (Feb. 25).

Guus Janssen is a leading Dutch composer as well as a masterful piano improviser. His music is a synthesis of classical and jazz, and of composition and improvisation. Bonanzo (2014) composed for big band, is Janssen’s magnum opus. Alongside a spectacular performance of this piece, the David Kweksilber Big Band will play additional new compositions by Janssen.

Guus Janssen will participate in two roles: as a composer and as a big band pianist.

David Kweksilber about his big band: “It’s crazy for the musicians in the band, for composers and the public to share in festive, exciting, multifaceted sounds. This big band is an excellent vehicle for a thrilling musical experience! The bond carries an incredible energy with a provocative, brand new here-and-now repertoire. ”

Next to complete David Kweksilber Big Band, including regular participants soprano Claron McFadden, VJ Peter Kok and tap dancer Peter Kuit, the late night program includes live video projections and films.

More about Guus Janssen

Nimrod Borenstein

 “A very talented composer.” Vladimir Ashkenazy, pianist and conductor

“His music, simple and yet very complex at the same time, brings great pleasure and enrichment both to performers and listeners. It takes life ‘between the notes’.” Roberto Prosseda, pianist

With five world premieres, scores of performances of his ‘juggling ballet’ around the world and multiple recordings of his music – and all of this just in 2016 – British-French-Israeli composer Nimrod Borenstein is much in demand. Leading artists and orchestras who champion his work include Vladimir Ashkenazy, the Philharmonia Orchestra, Roberto Prosseda, Dmitry Sitkovetsky, the Oxford Philharmonic and many others. 2017 promises to be a banner year with the release on the Chandos label of a major album conducted by Ashkenazy, entirely devoted to Borenstein’s music.

The son of a renowned artist, Nimrod’s first musical experience came as a child on holiday in France, when on a family walk through a forest they came across an outdoors concert. “I just stopped and refused to move until the concert was finished two hours later. And I told my parents then and there that I wanted to learn violin and be a musician.” recalls Borenstein.

A love affair with music started, with the young Borenstein challenging himself by listening to classical works on the radio, then turning the sound down halfway through and himself scoring the way he felt the next 30 seconds would continue (he was often more or less correct)! Aged eight he developed a twelve-tone system. “I was very pleased with myself, until someone told me that someone called Schoenberg had got there first,” laughs Borenstein.

He won the competition of the Fondation Cziffra aged 15, having asked his teacher if he might apply and being told it was for adult musicians. He applied anyway, secretly, and among his audition works was Mozart’s Third Violin Concerto – György Cziffra stopped him midway through, saying how much he loved the cadenza and asking who’d written it. Borenstein replied that it was his own composition, and the impressed Cziffra gave him the prize.

It was as a violinist that Borenstein attended the Royal College of Music in London, but later won the Leverhulme Fellowship for composition at the Royal Academy of Music (where he is now an Associate). His path was set.

Every composer needs leading artists to perform their music. One of the most important for Borenstein has been Vladimir Ashkenazy, who took an interest in his music early on. A first opportunity to work together arose when the philanthropist Zvi Meitar commissioned a work for his 75th birthday, The Big Bang And Creation Of The Universe. The work was premiered with the Oxford Philomusica (now Philharmonic) under Marios Papadopoulos, after which Ashkenazy conducted it with the Philharmonia. This was quickly followed by a Philharmonia premiere, again with Ashkenazy, If You Will It It Is No Dream. The collaboration has continued, culminating in 2017 with the release of Ashkenazy’s album of Borenstein’s music on Chandos (to include both those works, as well as the Violin Concerto).

Borenstein’s music continued to rise in popularity, with his Shell Adagio in particular proving a success with more than 30 performances by 16 orchestras to date. In 2015 another benchmark success occurred with the premiere at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden of the Gandini Juggling Troupe’s all-juggling ballet, Ephemeral Architectures 4 X 4, set to Borenstein’s specially-commissioned score, Suspended. A huge international success, the ballet has since had more than 100 performances (from the Edinburgh International Festival to the Taipei Arts Festival) and continues to tour the world.

Following that premiere, a full-orchestra recording of Suspended launched the Berlin-based Solaire label. Among the excellent reviews, The Arts Desk wrote, “Borenstein’s transparent, athletic strig writing is stunningly realised…the glorious third section, a dizzying blend of pastiche baroque ornamentation and glorious, singing lines…Borenstein’s sense of fun is infectious, the music moving effortlessly from sultry tango to breezy serenade…”.

