In Memoriam Louis Andriessen

Handwritten title page with dedication and work duration for the manuscript of Zilver by Louis Andriessen. Black ink on white paper.

Louis Andriessen, composer. Handwritten title page with dedication for Zilver, 1994. ML30.3c.A56 no. 1 (Case), Koussevitzky Music Foundation Collection, Music Division.

Dutch composer, pianist, and teacher Louis Andriessen (1939-2021) passed away on July 1, 2021. He is connected to the Music Division through his 1993 Koussevitzky Music Foundation commission. His commissioned work Zilver, completed in 1994, is a mixed instrumental septet for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, vibraphone, marimba, and piano. Andriessen’s notes in the published score give more insight into the title: “Zilver is one of a planned series of chamber pieces named after a type of physical matter. Hout (‘wood’) is the first [1991], and Zilver (‘silver’) is the second. The title also refers to the two silver instruments – flute and vibraphone – which start and end the piece.” Andriessen’s holograph score for Zilver is here in the Library of Congress Music Division with the hundreds of other Koussevitzky commissions.

The world premiere of Zilver took place on January 11, 1995 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art by the ensemble California EAR Unit, the museum’s Ensemble-in-Residence from 1987 to 2004. They gave the Washington, DC premiere of Zilver on the Library of Congress concert series on October 23, 1995. The October 23 concert was special for a few reasons, including that it was at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater rather than the Library’s Coolidge Auditorium which was under renovation. The program also included the world premiere of Road Movies for violin and piano by John Adams. You can listen to this concert by contacting the Recorded Sound Research Center for an appointment. You can also listen to California EAR Unit’s recording through the Naxos Music Library while on site connected to the Library’s free Wi-Fi.

Measures 1 through 6 of the opening flute part in Zilver by Louis Andriessen. Pencil on white staff paper.

Louis Andriessen, composer. Zilver, mm. 1-6 of flute part in holograph pencil score, 1994. Call number ML30.3c.A56 no. 1 Case, Koussevitzky Music Foundation Collection.

Louis Andriessen’s musical output is staggering, and the evolution of his musical styles is the subject of books including The Music of Louis Andriessen edited by Maja Trochimczyk and The Music of Louis Andriessen by Yayoi Uno Everett. When I perform indeterminate musical works, especially Andriessen’s 1975 piece Worker’s Union, I feel invigorated and liberated because I am simultaneously part of a creative whole without barriers, expressing original musical interpretations, and actively listening and responding on an equal field – all while free from the traditional hierarchy of a conducted orchestra. In C (1964) by Terry Riley and Stay On It (1973) by Julius Eastman also exemplify these experiences for me as a performer. In fact, rejection of hierarchy for its own sake and music as activism were trademarks of Louis Andriessen’s style, personality, and ethos, all of which speak to me deeply on a personal level.

Louis Andriessen’s family was deeply engrained in the musical life of the Netherlands; there is a 2013 Dutch biography of the family called De Andriessens: een kleurrijke familie van muzikanten en kunstenaars. Louis’s paternal grandfather Nicolaas Hendrik Andriessen was an organist, and Louis’s father Hendrik Andriessen (1892-1981) was an organist, composer, and teacher of composition and theory. Hendrik’s brother Willem (1887-1964) was a pianist, composer, and teacher. It’s worth remembering that the music of Louis’s father Hendrik was banned by the Nazis during the occupation of the Netherlands. The Nazis also imprisoned both Louis’s father Hendrik and uncle Willem, signatories of a petition against the Nederlandsche Kultuurkamer (a puppet agency like Joseph Goebbels’s Reichskulturkammer), in 1942. In 1942, Louis was three years old and his sister Caecilia was nine.

Louis’s siblings were also musical. His oldest sister Heleen (1921-2000) was a flutist, brother Jurriaan (1925-1996) was a composer, and older sister Caecilia (1931-2019) was a composer, keyboardist, and educator. Both Jurriaan and Louis were influenced by Igor Stravinsky, American experimental composers like John Cage, and jazz. Louis also performed in a piano duo with his sister Caecilia.

In addition to delving into Louis Andriessen’s legacy through recordings, books, concerts, published scores, and his Koussevitzky commission, you can also read his letters to Lukas Foss in the Lukas Foss Papers. The Andriessen family’s musical legacy can be experienced through primary sources in the Music Division, as well. The Moldenhauer Archives contains music manuscripts and letters of both Hendrik and Jurriaan Andriessen; both music manuscripts date from World War II. The collection also contains a letter to Hans Moldenhauer from Caecilia Andriessen.

The Music Division extends its deepest condolences to the students, friends, and family of Louis Andriessen.

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