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At NTR's Saturday Matinee concert, the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra led by Markus Stenz will perform Wolfgang Rihm’s Third Symphony along with Diderik Wagenaar’s recent work Preludio all’infinito and the world premiere of his latest piece Canzone sull’infinito. In the 1970s, at a very young age, Rihm had his breakthrough with three ambitious symphonies which resolutely broke with postwar modernism to embrace the grand gesture, in the spirit of Bruckner and Mahler. In that same period, Wagenaar rollercoasted into Dutch music with his pulsating rhythms and obsessive repetitions. Now, almost four decades later, he adopts a very different, more subtle idiom. We can expect a concert full of rich harmonies, layered textures and sharp contrasts.
Back in the 1970s, Diderik Wagenaar stormed onto the Dutch music scene with works like Tam tam, a polyphonic grillwork of ironclad rhythms, obsessive repetition and the characteristic rawness of The Hague School sound. In Preludio all’infinito, which premiered in 2009 on Radio 4’s Saturday Matinee programme, the composer showed that he also had a more sensitive idiom up his sleeve. Those rich harmonies, layered textures and sharp tonal contrasts are being given a follow-up in this concert with the world premiere of Canzone sull’infinito.
In those same 1970s, the very young Wolfgang Rihm wrote three ambitious symphonies. Besides international recognition, this earned him the label ‘Neo-Romantic’. And indeed, Rihm’s Third Symphony, for orchestra, soloists and choir clearly fits in with the fin de siècle German symphonic tradition, which resolutely traded in the structuralist spirit of Stockhausen and Boulez for the grand, expressionist gesture à la Bruckner and Mahler.
Diderik Wagenaar (1946) is a Dutch composer born to a musical family in The Hague. In his work Wagenaar strives for a synthesis between the clear, rhythmically vigorous language of jazz (his influences include Monk and Coltrane) and Stravinsky, and the more expressive idiom of late Romanticism, the Second Viennese School and the Russian composer Scriabin. Wagenaar studied piano and music theory at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague as well as music analysis with Kees van Baaren, but as a composer he is largely self-taught. In the 1970's Wagenaar was a member of the The Hague School, together with Louis Andriessen, Gilius van Bergeijk and Cornelis de Bondt, amongst others. These were composers who shared a strong penchant for crystal clear structures and music with a pulsating, rhythmic force. Another great influence on Wagenaar has been the music of the American composer Charles Ives (1874-1954), whose 'inclusive' approach inspired Wagenaar to forge a synthesis between tonal and atonal music in his own work.
Wagenaar's most memorable work from the 1970's is Tam Tam (1978), which he wrote for Louis Andriessen's music ensemble Hoketus. In the 1980's, complexity and the use of layered textures re-appeared in Wagenaar's music, as in his masterpiece Metrum (1981-1984; revised 1986), which earned him the Kees van Baaren Prize. In the 1990's and the years after, Wagenaar's scores became more open, with more room for lyricism and a clearer structure. In 1996, he was awarded the Matthijs Vermeulen Prize for Trois poèmes en prose, a landmark composition in Wagenaar's oeuvre, according to the panel of judges. In 2000, Galilei, Wagenaar's large-scale composition for choir and orchestra, premiered. In 2001 he was artist in focus at the Bang on a Can Marathon, part of the New Wave Festival in New York. In 2006, his work Ricordanza premiered, followed in 2009 by Preludio ll'infinito. This latter work, full of rich harmonies and layered textures, will get its sequel at the Holland Festival in 2015 with the world premiere of Canzone sull’infinito.