Hans Koolmees

Hans Koolmees
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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.

Hans 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. Currently, he is chairman of the Union of Dutch Composers.

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, the Schöneberg Quartet, 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 his newly completed orchestral piece ‘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‘ takes place in Dordrecht. Hans Koolmees stays for a year in the Theo van Doesburg House, in the French village of Meudon, near Paris. This former studio of Van Doesburg serves today as a temporary residence for artists.

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

Latest publications

24 capriccio’s voor viool solo
Hans Koolmees / Ringing the Changes : for organ and MIDI
Hans Koolmees / The Fox and the Wild Boar : for soprano and bassoon
Hans Koolmees / Van Straten XL : Versie voor het hoofdorgel van de Laurenskerk, Rotterdam
Hans Koolmees / The Chromatic City (Rotterdam Concerto IV) : for recorder, pan flute and chamber orchestra