Willem Jeths – Ritratto, a living artwork

Ritratto – the Italian word for ‘portrait’ is the title of a new opera by Willem Jeths, the first Laureate Composer of The Netherlands (2014-2016), who was fascinated by a painting depicting Luisa Casati. The opera will be performed by DNO in March in Amsterdam…   

Luisa Casati

The young orphaned and married, excessively wealthy Italian Marquesa Casati strove to be seen throughout her life. She was famous for the exuberant parties she organized. She allowed herself to be portrayed or photographed by numerous artists. With her black-rimmed eyes, her flaming red hair and eccentric behaviour she tried to gain a place in the art world.

Against the background of the war, librettist Frank Siera questions the importance of art. At a feast of Casati, Siera brings together all sorts of artists from the time of Casati. At the time, it was the futurists who paved the way for fascism with their art. Casati does not engage with secular problems and focuses on her passion. In the opera she goes even further than in real life; by not seeing, she tries to be seen herself.


Willem Jeths

Ritratto’s composer Willem Jeths – from 2014 to 2016 the first Laureate Composer of The Netherlands – likes to play with orchestral colours and carefully chooses the timbres that suit his characters when he writes an opera: ‘I am convinced that music can be stronger and more expressive if you can identify with it’.


Design and libretto

The performances of director Marcel Sijm are surprising and often full of humour, with a major role for exuberant design. His collaboration with set designer Marc Warning in Legend was a fine example of this. For Ritratto, Marc Warning once again designs the set. We can look forward with excitement to the costumes of Jan Taminiau for Ritratto. He is known for the blue cloak that Queen Maxima wore during the inauguration of King Willem-Alexander. The brand-new libretto is by the young writer and director Frank Siera, who graduated from the Toneelacademie in 2012, and who wrote not only for De Nationale Opera but also for Veenfabriek, KASSETT, Operafront and De Queeste.


Amsterdam Sinfonietta

Amsterdam Sinfonietta has been the only professional string orchestra in the Netherlands for thirty years and performs all over the world. The ensemble, which consists of 22 strings, is led by violinist and artistic director Candida Thompson. The repertoire includes a variety of musical styles, from baroque to contemporary.


Team & cast

More info


Ritratto at the Donemus catalogue

Podcast about Willem Jeths’ opera Ritratto

Dutch public broadcaster NTR will launch a podcast in mid-February about Willem Jeths’ new opera, Ritratto. In eight episodes the listener is taken behind the scenes and it becomes clear how the music theatre is set up…   

During his long career Willem Jeths received several awards and distinctions for his works. In 2014, for example, he was appointed the first ‘Laureate Composer’ of the Netherlands. That same year he was awarded the Amsterdam Prize for the Arts. His new work, Ritratto, will premiere during the fifth edition of the Opera Forward Festival, which will take place in Amsterdam from 13 to 22 March.

Podcast maker Stef Visjager, known as host of Parel Radio at NPO Radio 1, followed the process closely for a year and a half. The podcast discusses how, for example, the first version of the opera was created and how sets, costumes and props were created.

Dates of theatre performances after the festival will still be announced. The first episode of podcast Hoe het te maken in de opera (How to make it in the opera) will appear on the NPO Radio 4 website on 15 February. After that, new broadcasts will be posted weekly on Saturday.

Website Radio 4

More info about the opera Ritratto

Patrick van Deurzen – Sura Cantate

The Dutch composer Patrick van Deurzen (1964) has already written many vocal works performed by renowned ensembles such as the Flemish Radio Choir, the Latvian Radio Choir, Wishful Singing, The Gents and the National Youth Choir. His last composition, the Sura Cantate (2019), is a six-part composition about Sura van Dordrecht who appears in court after her death to ask forgiveness for her murderers…   

The music and text develops from darkness to light. First movements are about the preparations for the hanging of the murderers, with an important role for the people (choir) who call for revenge. At the end of the third movement Sura’s spirit (soprano) appears and asks the people to be gentle. In the following parts, thanks to Sura’s plea, the people change their minds, forgive the murderers and finally sing the unconditional love to Sura.

The writer Jules Terlingen has added the son of one of the murderers (boy soprano) to the original story, which gives an extra dimension to the perspective of guilt, penance and forgiveness. The music is direct and goes from dark, ominous sounds that support the revenge of the people, through lyrical melodies of Sura, to ecstatic love music.

