Andriessen: De Materie 1984-88

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COMPOSERS: Andriessen
LABELS: Nonesuch
WORKS: De Materie 1984-88
PERFORMER: Schönberg Ensemble; Asko Ensemble; Susan Narucki and members of Netherlands Chamber Choir/Reinbert de Leeuw
CATALOGUE NO: 7559-79367-2
I was fortunate to attend both the first staging of Louis Andriessen’s ‘opera’, De Materie, in 1989 and its concert version in London in July 1994 which followed the recording sessions for this stunning issue. De Materie (Matter) is a summation of Andriessen’s work. Although originally conceived for the stage, the work is in no need of one. It is in effect a massive four-movement symphony which stands magisterially on its own. The boldness of the writing is awesome: the opening hammer blows, depicting a 17th-century shipyard, continue for a devastating two minutes. Andriessen’s fifty-strong orchestra – the elite Asko and Schönberg Ensembles – includes a mere nine strings, the ‘real’ sound fielded by percussion – pianos, timps, marimbas, crotales – with horns, trumpets, bass clarinet and bass guitar. The sound is hard-edged, raunchy, often massively loud.

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But the tender side of Andriessen is revealed in the ecstatic Hadewijch, an erotic 13th-century text delivered voluptuously by the soprano Susan Narucki, chomping bass clarinets nipping at her ankles. The third part, De Stijl, fabulously performed, is a tour de force of compositional confidence – boogie-woogie meets beat. Reinbert de Leeuw is in no little way responsible for welding this white-hot performance. Annette Morreau