Guus Janssen (1951) studied piano and composition at the Sweelinck Academy of Music in Amsterdam. His music is difficult to categorize. It can be a composed improvisation (Brake for pianosolo) or an improvised composition (parts from his Violin Concerto or his opera Noach). Music is like life itself, sometimes it asks for fast decisions and sometimes it needs to be thought over a lot.
Guus Janssen, born on May 13, 1951 in Heiloo, is a Dutch composer of contemporary music and a recording artist.
Guus Janssen studied composition with Ton de Leeuw and piano with Jaap Spaanderman and Ton Hartsuiker at the Sweelinck Academy of Music in Amsterdam.
As a pianist and harpsichordist, he frequently appears in large and small venues, from jazz cafes to the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, with musicians from John Zorn to Gidon Kremer. Since 1973, he has led his own ensembles, ranging from pianotrios to 11 piece band and opera orchestra.
As a soloist, playing mainly his own compositions and improvisations, he has appeared at a lot of international festivals. In addition he has performed with many of the leading Dutch ensembles and orchestras.
Guus released several CD’s. In 2008, his new pianosolo cd was released by GeestgrondenCd under the title ‘Out of frame’. It was received very enthusiastic by the Dutch press.
Currently, he is teaching at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague.
His work brings different musical worlds together: that of classical music with jazz and of composition with improvisation. He doesn’t blend them into a synthesis, but places them alongside each other in montages. In his composed pieces, there are passages where the musicians must improvise, and the improvisations in his jazz pieces are always structured and often rooted in visual impressions. Janssen composes instrumental and vocal music for a variety of ensemble types. Janssen’s music is capricious, unsettling and restless.
Janssen has a particular liking for (intentional) blunders, glitches, the breaking from an initial pattern. The result is music that continually keeps itself in perspective and never gets bogged down in ponderousness. His style has been described as sober, matter-of-fact, clear, even ‘typically Dutch’. Janssen himself says that he wants “to write music that is unbiased and open-minded toward all the ‘musics’ around us”. As a composer, he usually works closely with the performers to bridge as far as possible the gap between composition and performance.
His compositions range from piano music and string quartet to symphonic work. They have been widely played by, amongst others, the Kronos Quartet, the Schönberg Ensemble, the Ebony Band and the Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest.
So far, Janssen has composed four opera’ s in collaboration with Friso Haverkamp: ‘Faust’s Licht’ (1988/1993), ‘Noach’ (1994), ‘Hier°’ (2000) and ‘Blue, a Pinnocchio in reverse‘ (2010). ‘Noach’ has been staged again in Amsterdam by Dutch National Opera in January 1999.
Janssen’s achievements in the field of jazz and improvised music have been widely acclaimed. It was for them that he received the Boy Edgar Award, 1981. In recognition of his standing and quality as a composer, Janssen won the Matthijs Vermeulen Award in 1984.
In february 2008, his work ‘Verstelwerk‘ had its wildly acclaimed New York premiere in Zankell Hall performed by the Riverside Orchestra. His pianoconcerto ‘Vrije Tijd‘ (2011) was nominated for the dutch ‘Toonzettersprijs 2012’. In that same year, Janssen was honored with the prestigious Johan Wagenaar Award for his whole oeuvre.