much the same way as the Koppel family in Denmark, the Andriessen
family is steeped in the arts and in music. Hendrikís older
brother Willem was a pianist, an organist and a composer
as well. Louis (b.1939) and Juriaan (1925Ė1997) are composers.
Cecilia is a pianist and piano teacher. Heleen is apparently
a pianist too Ė at least in her youth, and Nico is an architect.
he held several academic positions in the Netherlands until
his retirement in 1957, Hendrik Andriessen composed regularly
and left a sizeable output, the backbone of which is to be
found in his four symphonies and several concertos as well
as various miscellaneous orchestral works. Because of his
academic commitments, he composed on Sundays and during holidays,
and used to put his scores fairly quickly onto paper when
most of them were ready in his mind. He generally composed
straight into full score. He built a considerable reputation,
and he is one of the foremost Dutch symphonists with his
near-contemporary Matthijs Vermeulen (1888Ė1967) and Willem
Pijper (1894Ė1947) whose masterly Symphony No.3 was
much performed by the Frenchman Jean Fournet who also conducted
a lot of Andriessenís music.
a composer, Hendrik Andriessen favoured classical and even
pre-classical forms, as the individual movements of some
of his symphonies clearly show; but he was a staunch admirer
of Debussyís music and, late in life, took-up some twelve-tone
writing without ever adhering strictly to it. So, this release
provides a fairly comprehensive survey of his symphonic output
from 1930 to 1954, although he composed till late in his
life: his Cello Concertino (1970), Oboe
Concertino (1970) Violin Concerto (1969)
and Chromatic Variations (1970).
first major orchestral work was his Symphony No.1 completed
in 1930, dedicated to and first performed by van Beinum conducting
the Haarlemse Orkest Vereniging. It is a compact piece in
four movements, of which the first is by far the most developed.
The first movement opens with a slow, imposing introduction
leading into an Allegro moderato section. The other movements
(Andante tranquillo, Allegretto grazioso and Allegro agitato)
are all fairly short, and make for a progressive build-up
in intensity till the final peroration. This substantial
work is heard here in a performance recorded in 1947 and
conducted by Albert van Raalte, a reading that had impressed
Cecilia Andriessen and one that clearly deserved to be restored
into the current catalogue. The recorded sound shows its
age but it has been neatly remastered. Composed a few years
later, the Variations and Fugue on a
theme of Johann Kuhnau for string orchestra are based
on a theme from the Minuet of Kuhnauís Partita No.6 which
Andriessen had heard his daughter Heleen practising. This
very piece may be Andriessenís best-known work, and it is
not difficult to understand why. It is packed with invention
and of beautiful string writing, and the whole is readily
accessible and wholly attractive. Cecilia Andriessen recalls
a funny anecdote opposing his father and his friend the composer
Peter van Anrooy who obviously objected to the French-inflected
parallel fifths! The music here, as that in many other works
by Andriessen, may bring to mind the sound-world of Vaughan
Williams and even that of Britten (the Frank Bridge Variations).
It is a delightful and immensely enjoyable work that never
outstays its welcome.
No.2, completed in 1937, is in three movements
roughly recalling those of the Baroque suite: Fantasia,
Pavane and Rondo. In this work, too, Andriessen is drawing
nearer to Pijper, whom he admired but never tried to
emulate. However, it is a tougher work than its predecessor,
and its idiom more advanced and somewhat more austere,
although the inner logic at work makes it more readily
accessible than, say, any symphony by Vermeulen.
major works were composed during the war years, but are completely
different in character. The Variations on a theme of
Couperin for flute, harp and string orchestra are
not dissimilar to the earlier Kuhnau Variations.
It is a lovely work that strongly contrasts with the Symphony
No.3 completed in 1946, an imposing piece in which
one can certainly hear the composerís reaction to the war
years. Though less tense than, say, Vaughan Williamsí Sixth,
it often brings RVW to mind; try the stark first movement.
It may be less difficult than the Second Symphony but it
is certainly an impressive achievement, that makes its point
directly without undue fuss. This is a major work and one
that deserves a permanent place in the repertoire.
composed a few years later, is again in full contrast with
the symphony. This is a sunny, uncomplicated work in which
Andriessenís contrapuntal mastery is effortlessly displayed.
This colourful, superbly scored work should be a popular
concert opener and again deserves wider exposure.
mentioned earlier in this review, Andriessen, as many of
his contemporaries, toyed with twelve-tone writing, although
he never strictly adhered to dodecaphonic principles. The
twelve-tone rows that he used in his Symphonic Study and
his Fourth Symphony are viewed as themes rather than anything
else. Symphonic Study, which the composer described
as ďthe result of my laboratory workĒ is based on a single
tone-row, and each of the four concise movements is based
on different versions of the row. The end result is far from
what SchŲnberg or Webern would have achieved. What comes
through is Andriessenís contrapuntal mastery - a trademark
of his - and the remarkable invention displayed in this work,
seen by some as a try-out for Andriessenís final symphony.
My view is that the Symphonic Study is Andriessenís
long-delayed homage to Willem Pijper.
No. 4, completed in 1954, is also based on a
tone-row heard at the outset, but which the composer
uses more as a cantus firmus. In many respects,
the Fourth Symphony is a major, substantial work which
Louis Andriessen considers as ďthe most painfully movingĒ of
his fatherís works. The Fourth Symphony clearly demonstrates
that Andriessen was never happy to repeat himself and
always trying to find some new way of expressing himself
with complete honesty. Again, the comparison with Vaughan
Williams might be made; for he, too, was not afraid of
exploring new harmonic worlds, even in his late years.
The music of Andriessenís Fourth Symphony is strongly
uncompromising, while retaining its expressive strength.
I do not doubt that the Fourth Symphony is the peak of
his symphonic output, and Jean Fournetís splendid reading,
recorded in 1982, does this mighty piece full justice.
release is most welcome for it helps in our reassessment
of the remarkable symphonic achievement of an important composer,
and fills a considerable gap. Pijperís and Vermeulenís symphonies
have already been recorded and are generally available, whereas
Andriessenís symphonies had been somewhat neglected. True,
these recordings of the Second and Third Symphonies were
once available on a long-deleted LP (Donemus DAVS 7071-3).
There have been no commercial recordings of the First and
Fourth Symphonies. Now, Andriessenís stature as a symphonist
may no longer be ignored.
recordings are all from the same source, but from widely
different periods. All have been neatly transferred, and
the overall sound is much more than acceptable. The performances
are superb and I was delighted to be able to hear Fournetís
magnificent reading of the Fourth Symphony.
beautiful set is wholeheartedly recommended to all those
who love symphonic music from the first half of the 20th century,
have a liking for French music of the inter-war years and
who admire, say, Vaughan Williamsí music. Not to be missed.