Borenstein has shown particular focus in recent years on concertos. His Violin Concerto was premiered by Sitkovetsky in 2014, the year after his Cello Concerto. His Saxophone Concerto, commissioned by the distinguished woodwind manufacturer Buffet Crampon for the saxophonist Michel Supera, was premiered in 2016 by the Orchestre de la Garde républicaine conducted by François Boulanger. The same year saw his Concerto for Trumpet, Piano and String Orchestra premiered in the UK with the English Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kenneth Woods, with Simon Desbruslais and Clare Hammond as soloists. A guitar concerto for Costanza Savarese has been completed and Borenstein is writing on a second cello concerto, for the cellist Corinne Morris.

An ongoing “Songs Without Words” project, written for a variety of pianists, recently launched with Robert Prosseda playing Borenstein’s The Dream in Athens. Future plans include recordings, as well as the Ashkenazy / Chandos disc, of the Concerto for Trumpet, Piano and String Orchestra (Signum), of the Cello Concerto No. 2, piano works played by Nadav Hertzka (Skarbo) and more.

Borenstein’s credo? “You have to strive for originality. It cannot be great if it isn’t new. The art has to be personal and to be personal it has to be new. But newness by itself is not enough. You have to try for greatness. Of course you might not achieve it, but it is always the right thing to try. That is the compulsion of the composer.”

Picture: Nataliya Gorbovskaya, 2017

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World Premiere of Catharsis by Kris Oelbrandt

The world premiere of Catharsis, by Br Kris Oelbrandt, composer and monk of the abbey Maria Toevlucht of Zundert, will be performed by the pianist Jean-Michel Dayez at the Westvest Church in Schiedam on Feb. 28. Brother Kris will be present at the event and will give an introduction about his composition…  

The world premiere of Catharsis, by Brother Kris Oelbrandt, composer and monk of the abbey Maria Toevlucht of Zundert, will be performed by the pianist Jean-Michel Dayez at the Westvest Church in Schiedam on Feb. 28. The work is based on the seventh chapter of the Rule for monks, by Saint Benedict, which tells in twelve steps how a monk can ascend to true humility. Saint Benedict wrote this rule in the 6th century as a guide to the monastic life of his time, and is to this day a source of inspiration for many. The piano cycle begins in a very boisterous manner in the beginning, but ends in extreme serenity; one experiences the music as a path of contemplation, purification, and catharsis.

Brother Kris will be present at the event and will give an introduction about his composition.

More information about this event

More about Kris Oelbrandt

Hans Koolmees

Hans Koolmees was born on the 27th of October 1959 in Abcoude, Holland.

At the conservatory of Rotterdam, Koolmees studied composition with Klaas de Vries, organ with Jet Dubbeldam, arranging and conducting with Bernard van Beurden, and electronic music with Gilius van Bergeijk.

Koolmees is of the Rotterdam School of composition. “The composition department here is strongly influenced by Klaas de Vries and Peter-Jan Wagemans, for whom intuition is the guiding thread in composition.

He works as a composer, as a teacher in composition and instrumentation, and as an organist.

Between 2003 and 2008, Hans was the artistic director of the DoelenEnsemble. In 2009 and 2010 he was artist-in-residence in the Van Doesburghuis in Meudon, near Paris.

Koolmees tries to strike a balance between detachment and sentiment – something he admires in the music of Igor Stravinsky – and leaves room in his work for irony, for the grotesque and the over the top. Regarding the content of his music, he says: “Ultimately, the sole subject of music is time – not human misery or some such thing. The passage of time, all human misery lies concealed in it.

His compositions have been performed by Oliver Knussen, Jurjen Hempel, Daniel Reuss, Ellen Corver, Lucas Vis, The Hague Philharmonic Orchestra, The Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, the Netherlands Ballet Orchestra, Cappella Amsterdam, Brisk, the Schönberg Ensemble, the DoelenEnsemble and Calefax reed quintet.

Theater Lantaren/Venster organized a four-day festival of Koolmees’ music in 1999. Along with earlier pieces came the premieres of three new works, including ‘De Toren van Babel’ [The Tower of Babel, 1998].

In 2005, the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra performed ‘As Time goes by‘ (2004), a symphonic scherzo which takes as its motto a short poem by Jules Deelder: “Alles blijft/ Alles gaat voorbij/ Alles blijft voorbijgaan” [Everything continues/ Everything passes by/ Everything continues passing by]. Koolmees says of the piece: “My initial idea was that I wanted to make the passage of time palpable, which the poem does with great concision. There is linear time, in which things develop, and there is circular time, which is based on repetition. I attempt to unite the two in this piece.

On 16 April 2009, the first performance of Koolmees’ opera ‘De Waterman‘ took place in Dordrecht.

His composition ‘Cantate’ for large orchestra was awarded the first prize of the composer’s composition organized by The Hague Philharmonic Orchestra on the occasion of its ninetieth anniversary in 1994.



Man with woman walked through meadow, said: so neatly mowed this land is.

Woman however, contrariwise, spoke: mowed is it not, but trimmed, man most
adamant; now said man that mowed and woman said trimmed.

