Hendrik Andriessen (1892-1981)

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  • September 2017 productie Spiegel van Venetië Haarlem opera
  • Wilma Driessen & Sophia van Sante in De Spiegel van Venetië 1967.
  • Hendrik Andriessen

Hendrik Andriessen (17 September 1892, Haarlem – 12 April 1981, Haarlem) and his brother Willem (1887-1964) form the heart of a Dutch family that has produced composers until this very day. Andriessen’s special relevance is traditionally to be heard in his liturgical music. His most famous achievement in the realm of song is ‘Miroir de Peine’ , which reveals the influence of the French school. He also composed two remarkable operas, Philomela (1949) and De spiegel uit Venetië (The Mirror from Venice, 1964). Philomela was premiered at the Holland Festival, 1950. The Mirror from Venice was composed for the Dutch National Opera, but premiered in a KRO television broadcast. In September 2017 De spiegel van Venetië was revived in a staged production by the Haarlem opera, under conductor Andrew Wise

Tekst: RS

Hendrik Andriessen was the son of Nico Andriessen, organ player of the Saint-Joseph’s Church Haarlem and the paintress Gesina Vester. Hendrik was the brother of pianist and composer Willem Andriessen and sculptor Mari Andriessen. His grandfather was the painter Willem Vester. After a brief flirt with journalism, Andriessen devote wholly to a musical career in 1912. He studied organ with city organ player Louis Robert, and a year onwards he stepped in his father’s shoes as organ player of the Saint-Joseph’s Church. He specialized in improvising, for which he became later on especially renowned. From 1914 to 1916 he studied composition with Bernard Zweers at the Conservatory Amsterdam. Jean-Baptiste de Pauw further trained him in organ playing. Besides the influence of Diepenbrock don the young musician, he was also inspired by Gregorian church music. From 1915 onwards Andriessen worked closely together with the Flemish musician Jos de Klerk at the Saint-Joseph’s Church. This resulted in numerous liturgical compositions. Andriessen broke with the prevailing tradition of Caecilianism, in favour of the approach by César Franck and early modernists such as Gabriel Pierné and André Caplet. In 1923 this French influence culminated in the song cycle Miroir de Peine (available as download in ou Ank Reinders serie).

Hendrik Andriessen: 'Miroir de peine'
Ank Reinders (sopraan), Ben Fey (orgel), Den Haag Houtrustkerk, 27 Maart 1977.

His close friendship with Diepenbrock ultimately resulted in Andriessen completing the orchestration of Diepenbrock's 'Missa' from 1890, from which only the Kyrie and Gloria had previously been completed.

On 12 August 1919 Andriessen married Johanna Justina Anschütz. Of the six children they had, Jurriaan, Caecilia and Louis became composers in their own right. Daughter Heleen made career as a flute player. From 1927 until 1949 Andriessen taught music theory at the Conservatory Amsterdam. He also taught organ playing, improvisation and Gregorian music at the Church Music School Utrecht.

Andriessen remained with the Saint-Joseph’s Church Haarlem until 1934, following which eh (he) became conductor-organ player at the Utrecht Cathedral Step Catharina, from 1937 until 1949 only as organ player. It was in this period that his improvisation became especially famous.

Hendrik Andriessen: 'Concerto for Organ en Orchestra'(1950) 'First part'
Bo Houbart (organ), The Brabant Orchestra, conductor Marc Soustrot.

From 1927 onwards he had also been teaching music theory and composition at the Amsterdam Conservatory. In 1937 he was appointed director of the Utrecht Conservatory. During the Second World War in 1942 he was kept hostage by the Germans in the prisoner camps Haaren and Saint-Michielsgestel. In 1958 he was honoured with the Artist’s Resistance Prize of the Artist’s Resistance Foundation.

From Philomela to The Mirror from Venice

Hendrik Andriessen: Philomela (beginning)
Holland Festival, 1950.

