Jan-Peter de Graaff (*1992), born in Papendrecht and raised on the isle of Terschelling, started composing at the age of 15. After two years of private lessons in composition with Klaas ten Holt, he was admitted to the Bachelor studies in Musical Composition at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague in 2010, where he studied with Guus Janssen, Calliope Tsoupaki and Diderik Wagenaar (BMus 2014, MMus 2016). During his final year he took part in an Erasmus+ exchange programme which allowed him to study at the Royal College of Music (London) with prof. Kenneth Hesketh. During his composition studies, he studied orchestral conducting with Alex Schillings and Jos Vermunt as a minor subject.
Many of his compositions are recognised by a great amount of transparency and use of colour in harmony, structure and orchestration, with an important focus on dramatic arcs and melodic development, usually guided by striking rhythms. De Graaff’s works are inspired by a great amount of musical styles and idioms ranging from French baroque, Eastern and Northern European folk music traditions, to spectralism, jazz, tango and early Hollywood music. From these inspirations, De Graaff creates a musical language that feels familiar, yet still remains completely authentic in the way these influences are incorporated in larger structures, melodies and harmonic progressions. Avoiding clichés, or manipulating them to reveal a completely different musical universe behind it, one can see many of his works as a painting that has another painting under its surface layers, subtly shining through.
De Graaff’s oeuvre includes now about 50 works for various instrumentations, from solo and chamber music (both instrumental and vocal) to pieces for orchestra and Music Theatre. His music has been performed and commissioned by a great variety in orchestras and ensembles, including the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Dutch Radio Philharmonic, the Residentie Orchestra (The Hague Philharmonic), the David Kweksilber Big Band, Asko|Schönberg Ensemble, Netherlands Chamber Choir, Ruysdael String Quartet, Maya Fridman, Pieter van Loenen and Duo Kolthof & Van Raat. Performances took place in venues and music festivals both in The Netherlands and abroad. Several works have been recorded on CD and are available on the TRPTK label.
From 2017, De Graaff one of the artistic directors of Ensemble Shapeshift, a new ensemblevehicle for organising performances of recent and new composed music, music theatre and opera.
Martijn Padding (Head of composition, Royal Conservatoire The Hague) “His work is showing f.e. his deep knowledge of the subtle orchestration techniques of composers like Ravel, but also contain influences of spectral composing and many other typical contemporary techniques. Jan- Peter composes intelligent music that departs from human considerations. (…) He impressed many by his endless energy, his commitment to work on text and his concentration on musical details even when it concerns large scale works.”
Kenneth Hesketh (Composition professor, Royal College of Music, London) “Jan-Peter de Graaff’s compositions are carefully conceived, idiomatic in its instrumental approach and with a grateful sonic immediacy. The lyrical quality of his work allied to a rich approach to harmony is most attractive, redolent of invention, individual turn of phrase and felicitous detail.”
De Synode, chamber opera (2019)
“Composer Jan-Peter de Graaff, just in his late twenties, did provide them [the cast] with comfortable, singable lines, which are accompanied, at many times even pierced by multifunctional sound sculptures, performed by the 6-part ensemble Shapeshift. In contrast with spicy tutti’s there are subtle pizzicato sections, the tonally oriented idiom always finds a way to keep your attention, not even mentioning the subtle hints at church chorals and 17th century folk songs”
– Frits van der Waa, Volkskrant
Jutters, violin solo (2019)
“If someone predicted me that in a programme featuring Bach, Bartók and Jan-Peter de Graaff the composition of the latter would interest me the most, I would not have believed that person. Still it was the case. Pieter performed the piece with great dedication […] De Graaff’s new work was bursting with (literal) freshness, it was ‘playing’ in the double sense of the word […] How De Graaff ended up at Folk Tunes from Terschelling […], via beautiful outflanking pathways, full of structure while being unpredictable, was a captivating experience for the listener.”
– Dingeman van Wijnen, Friesch Dagblad
Le café de nuit, symphonic work (2018)
“De Graaff, who grew op on the Isle of Terschelling and studied at The Hague Conservatory, succeeds well, in the grossly 13-minute long, intriguing orchestral work, to summon an atmosphere of hedonism and constant threat. Stylistically, the piece flows in every direction, tonality is not eschewed and his control of the orchestral palet is remarkable for someone of 26 years old. Go listen!”
– Erik Voermans, Parool