The commission for the work, supported by the Performing Arts Fund, comes from the Merwe’s Oratorium Association (MOV) in honour of their 100th anniversary. Conducted by Patrick van der Linden, the choir, together with the Ars Musica Orkest and Heleen Koele (soprano), will premiere the Cantata on 13 March 2020 in the Antonius Church in Dordrecht. The composition has been made financially possible by a subsidy from the Fonds Podiumkunsten.

Patrick van Deurzen – Sura Cantate (text Jules Terlingen) can be performed in two versions: choir, soloists, organ and percussion; and choir, soloists, orchestra and percussion.

(*) article from Zing Magazine (2020)

Read more on the website of MOV

Sura Cantate at Donemus

Info & tickets for the concert

Yannis Kyriakides awarded with the Johan Wagenaar Prize 2020

On the recommendation of the Johan Wagenaar Foundation, the municipality of The Hague awards the Johan Wagenaar Prize 2020 to composer Yannis Kyriakides. This composition prize is awarded once every four years for an entire oeuvre and is unique in the Netherlands. Kyriakides will receive the Johan Wagenaar Prize from the Municipality of The Hague during Festival Day in the Branding on Saturday 12 December 2020. On different locations in The Hague ensemble Maze and the Bozzini Quartet will perform works by Kyriakides…   

Johan Wagenaar Prize

The Johan Wagenaar Prize is one of the composition prizes of the Municipality of The Hague, curated by the Johan Wagenaar Foundation (JWS). The prize is awarded once every four years for an entire oeuvre and in that sense it is unique in the Netherlands. This prize consists of a cash prize of €25,000 and the performance of works from the oeuvre of the winning composer.
Robert van Asten, Alderman for Mobility and Culture of the Municipality of The Hague: “We stimulate a strong and healthy cultural sector and help artists and performers at all levels to grow further.”

From the jury report

This time the professional jury consisted of Masa Spaan, Calliope Tsoupaki, Guus Janssen, Saskia Lankhoorn, Joseph Puglia, Diamanda Dramm, Joep Stapel and Pieter van Loenen. In their jury report they wrote praising words about Yannis Kyriakides: “Kyriakides dares to question himself in every work he writes. His oeuvre bears witness to an inquisitive spirit that has never lost its playfulness. Methodically and steadily he works on a large oeuvre of high quality, characterized by the richness of ideas and the unnatural application of electronics and extra-musical elements”.

Yannis Kyriakides

Yannis Kyriakides (Cyprus, 1969) is a Dutch composer of contemporary music. In his music he often combines conventional musical instruments with electronics and digital media. Kyriakides studied at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague with Louis Andriessen and Dick Raaijmakers. In 2000 he won the Gaudeamus Prize for his composition a conSPIracy cantata (1999).
Kyriakides is commissioned by and for various ensembles and orchestras. Since 2005 Kyriakides has been the artistic director of the Maarten Altena Ensemble, together with Ronald Spekle, which they renamed ensemble MAE. In 2011 his CD Antichambers in Paris received a Qwartz Electronic and New Music Award in the category Experiment and Research. That year he also received the Buma Toonzettersprijs for Best New Dutch Composition in 2010 for his work Paramyth for violin, clarinet, piano and computer. In 2011 Yannis Kyriakides received the Willem Pijper Prize from the municipality of The Hague for his work Dreams of the Blind.
As a teacher at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague Kyriakides has had a great influence on a new generation of composers.
In Kyriakides’ oeuvre an organic development can be seen which shows a deep reflection on the nature of his music. Kyriakides is a multifaceted composer, he has written for various line-ups from solo to orchestra and from dance to audio-visual installations – and in everything there is a clear form of his own that makes his work very recognizable. Kyriakides is a highly skilled and intelligent artist who knows how to combine this skill with the wonder and creativity of an open mind.

Johan Wagenaar Foundation

The Johan Wagenaar Foundation was founded by the Municipality of The Hague in 1947, and its main objective is to stimulate and promote new and contemporary music. The awarding and presentation of the municipal music prizes are part of this. The foundation is also the driving force behind Dag in de Branding, the festival for new music that takes place four times a year in The Hague.