  Although Andriessen’s musical relevance is not generally seen in opera, both Philomela and The Mirror from Venice hold a prominent place within the Dutch operatic world. The at times exceedingly beautiful Philomela was composed on a libretto by Jan Engelman. It was an assignment of the Dutch government, honouring the 50-th anniversary of the reign of Queen Wilhelmina. The opera was premiered at the Holland Festival 1950 in Amsterdam and The Hague, conducted by Paul Pella. Louise de Vries was Philomela, Greet Koeman sang Prokne, Theo Baylé sang Thereus and Gerard de Groot sang Pandion. The Holland Festival performances were so successful that Leo Riemens included the opera as the only Dutch title in his still well-known ‘Great Operas Book’. An international break-through was expected but this failed to materialize. When even the programmed reprise in 1956-57 was not realized, nothing more was heard of Philomela until 401DutchOperas included the historic recording of the 1950 production in its download programme.

Hendrik Andriessen: The Mirror from Venice'Daar vaart een boot op de Zuiderzee'
Germaine Stordiau (Clarijn), Kunstmaandorkest Amsterdam o.l.v. Anton kersjes, 1967.

Meanwhile, in 1949, Andriessen had been appointed director of the Conservatory The Hague. From 1952 until 1963 he combined this function with a professorship music theory at the University Nijmegen. In 1964 he completed his second opera, a comic work in one act, The Mirror from Venice, on a libretto by Hélène Nolthenius. The work was premiered at the KRO television in 1967 and is one of the first Dutch television operas. Not a note was heard again of this lightweight musical comedy until Haarlem Opera staged the work in Haarlem, in September 2017, in a coproduction with the Andriessen/De Klerk Festival.

Hendrik Andriessen has been a true reformer of the liturgical music, which is reflected in his numerous masses, motets, choir works and so on.  His credo in this respect was that church music had to be one with the liturgical service. He realized this fully in the ‘Missa in honorem sacratissimi Cordis’ from 1919.Voices and instrumentation were reduced to essentials, an approach that he continued in ‘Missa diatonica’ (1935) and ‘Missa Christus Rex’ (1938). Andriessen was also a renowned composer of songs, chamber music, orchestral music, concerti and two operas. Among his orchestral works are four symphonies. His best known other orchestral pieces are the ‘Variations and fugue on a theme by Johann Kuhnau for string orchestra’ (1935) and the ‘Ricercare for symphony orchestra’ (1949). In the ‘Symfonic Etude’ from 1953 and the Fourth Symphony (1954) he experimented with twelve tone music, without losing touch with tonality! The majority of his organ works was inspired by the organs he played in various churches. His best known pupils were the 'Tres Pueri': Jan Mul, Herman Strategier and Albert de Klerk. The latter succeeded him in 1934 as organ player at the Saint-Joseph’s Church.

Instrumental music is the Jubilant of song

Hendrik Andriessen’s slogan ‘instrumental music is the Jubal of song’ refers to Andriessen’s denial of barriers between instrumental and vocal music. He did not believe in craftsmanship without true inspiration. In his music there is a balance between the hymnic element and the contemplative element. While progressive in church music, he was only moderately modern in his other music. He created an accessible personal style which easily shifted between serious and lightweight music, as is amply demonstrated by his operas, where the serious Philomela is the very antipode of the lightweight comedy The Mirror from Venice. Andriessen spent his final years in an apartment for elderly people in Heemstede. 

Hendrik Andriessen: 'Ricercare' (finale)
Concertgebouworkest, conducted by Reinbert de Leeuw on the occasion of Louis Andriessen's 70th birthday.

In  'Symphonic Etude' (1953) and SYmhony Nr. 4  (1954) Andriessen experimented with twelve tone series, yet he made sure not to forget the tonality in the process!

Hendrik Andriessen: 'Symphony Nr. 4' (finale)
Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor Jean FOurnet.

At the Hendrik Andriessen Centenary in 1992, the Concertgebouw Haarlem placed a bust of the composer at age 19, made by the Haarlem born sculptor Jan Bronner.