Michel van der Aa has been awarded the prestigious Johannes Vermeer Award, the Dutch state prize for the arts.
Worth a total of 100,000 euros, the Johannes Vermeer Award has been presented since 2009 to outstanding artists across all disciplines who are working in the Netherlands. Previous winners include the opera director Pierre Audi, the artist Marlene Dumas, and the architect Rem Koolhaas. The sum given is to be used for the realisation of a new project.
Van der Aa is the first musician to receive the award, and the youngest recipient to date. The prize jury were unanimous in their decision, and their report praised Van der Aa for his “ground-breaking role in music, both in the Netherlands and internationally, and his surefootedness in combining his musical idiom with movement, film, the internet, theatre, electronics, and visual elements,” adding that:
From his first compositions dating from the mid-1990s, he drew on the latest techniques which he applied to great perfection. Van der Aa is also blessed with a theatrical instinct which makes his music not only a listening experience but also a visual happening.
Michel van der Aa doesn’t just think and write music, he actually sees, tastes and experiences it. In the jury’s view, his agility in forging and transforming various art genres into an organic whole is without equal. His work displays great coherence as he himself handles all the disciplines. Moreover, his musical basis is never overcluttered but is rather nourished by the combination of various genres.”
The award will be officially presented by the minister of culture Jet Bussemaker on 26 October in a ceremony in the Ridderzaal of the Dutch Parliament.
Winning the award caps in fine style a successful 2014–15 season, which has seen the first performances in the Netherlands, Germany, and Norway of Van der Aa’s Violin Concerto for Janine Jansen and commissioned by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra; the launch of the innovative interactive song cycle The Book of Sand ; and a sold-out run of Sunken Garden, in a new, reimagined version, at Opéra de Lyon.
Among the highlights planned for next season are the world premiere of a new chamber opera, ‘Blank Out’, for Dutch National Opera and revivals of the evening-length music theatre work The Book of Disquiet in New Jersey, London, and Lyon. Van der Aa will also be the featured composer at the 2016 Lyon Biennale Musiques en Scène, which will feature concerts of his music over the course of three weeks.