More info

Yannis Kyriakides at Donemus

Works at the Donemus catalogue

CD release by Maxim Shalygin

On February 15th the new CD of Maxim Shalygin will be released by the TRPTK label: Todos los fuegos el fuego. Be there at the Duif in Amsterdam, starting at 20h…   

Fire piece for eight saxophonists that immerses the listener in a mystical act, sparking off the imagination and opening up unknown emotional conditions.

Two of the Netherlands’ most exciting saxophone quartets join forces to perform Todos los fuegos el fuego by the Dutch/Ukrainian composer Maxim Shalygin. Shalygin drew his inspiration for this work from short stories contained in the book of the same name by the Argentinian writer Julio Cortázar. The eight-part composition is performed by eight saxophonists because, according to the composer, this family of instruments is best equipped to convey the stories – with a combination of subtle and mysterious sounds and furious outbursts.


“Writing music for specific orchestras that consists of various instruments, as became the default during the 20th century, has lost its appeal to me over the last couple of years. My musical language is more suited to ensembles that have an unconventional configuration, for example in Marian Antiphons for 12 voices a cappella, Insane Dances for saxophone quartet, Six Bagatelles for Two Violins, and Suite — Homage to Alfred Schnittke for three cellos. This is why I have begun to work on a cycle, Similar, that will keep me occupied for years to come, starting from its first chapter Lacrimosa or 13 Magic Songs for seven violins.

Back in 2006, when writing Trio for violin, cello and piano, I named the draft after The Devil’s Drool, a collection of short stories by the great Julio Cortázar. Now, eleven years later, the trio is still in its draft stage, but my affinity with Cortázar’s art has only become stronger, and I felt a great need and urge to enter into a creative dialogue with this author. Therefore, the second chapter of the life-long Similar cycle constitutes a mysterious and exciting link between music and literature.

My inspiration was Todos Los Fuegos El Fuego, arguably the most enigmatic book by the great Cortázar. All the short stories in this collection share an exit into a parallel, magic reality, sometimes near to our own, sometimes strikingly different from it. Their forms provoke peculiar musical dramaturgic solutions, whereby an abundance of pseudo-musical forms enables for the creation of a unique atmosphere, using an expanded variety of performance techniques.

The suite’s overall structure consists of eight parts, performed by eight saxophone players — as many as there are stories in the book (and syllables in its title, which, incidentally, sounds like a saxophone phrase by itself). The saxophone is chosen for a reason, since, for all his knowledge and passion for music, jazz claimed most of Cortázar’s attention. Jazz, and accordingly the sound of the saxophone, was his muse and a constant presence in many of his most well-known fiction. Moreover, the saxophone is involved in many mystical moments in music, literature, and, last but not least, cinema — another fascination I share with the author.”

– Maxim Shalygin


‘Todos los fuegos el fuego’ is at the TOP 5 of the best performances in 2019 by Joep Christenhusz in NRC Handelsblad.

‘Devastating, breathtaking. They played with almost superhuman dedication and control. A stirring event, on that the listeners could all agree.’  — Brabants Dagblad

Book ‘Arabesk’ about Simeon ten Holt by John Heymans

John Heymans wrote the book ‘Arabesk’ about Simeon ten Holt. read the review by Wim Huijser. The book is published by IJzer…   

Several places had an iconic circle of artists before the Second World War. For example, there was an Amsterdam, Dordrecht and Groningen School. In Bergen in the province of Noord-Holland, however, people spoke about the ‘Berger gang’. They included the composer Jakob van Domselaer and his son Jaap, the poets A. Roland Holst and Gerrit Kouwenaar, and the writer H.C. ten Berge, as well as Simeon ten Holt (1923-2012). It was the artistic environment that initially inspired the young composer, but from which he also felt compelled to look for his own tone, his own sound.

Although John Heymans’ book Arabesk was announced as a biography, it is not, or it should be the biography of Simeon ten Holt’s most beloved composition – Canto Ostinato – albeit with an extensive history. In writing, however, Heymans chose a literary perspective from which he not only followed Ten Holt’s artistic development, but also that of other ‘members’ of the Berger gang. Heymans was curious about the answer to the question of what it is like to be acclaimed as a beloved composer after a lifetime of playing in relative anonymity. And with a composition that is actually at odds with everything this composer initially believed in.