Man, incensed, threw woman in water.

Now being in water and unable to speak, thrust she her hand above water, making
gesture with fingers of scissors, indicating that it was trimmed.

Grote Spiegel (Velicoe Zercale), Russia 1766

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Four world premieres by Elmer Schönberger

At the second concert in a series devoted to Shakespeare’s The Tempest on Feb. 17 in De Doelen in Rotterdam mezzo-soprano Cora Burggraaf and the Doelen Ensemble will premiere Elmer Schönberger’s vocal cycle Caliban sings – three songs for the alleged ‘monster’ in Shakespeare’s play…  

At the second concert in a series devoted to Shakespeare’s The Tempest on Feb. 17 in De Doelen in Rotterdam mezzo-soprano Cora Burggraaf and the Doelen Ensemble will premiere Elmer Schönberger’s vocal cycle Caliban sings – three songs for the alleged ‘monster’ in Shakespeare’s play. Only in the third song, ‘Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises’, Caliban is free of anger and becomes engrossed in soft canons, distant sounds and sweet mandoline tunes.

The program also features two new ensemble pieces by Schönberger: Variations on Richard Farnaby’s Nobodyes Gigge from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book (ca. 1600) and Solemn and strange music. The latter was named after the imaginary music sounding during a fairy-like Tempest scene when ‘strange Shapes’ bring in a banquet.

The concert opens with an ad hoc arrangement of the Tempo impetuoso from Vivaldi’s Concerto no.2 in g minor, Op.8, RV 315, ‘L’estate’.

More information about the program
More about Elmer Schönberger

Elmer Schönberger

Elmer Schönberger was born in Utrecht on January 1, 1950.

“Writer, composer, musicologist” is the most concise biographical summary Elmer Schönberger is inclined to assign himself, although the order has the habit of changing.

Schönberger studied piano at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, with Jan de Man and Gérard van Blerk and musicology at the University in Utrecht. He graduated with theses on Stravinsky and on interdisciplinary aspects of musicology.

He continued studying composition privately with Escher and after his death sat on the Escher Committee, devoted to the promotion of his music. In 1985, he co-published an edition of Escher’s Debussy lectures (Debussy. Actueel verleden).

From 1982, he wrote the column “Het Gebroken Oor” for Vrij Nederland. In that period he also contributed to a wide range of books and journals, including Key Notes – Musical Life in the Netherlands, where he served as editor and, later, editor-in-chief from 1975-1987.

In “Histoire d’Oor” (1993) – an essay in book form about his career as professional listener – he portrays the Utrecht Institute for Musicology in the period 1968-1974 as a world mired in the middle ages.

His longstanding love affair with the music of Stravinsky resulted in “Het apollinisch uurwerk. Over Stravinsky” (1983, together with Louis Andriessen), which Richard Taruskin described as “the one book about Stravinsky Stravinsky would have liked.” The English translation appeared in 1989 and the Russian version in 2003.

Until the mid-1990s the focus of Schönberger’s work lay primarily in musicography, alternately combined with activities such as conservatory lecturer, programmer at the Holland Festival (he introduced the Russian composers Gubaidulina and Ustvolskaya to Dutch audiences) and – until the present day – advisor to the Schoenberg Ensemble. For this ensemble he made an adaptation of Darius Milhaud “Saudades do Brazil” (1921/1990).

Schönberger made his literary debut in 2003 with the novel “Vic, met name”. “Vuursteens vleugels” (2009), his second novel, is, like his composition ‘Dovemansoren’, a spinoff on his play ‘Dovemansoren’.

On recommendation of Herman Strategier, his theory teacher, he composed his first “official” composition ‘Chasse à l’enfant’ (1971), for the International Choir Festival.

As a composer Schönberger has manifested himself primarily in the theatre (the music theatre work ‘Verhuisbericht’ in 1983, incidental stage music), until he returned to the concert hall in 1997 with ‘En nergens Bach’. A lifelong love of the theatre and for just the right word inspired him to write a number of plays, including ‘Kwartetten’ (1999), about a string quartet and played by four actors and a string quartet.

His most recent works include:

  • Caliban Sings‘ (Three Songs from William Shakespeare’s The Tempest) for mezzo-soprano and ensemble;
  • Tempo impetuoso d’estate sull’ esempio di Vivaldi‘: for ensemble;
  • Solemn and Strange Music‘: for ensemble;
  • Nobodyes Gigge‘: for ensemble.

In 1990 he was awarded the Pierre Bayle Prize for music criticism.

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Willem van Otterloo

Willem van Otterloo was born on December 27th, 1907, in Winterwijk. His father was the deputy manager for the Dutch Railways, which explains his lifelong passion for (model) railways. Van Otterloo died in a car accident in Melbourne in 1978.

