Kees Arntzen was born on 5 September 1957 in Amsterdam.
After finishing his degree in music education and guitar at the Amsterdam Conservatorium, Kees Arntzen studied theory and composition at the Hochschule für Musik in Vienna for three years in the 1980's. He studied music theory with Paul Kont, instrumentation with Johannes Dürr and composition with Friedrich Cerha. His lessons with Boguslaw Schäffer in Salzburg liberated Arntzen's working method and renewed the interest of ORF- radio in his Trio for piano, percussion and violin. During that period several of Arntzen's compositions were performed at the festival for modern music in Alpenbad. The Festival Aspekte in Salzburg performed his microtonal composition 'Onder ons' (between you and me) for two guitars. After a long hiatus, Kees Arntzen took up composing again at the end of the 1990's, this time he was coached by Dutch composer Daan Manneke. In addition to his composing activities, Kees Arntzen is also a professional visual artist specialized in graphic art and water colour. He combines these diciplines in projects such as “Gia Sena” (a series of graphic scores for several solo instruments) and “Merry Maxims” (illustrated canons for vocal ensemble). In these projects Arntzen always tries to create a meaningful link between image and sound. Another example of such a multidisciplinary work is the series of graphic illustrations he made to accompany his guitar arrangements of “Arie Antiche,” a classic of the vocal training repertoire.
Compositions and performances
Parts of the composition ‘Widmung’ were performed by guitarist Wim Hoogewerf for Radio 4 in April 2001. A similarly titled CD containing old and new compostitions for solo guitar, harpsichord, as well as a duet entitled “Knipoog” (the wink) was released a year later. The Koor Nieuwe Muziek' (New Music Choir) successfully premiered HTW 1/2. Romain Bischoff conducted the Cluster Chamber Choir in a performance of ‘Fuite’ and the commissioned 'Louenge à la Court' for a cappella choir in march 2003. For organist Joop van Goossen, Arntzen wrote 'Esquisses de Sylvestre' (2002). The Dutch 'Fonds voor Scheppende Toonkunst' commissioned him to write'“Tal mi fec’io' for the Franciscus String Quartet, which was performed a number of times in 2004 and 2005. The Amsterdam South district supported the initiative to write a summer opera to be performed during the 'Open Atelier Dagen' (Open Workshop Days). This chamber opera entitled ‘Phenomenon' (an allegory of the life of pop-hero Herman Brood) featuring a libretto of Renée Harp, was performed concertante in the summer of 2004. Further works were premiered during the 2004-2005 season by flutist Eleonore Pameijer and singer Irene Maessen ('Poesia d’amore di donna'), as well as a song cycle based on poems by Kurt Tucholsky. This resulted in performances in Berlin and Vienna (Festival Wien Modern). In the fall of 2005 the accompanying CD was released. On request of duo Verso he wrote ‘Disfraz’ for pan flute and guitar, and Czech Bennewitz Quartet asked him to write ‘Kurzweil’ for clarinet and string quartet in 2006.
2007 saw the premieres of ‘Sfumatura’ and 'Dove c’è tutto', both written for chamber orchestra, during the festival for modern music in Rosario, Argentina. That same year, tenor Marcel Beekman premiered the 'Mello-songs' for voice, flute and guitar. Two years later Arntzen wrote song cycle 'Chuva de Epoca' for him, featuring Portuguese lyrics. An arrangement of these songs for Baroque instruments was performed in 2009 in the Muziekgebouw aan het IJ in Amsterdam. In 2010, guitarist Wim Hoogewerf premiered the guitar concert 'Haz clic' in Rosario.
2017 saw the premieres of 'Leuke Spreuken' (Merry Maxims) and the organ piece 'Fammi Mi-Fa'. The German ensemble ‘61strings' performed his Schreker adaptation of 'Der Geburtstag der Infantin at the European Centre for Jewish Music in the Villa Seligmann in Hannover in 2018. At an exhibition entitled ‘Bestiary’ at the Villa Wertheimstein in Vienna his 'Five Insect Songs' for clavier and voice were premiered. At this occasion, a number of etchings and engravings on the theme of ‘Dierkens’ (tiny critters) – some of which were created in collaboration with textile artist Jo-Anne Kobald – were exposed. Earlier that same year the work ‘Disfraz’ was first performed in its entirety in Amsterdam. In the summer of that year the Ensemble Rosario executed two new compositions for chamber orchestra entitled 'Habibi cum Figuris' – a play on the names of several well-known composers – and '…dejar abajo…', a double concerto for flute, guitar and orchestra. A new CD containing these works will be released in the spring of 2020.