Artist village

J. Heymans (1954), originally a mathematician and technology philosopher, was himself a friend of Simeon ten Holt for thirty years. Based on their meetings, letters, diary excerpts and conversations with close friends, he describes Ten Holt’s musical wanderings in Arabesque, which at the same time creates a beautiful image of the artists’ village of Bergen. It was here that Ten Holt, son of the painter Henri ten Holt, became friends at primary school with the son of his later teacher, the musician Jakob van Domselaer. The Natteweg, the Doorntjes, the Groeneweg and the Nesdijk; as a reader you have the tendency to regularly check the map of the village of Bergen to see exactly where all the houses and cottages that were inhabited by artists of the Berger gang stood. The young Simeon liked to visit the Van Domselaers. He also knew the aristocratic atmosphere that hung there from home. As he himself said: ‘From childhood I was raised with the idea that you have two kinds of dogs: breed dogs and street dogs’. Both the Ten Holts and the Van Domselaers clearly belonged to the first kind. Already at the age of fifteen, Simeon ten Holt left secondary school to study with Van Domselaer for about seven years. This made his pupils familiar with the thinking and acting of the uncompromising artist. Ten Holt heard a lot about Van Domselaer himself, but learned little from the subject. Soon he started composing a piano piece under his own steam. Opus 1, however, which he never rejected as a youthful sin, was a firm reaction to the Bergen milieu.


At the end of 1949, Simeon ten Holt left his wife Marie Dagnelie and their two young children to go to Paris with his youngest sister at the bonus tournament. It is an important biographical fact that is more or less hidden in the chapter ‘The tone master’. As said: Heymans did not want to write a biography and left the story of Ten Holt’s life to the composer himself, who would later write his own memoirs with Het woud en de citadel, based on the diary Ten Holt kept throughout his life from his departure to France.
In Paris Ten Holt was brought into contact with the Swiss composer Arthur Honegger and Darius Milhaud, with whom he attended lectures. He did not learn much there, but according to his own words he was probably more there to experience the anecdotal side of the world and to meet himself. After his return to the Netherlands in the autumn of 1951 Ten Holt worked on new work for piano: 20 Bagatelles, Twelve Short Pieces and the Sonata 1953 with which he performed in the Bergen dance hall of De Rustende Jager in 1956.

Befriended poets

Meanwhile the friendship with H.C. ten Berge had started. In his book Heymans takes every opportunity to explain the relationship with these and other ‘side-figures’, referring among other things to Ten Berge’s novels about his alter ego Edgar Moortgat, in which A. Roland Holst also figures as Roelands van Holthuis. Roland Holst and Ten Holt befriended each other for half a century and also for a period of time each other’s neighbour. The composer lived in three places that were a few dozen steps away from the villa of the Prince of the Poets. According to Ten Holt, Roland Holst had no knowledge of music, but that was no problem for the friendship. Both liked to listen to records with the voice of Dylan Thomas.
The long introductions, such as those about the work of Ten Berge, Heymans considered useful because the poetry of the poet and sole editor of the magazine Raster testified to an artistic attitude he had in common with the composer. Both recognized each other a lot and liked to work ‘from nowhere’. Simeon ten Holt, too, after emerging from Van Domselaer’s compelling world of thought, constantly sought new forms in which to try out his musical ideas. A highlight in Ten Berge’s oeuvre, according to Heymans, is his ‘Nine comments on Canto Ostinato’, included in the collection Liederen van angst en vertwijfeling (Songs of Fear and Despair, 1988).

Circle of fifths

In the sixties Simeon ten Holt developed his ‘diagonal idea’ which boils down to ‘the simultaneous and equal performance of the overburdened tone series of the circle of fifths’. The composer found a similarity with ‘the structure of the human psyche’. In doing so, he was able to turn God-Divilism within himself ‘into the foundation of a personal perspective on [his] identity’. Ten Holt had come to this diagonal idea out of an aversion to good bourgeoisie and classical tonality.
With his major work ..A/.TA-LON (1968) for mezzo-soprano and 36 musicians playing and talking, however, a turning point was reached in his work and in the mid-seventies Ten Holt wanted to regain physical contact with his musical material. The composition initially threatened to remain unplayed, but was to be performed in 1978.
A year later, Ten Holt created something exclusive for piano with Interpolations. In his own words he broke with all kinds of social phenomena that perpetuated tonality, such as ‘slavery and serfdom, possession and abuse of power, privilege and injustice’, big words that were not unusual in this era.

