Rich harmonies and bright contrasts from Rihm and Wagenaar


Diderik Wagenaar, Wolfgang Rihm, Radio Filharmonisch Orkest, Groot Omroepkoor

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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.

Wolfgang Rihm (2) breed

Wolfgang Rihm (1952) is a German composer and pedagogue. In 1972, Rihm finished both his secondary school and his studies in music theory and composition at the conservatory, Two years later, the première of his early work Morphonie at the Donaueschingen Festival catapulted him to the forefront of the European music scene. Rihm’s early works, combining contemporary techniques with the expressionism of Mahler and Schönberg, was regarded as a revolt against the avant-garde generation of Karlheinz Stockhausen (whom he studied under from 1972-73) and Pierre Boulez. Rihm is an extremely prolific composer, having written hundreds of completed scores, a great many of which are yet to be recorded. Important works include the twelve string quartets, the opera’s Die Hamletmaschine (1983-1986, libretto by Heiner Müller) and Die Eroberung von Mexico (1987-1991, based on writings by Antonin Artaud), more than twenty song-cycles, the oratorium Deus Passus (1996), the chamber music work Jagden und Formen (1995-2001, the 2008 version is played this year at the Holland Festival in Sasha Waltz’ dance piece of the same title) and a series of related orchestral works bearing the title Vers une symphonie fleuve. Rihm is Head of the Institute of Modern Music at the Karlsruhe Conservatory of Music and has been composer in residence at the Lucerne Festival and the Salzburg Festival. in 2010 the Salzburg Festival premièred his opera Dionysos, directed by Pierre Audi (programmed in Holland Festival 2011). That same year, Rihm was awarded the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement at the Venice Biennale. In 2013, he was honoured as ‘Commandeur dans l’orde des Artes et des Lettres’. Among the other prestigious prizes Rihm has received are the Bach Prize of the city of Hamburg (2000), the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize (2003) and in 2015 Rihm receives the Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition. 

The Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra occupies a prominent position in Dutch music. With an unfailing commitment to artistic excellence and a balanced programme the currently one hundred strong orchestra grew into one of the best orchestras in the Netherlands. The orchestra was formed in 1945 by Albert van Raalte, who was succeeded by, in chronological order, Paul van Kempen, Bernard Haitink, Jean Fournet, Willem van Otterloo, Hans Vonk, Sergiu Comissiona, Edo de Waart and Jaap van Zweden. In 2012, Markus Stenz was appointed chief conductor. The American conductor James Gaffigan has been principal guest conductor since the 2011-2012 season. Since August 2013, the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra has been part of the Stichting Omroep Muziek (Music Broadcast Organisation), along with the Netherlands Radio Choir and the production department of Dutch public broadcaster Radio 4's concert series.
The Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra has worked with many distinguished guest conductors, including Leopold Stokowski, Kirill Kondrashin, Antal Doráti, Riccardo Muti, Kurt Masur, Mariss Jansons, Michael Tilson Thomas, Gennady Rozhdestvensky and Valery Gergiev. The orchestra plays a prominent part in the various concert series which are broadcast on Dutch radio and television, which are the ZaterdagMatinee (Saturday Matinee) and the Het Zondagochtend Concert (Sunday Morning Concerts) at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, and the Vrijdag van Vredenburg (Friday at Vredenburg) in Utrecht. The orchestra guarantees adventurous symphonic programming, high quality performance and a plethora of concertante opera performances, including many Dutch and world premieres. As well as in the Dutch Broadcasting Authority's series, the orchestra has also performed abroad, notably at the Festival Musica in 2008 and at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in 2011.

The orchestra’s discography is impressive, with legendary recordings released on various imprints from the 1970's, conducted by such famous conductors as Leopold Stokowski and Antal Doráti. A collection of albums with French repertoire was recorded under Jean Fouret. Under Edo de Waart, the complete Mahler Symphonies, a unique Wagner collection and a collection of orchestral works by Rachmaninov were recorded. Various CDs with the works of contemporary composers such as Jonathan Harvey, Klas Torstensson and Jan van Vlijmen received prizes. Under British conductor Mark Wigglesworth the complete symphonies of Shostakovitch were recorded, while Jaap van Zweden conducted the recording of a Bruckner cycle. The live recording under Van Zweden of Wagner's Parsifal for the NTR ZaterdagMatinee (Saturday Matinee) was awarded an Edison Klassiek, one of the most prestigious prizes in Dutch classical music, for Opera in 2012.

The sixty strong Netherlands Radio Choir is the largest professional choir in the Netherlands. Since it was formed in 1945, the choir has performed a broad repertoire, working in varied formations dependent on the work at hand and the wishes of the conductor. The choir is closely affiliated to the Dutch public broadcast organisation NPO. The lion’s share of their concerts includes the NPO broadcast series NTR ZaterdagMatinee (Saturday Matinee), Vrijdag van Vredenburg (Friday at Vredenburg) and Het Zondagochtend Concert (Sunday Morning Concerts), often in collaboration with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. The repertoire performed in these series ranges from classical to contemporary music, including commissioned work by Dutch composers such as Wagemans, Visman, Vleggaar and Diderik Wagenaar, as well as premieres of the works of foreign composers, including MacMillan, Henze and Adams. The choir's programme also includes 'classics' from the 20th century, opera and the Romantic Repertoire. The Netherlands Radio Choir is frequently invited by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and the Berliner Philharmoniker. The choir has recorded an impressive collection of CDs, including recordings of Keuris, MacMillan, Mahler, Poulenc, Rossini and Wagner. The choir's first chief conductor Kenneth Montgomery was succeeded by, in chronological order, Robin Gritton, Martin Wright, Simon Halsey and Celso Antunes. Since the 2012-2013 season Gijs Leenaars has been chief conductor. Michael Gläser has been principal guest conductor since 2010. Since August 2013, the Netherlands Radio Choir and the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra have been working in partnership with the public broadcasters' Levende Muziek (Living Music) team as part of a new organisation: Stichting Omroep Muziek (Music Broadcast Organisation), which resides at the Muziekcentrum van de Omroep in Hilversum.


Diderik Wagenaar, Wolfgang Rihm
Markus Stenz
choir director
James Wood
Anna Palimina
Miljenko Turk
Radio Filharmonisch Orkest
Groot Omroepkoor
NTR ZaterdagMatinee
in cooperation with
Holland Festival

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