After finishing school, Van Otterloo went to study medicine in Utrecht, but a few years later he enrolled as a student at the Conservatory of Amsterdam. There he studied with Henrik Andriessen, cello with Max Orobio de Castro and composition with Sem Dresden.

Immediately after Van Otterloo’s graduation in 1932 he got a position as a cellist with the Utrecht City Orchestra. In this orchestra, he started his career as a conductor; first as second conductor and from 1937 as principal conductor.

In 1949, he became the conductor of the Residentie Orkest. He was an esteemed conductor abroad too, conducting orchestras such as the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, the Symphony Orchestra of La Scala (Milan), the symphonic orchestras of Madrid and Lisbon, the Hallé Orchestra in England, the State Radio Orchestra of Denmark, the Orchestres Lamoureux and Pasdeloup in Paris, the State Radio Orchestra of Buenos Aires, and the Orchestra of the South African Radio.

Van Otterloo taught conducting at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague. He was also involved in the Dutch Radio Union conducting course (Nederlandse Omroep Stichting).

After his retirement in 1972, he moved to Australia, where he was the conductor of the symphony orchestras of Sydney and Melbourne. He devoted himself in his spare time to portrait photography instead of composing

During his time in Australia, he was the general music director of the Düsseldorf Symphoniker from 1974 to 1977.

“Australian musicians revered Van Otterloo for his vast musical knowledge, authenticity, empathetic musicality and strong discipline. His ability to train orchestras to professional standards and to aspire to world-class performance was a special gift. As a conductor he was one of the ‘dry-stick’ school, but his reputation in Australia was as a musician capable of great emotion, who elicited the best from his players, even if he was reserved and punctilious. His style exacted a fine orchestral sound which avoided the spectacular.” (Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002)

His own compositions included a symphony, three suites and a string trio.

Van Otterloo was awarded a prize by the Concertgebouw Orchestra for his Suite No.3 in 1932. In recognition of his outstanding contribution to European music, he was appointed to the orders of Oranje-Nassau and the Lion of the Netherlands, the Dannebrog (Denmark), and to the Légion d’honneur (France), among other honors.

Rudolf Escher

Rudolf George Escher was born on January 8th, 1912 in Amsterdam. He was the son of Emma Brosy and geologist Berend George Escher, who also gave him piano lessons. On March 17th, 1989, Escher died from an incurable liver disease.

Rudolf Escher attended high school in Leiden and took piano lessons with Bé Hartz.

After four years of high school, Escher quit in 1929 to study at the Conservatory in Cologne. In preparation for this transition, he started to study the piano seriously, following the advice of the composer, Peter van Anrooy. He also started to take violin and harmony classes.

In 1931, Escher went to the Rotterdam Conservatory where he studied piano, with an additional course in cello. With the Rotterdam organist J.H. Besselaar jr., he also qualified in counterpoint, which played an important role in his compositions. In 1934, he studied composition with Willem Pijper.

Escher wrote an essay entitled “Toscanini en Debussy, magie der werkelijkheid,” in which he advocates the importance of good listening. It has been published by D. van Sijn & Zonen in Rotterdam. Some of his poems appeared in the magazine “Forum.”

Until 1951, Escher was a board member of the Dutch Opera and in 1947 he was appointed to the Board of the Stichting Nederlandse Muziekbelangen.

In 1961, Escher gave composition lessons at the Amsterdam Conservatory and was a board member of the Dutch Society for Contemporary Music.

From 1964 to 1975, Escher was a senior lecturer at the Institute of Musicology, University of Utrecht. He taught a course called “Aspects of contemporary music.” In carefully prepared lectures, he performed highly detailed shape- and structure analyzes. Escher called serialism “a violent, revolutionary movement.”

In 1935, Escher made his debut as a composer with his first piano sonata.

Most of his student works have been lost due to the bombing of Rotterdam on May 14, 1940. However, some of them remain, and his main war compositions include the orchestral work Musique pour l’esprit en deuil (1943), the Sonata Concertante (1943) for cello and piano, Arcana Musae Dona (1944) for piano, and the first two parts of the Sonata per violoncello solo (1948).

The theme of war and peace resound in some works that Escher composed after 1945, such as the orchestral piece Hymne du Grand Meaulnes (1951) and Le vrai visage de la paix (1953) for eight-part choir. Musicologist Leo Samama says about Songs of Love and Eternity, composed in 1955 on poems by Emily Dickinson, that “it should be considered to be the best written a cappella choral music in our country”.

In 1959, Escher worked in the studios for electronic music in Delft and Utrecht. Commissioned by AVRO Television, he composed electronic music for the television play “The Long Christmas Dinner” (1960).

For Musique pour l’esprit en deuil (1943), Escher received the Music Prize from the City of Amsterdam.
In 1977, he was awarded the Johan Wagenaar Prize for his entire oeuvre.