A revelation

In the period that followed the atonal work, Ten Holt wanted to look for a different musical horizon. At the end of 1969 he therefore enrolled as a student at the Institute of Sonology in Utrecht and in Bergen he built an electronic studio in which he did preparatory work for his electronic compositions. Until he had had enough of serial work, electronic music and the computer. With the computer you can get far with schematizing your imagination’, Ten Holt thought, ‘but the danger is that the means then becomes the end and the music is forgotten with the surprising sounds (accumulations).
In his private studio he had meanwhile started on the wing in a piece that contrasted sharply with everything he had made before. In doing so, he went against the prevailing avant-garde. For the time being he gave it the name ‘Perpetuum’. A first insight into this had already been given to him in June 1975 during the first concert of the Philip Glass Ensemble in the Concertgebouw. According to Ten Holt himself it was ‘a revelation’. Although he did not feel directly related to Glass, the American had given him a sign. In the summer of 1976 the composer completed a first version of ‘Perpetuum’. The premiere of what was eventually to be called Canto Ostinato took place on 25 April 1979 in the Ruïnekerk in Bergen. It was performed by four pianists: in addition to ten Holt himself, the more or less friendly pianists Andries Hubers, Chaim Levano and Stanley Hoogland. To ensure continuity, the performance during the break was smoothly taken over by a tape that the musicians had played in advance. According to the composer himself the first performance was ‘relatively successful’. H.C. ten Berge, however, called it ‘a well-intentioned failure that left the audience somewhat bewildered’. It was only in the following years that the broad appreciation of the repetitive composition would gradually increase. In any case, with his recent work Ten Holt had brought about a return to ‘an almost shameful eloquence’: ‘tonality after the death of tonality’, or ‘God after the death of God’. The reaction he invariably received from friends and passers-by from that moment on was: ‘It’s nice that you’re composing tonally again, boy! The piece would later be played by the ‘Haagse’ team consisting of pianists Gerard Bouwhuis, Arielle Vernède, Cees van Zeeland and Gene Carl, but also by Kees Wieringa and Polo de Haas, Ivo Janssen and Jeroen van Veen. The latter still regularly organizes so-called lying concerts around this work, which even have a therapeutic effect for many listeners.

Euphonious avant-garde

With Lemniscaat (1982-1983) Ten Holt composed the next large piece of which the marathon performance started on 1 July 1983 and lasted more than thirty hours. However, it would not get the fame of the Canto. Whereas the Canto was a prolonged piece of music consisting of repetitions of a series of successive motifs, Lemniscaat remained stuck in an eternal movement, without beginning or end.
H.C. ten Berge summed up Canto Ostinato as:

‘Euphonious avant-garde. A term that connects two poles: that of tradition and renewal, that of the ingrained track and the virgin territory. At times blatantly romantic in which feelings that were forbidden are suddenly stirred up, at times also digging and rooting […]’.

In spite of the fact that the Canto has only fierce supporters and opponents and it initially took a lot of effort to sell the gramophone album, sales were steady. Gradually, however, in Heymans’ words, it took the form of a ‘cantorry’. In the nineties the piece received more and more attention and more pianists and other musicians included it in their repertoire. It appeared in many versions on CD and in the concert hall. Ramón Gieling made a film about Canto Ostinato and thus about Simeon ten Holt with Tussen front en thuisfront. It was his reclusion in particular that was magnified in the film, which was broadcast in March 1988 as an episode of the NOS art programme Beeldspraak. This made both the composer and his creation widely known, not to say world-famous. About his best-known work and what followed, Ten Holt himself wrote that this was the product of an individualist ‘who looks forward to a world in which people can listen to each other and refrain from debilitating ambition and be satisfied with the simple details of existence’.

