Los Angeles Music Preview: LOUIS ANDRIESSEN’S DE MATERIE (“An Evening of Andriessen” LA Phil)

Post image for Los Angeles Music Preview: LOUIS ANDRIESSEN’S DE MATERIE (“An Evening of Andriessen” LA Phil)

by Tony Frankel on April 11, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles


Of all the offerings during LA Phil’s Minimalist Jukebox Festival, the hard-core lovers might prefer Europe’s leading Minimalist, Dutch composer Louis Andriessen. His rarely performed, abstract, non-traditional, quasi-operatic work De Materie (“Matter”) will receive a huge production, the work’s first performance on the West Coast, on April 18 at Disney Hall.

Louis Andriessen's DE MATERIE CD CoverWritten from 1984-88, the piece was created for the opening of a new Netherlands Opera House, a.k.a. “Stopera.” Chad Smith, LA Phil’s Vice President of Artistic Planning, told Stage and Cinema this regarding Andriessen: “He is a renegade; he will always take expectations and defy them. He opens the first of his four-part vocal and orchestral composition with “De Materie”: In his own subversive way, he creates a musical representation of the drivers pounding pilings into the soil during construction of the Opera House. There are 144 iterations of the same chord played over and over at an increasing pace, building to a frenetic moment.” The heavy artillery in the percussion will have LA Phil percussionists firing on all cylinders (the opening goes on to feature an extended solo for two large metal boxes played with hammers, and a wooden mallet pounding a 6mm plywood sheet).

“He continues throughout to incorporate minimalistic tools in extraordinary ways,” says Smith. Indeed, the driven, intense, in-your-face, rock-influenced, edgy, and sonically unique style you will hear strongly influenced Bang on a Can. The music ranges from quasi-sound effects (which includes an amplified rubbed balloon) to the lush, quasi-Louis AndriessenImpressionistic orchestral textures in the second act to rollicking dance music in the third. The work incorporates eclectic musical influences, ranging from J.S. Bach and Stravinsky to the old Netherlands chanson “L’homme armé” and 20th-century boogie-woogie. Adds Smith: “For me, it’s one of the most extraordinary musical works of the last 30 years.”

It was said in Newsday’s review of De Materie, “The word ‘minimalist’ has clung to Andriessen like dandruff, but it should be politely brushed off. Yes, he economizes; yes, he uses repetition; but his spirit has little in common with the leisurely unfolding of, say, Philip Glass or Terry Riley. His music shudders and lurches, its clangorous surface lashed to a stiff and audible structural frame. One can feel the long and terrifying crescendos coming even before they begin, and sense the cycles of energy, the tension of a score pulled taut between violence and rigor.”

The Crossing appearing in De Materie with the LA PhilAndriessen began his career as an explicitly left-wing composer who grandly renounced the symphony orchestra as a tool of the bourgeoisie, only to return eventually to a juiced-up version of the same thing. De Materie represents the apotheosis of his hectic, over-the-barricades symphonic style: the hammer blows, the explosive chords, the sharp digga-digga rhythms and clouds of iridescent sonic vapor.

Here’s a sample of the wickedly ferocious “De Stijl,” part III of De Materie:

Conductor Reinbert de LeeuwEinstein on the Beach’s Robert Wilson oversaw the original staging, and helped select the texts. In the first act, the Dutch Republic is proclaimed, with the 1588 text alternating with technical descriptions of shipbuilding. The second act, named for thirteenth-century poet and mystic Hadewijch, is a mystical-erotic effusion of a 13th-century nun. The third concerns Dutch painter Mondrian and the Dutch artistic movement “De Stijl” (“neoplasticism”). The fourth, a musical summary of all that’s come before it, juxtaposes sonnets by Willem Kloos about death with Madame Curie’s moving grief at the death of her husband.

Diva Meow MeowThis thematically intricate work may defy logic, but the reason to see it live at Disney Hall is to be swept up in the impact and immensity of the music, which will be conducted by the Dutch composer and conductor Reinbert de Leeuw. Also on hand will be soprano Susan Narucki, tenor Alex Richardson, speakers Marlies Heuer and “post-post-modern diva” Meow Meow, and The Crossing, a twenty-four-member professional choir dedicated to new music.

Another critic mentioned that De Materie shudders the skeleton and burrows into the skull. For me, that’s what matters most.


photos courtesy of LA Phil

De Materie (An Evening of Andriessen)
LA Philharmonic
part of the Minimalist Jukebox Festival
Walt Disney Concert Hall
135 North Grand Avenue
Friday, April 18 at 8 pm
for tickets, call 323.850.2000 or visit www.laphil.com

Leave a Comment