Circle of friends

Arabesk is not a biography; the death of Simeon ten Holt in 2012 is therefore limited to a mention on the dust jacket. When it comes to the last years of the composer’s life, his elitist attitude is particularly striking, as are his egocentric and capricious traits. Friendships, including those with H.C. ten Berge, were sometimes terminated overnight. In the distance, this phenomenon is reminiscent of the circle of friends in the novel Bij naderzien (On closer inspection, 1963) by J.J. Voskuil, the writer to whom J. Heymans once devoted his book Lam naast leuw (Lamb next to lion, 2000). But in my opinion there is more kinship between the Berger gang and Voskuil’s universe. Heymans wrote with Arabesk a fascinating and occasionally ‘dramatic’ work – albeit sometimes with a bit too many repetitions – in which artistic friends end up in a comparable musical chair dance, but in which ambitions are eventually realised. As the publisher at the back of the book writes: ‘This sounds like the given for a novel’.
In the ‘Final chord’ of his monograph, the author explains why this book had to be written. This gives a nice retrospective of how he himself had discovered the Canto Ostinato, at a time when the composer was still taunted for his masterpiece.

Order the book

Arabesk. Over Simeon ten Holt
J. Heymans
Uitgeverij IJzer
ISBN 9789086841868

Dutch Student Chamber Choir performs Mark van Platen

The Nederlands Studenten Kamerkoor investigates the power of love in Chants d’Amour. From 14 February to 1 March 2020 NSK conducted by Béni Csillag will tour the Netherlands with a concert series on love with works by Rudolf Escher and Mark van Platen and more…    

The Nederlands Studenten Kamerkoor (Dutch Student Chamber Choir) will tour the Dutch student cities from 14 February to 1 March 2020 with a program called Chants d’Amour. Under the direction of conductor Béni Csillag, the NSK will investigate how love shapes a human life. The project is the second part in a triptych about human existence. The NSK works together with commissioned composer Mark van Platen and the young percussionist David de Goede.


The program offers a triptych about human existence with the themes of beginning, life and the end. Chants d’Amour is the second part in the cycle. Between birth and death, love passes at unexpected moments and releases all kinds of emotions. Chants d’Amour is a programme about the feelings of suffering to happiness that love brings about. Central is the twelve-part, orchestral Épithalame by André Jolivet, which he wrote as a tribute to his wife after twenty years of marriage. The programme includes more French works, such as Ubi Caritas by Duruflé, parts from Debussy’s Trois Chansons and Ravel’s Trois Chansons. Two Dutch works will also be performed. The NSK sings the Songs of Love and Eternity of Rudolf Escher. The second Dutch work is the commissioned composition Aspetti d’amore by Mark van Platen.

World premiere

Every year NSK is looking for special collaborations. In 2020 the NSK will be working with two composers and one soloist. Contract composer Mark van Platen wrote the challenging Aspetti d’amore for eight voices especially for the NSK. NSK also sings a special choral arrangement of the song cycle Frauenliebe und -Leben by Schumann, arranged by Wijnand van Klaveren. The young soloist David de Goede has a special role to play. In various pieces he enters into a musical dialogue with the choir on percussion.

Special project choir

Since 1974 the NSK has been reconstituted every year as a choir of the 40 most talented amateur singers from the Dutch student world. During an intensive rehearsal period of three weekends and a rehearsal week they study a modern-classical programme under the direction of conductor Béni Csillag. The singers are assisted by vocal coaches Esther Putter and Niels Kuijers and rehearsal coach Johannes Gierl. The tour goes past nine student cities throughout the Netherlands and is traditionally concluded with a dazzling final concert in the Kleine Zaal of the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.

More info and tickets

Aspetti d’amore in the Donemus catalogue

Joey Roukens in String Quartet Biennale Amsterdam

On February 1 Dudok Quartet will present a sparkling program in the String Quartet Biennale Amsterdam with its culmination on the world premiere of the newest string quartet ‘What Remains’ by Joey Roukens. Next to Roukens there will be one of his favorite composers: Jean-Philippe Rameau whose pieces Roukens had freely revised for that occasion…   

What Remains is a 25-minute string quartet by Joey Roukens, commissioned by the String Quartet Biennale Amsterdam and written for the outstanding Dudok Quartet Amsterdam. It is Roukens’ String Quartet No. 4, his previous two string quartets having been written for the now disbanded Rubens Quartet, with which he had a long collaboration. What Remains is cast in two big movements: a fast and a slow movement. The first movement is a motoric post-minimalist essay that explores the interweaving of pulse-like patterns: it has a driving energy that gets more and more manic as the movement progresses. The second movement is generally slow and contemplative, with echoes of ‘Early Music’ polyphony, but it also contains a strange, darkly grooving, fast middle section leading up to a big climax.

The title refers to the compositional approach on the one hand: while writing the piece Roukens kept stripping down the melodic/motivic aspect, often reducing the music to only texture – pulsating triads overlapping, slowly morphing harmonies, a single note being obsessively repeated. On the other hand, the title has a poetic quality in tune with the character of the music, in which there is often a feeling of ‘something remaining’ from a previous state or time  – remnants, ruins, memories and ’ghosts’ of the past (such as the Renaissance overtones in the second movement).

The Dudok Quartet increasingly looks beyond the Dutch borders, but feels very much at home in Roukens’ music: “It is irrelevant in the compositions of Joey Roukens to speak about classical or non-classical music. His music is just music that fits into the 21st century. “

More info and tickets

Joey Roukens at Donemus

What Remains at the Donemus catalogue

Jan-Peter de Graaff’s ‘Pascal’ by Norrbotten Neo

On February 3rd the Swedish ensemble Norrbotten Neo will perform the world premiere of Jan-Peter de Graaff’s ‘Pascal’. This work was commissioned by the Swedish Radio and the International Rostrum of Composers (IRC). It will be conducted by Baldur Brönniman…   

Pascal is inspired by the movement of air (and thereby the creation of wind) from high to low pressure, according to the law of Buys-Ballot (Pascal is the metric unit for measuring Air Pressure). In the piece Jan-Peter de Graaff tried to translate the speed and pressure of air to rhythm and harmony. In this way a high air pressure translates to harmonies where the pitches are close together (clusters around the middle C on the piano). Low pressure translates to pitches that are far away from each other (extremely high and low sounds).

The piece starts with a little prelude: a hyperactive flute solo, accompanied by pizzicato strings and percussion, dancing and twirling around. Then the ‘main part’ of the piece starts: one cluster of sounds slowly moves until clearer harmonies are emerging, as the individual musical lines are slowly moving away from each other. This results in a chorale that is moving step-by-step, sometimes pausing, insecure of its direction. More and more the piece opens up and melodies are audible that move in faster tempi, giving the piece more momentum, until the string trio within the ensemble starts rapidly accelerating, disconnecting from the ensemble, until a dazzling speed has been reached. Gradually more and more instruments join the string trio moving towards a climax featuring a distorted hyperactive version of the chorale that suddenly vanishes (like the eye in a storm). Just one chord remains, with pitches being extremely distant from each other. The piano starts an epilogue: fast moving chromatic scales upwards; the pressure starts to build again…

More info about the concert

Pascal at the Donemus catalogue

Jan-Peter de Graaff at Donemus

Alexey Sioumak – Frost, Red Nose

‘Frost, Red Nose’ is a chamber opera based on the poem by Nikolay Nekrasov with music by Alexey Sioumak, a music theater production of the experimental Theater Practice (Moscow). Read more about this intriguing production…   

This is a performance about death, and overcoming it, about pain, about grief, about disaster, about winter, about misfortune in their female dimension. All these words are feminine for some reason. In the center of the plot is a woman experiencing a loss. Death is something that everyone sooner or later faces in their life: the performance suggests following this path – from collision with catastrophe to rebellion, protest, and from it to acceptance, to the search for a way out and a solution. Opera in “The Theater Practice” offers to approach this topic by means of aesthetics. Thinking about the inevitable, about living grief occurs in a space of beauty – music, scenery, voices, in an atmosphere of a bewitching winter.

The opera, written by Alexei Sioumak specifically for Theater Practice, is an exclusive performance that reveals the complex and rich musical nature of Nekrasov’s text. For the theater, this is a kind of experiment – the first chamber opera in the repertoire. The performance includes musicians and vocalists – participants of the ensemble “Practice”, created in the theater in the spring of 2019, and a dramatic actress from the Brusnikin Workshop Yana Enzhaeva.

More info

Alexei Sioumak at Donemus