Michel van der Aa

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October 2019

Van der Aa in Beijing

Eight 200Still from Eight

This year’s Beijing Music Festival, which takes place throughout October, will feature Michel van der Aa as its artist in focus.

Central to this focus will be the virtual reality installation Eight, which will be installed for more than two weeks, between the 10th and 27th October. Created with the designer Theun Mosk and virtual reality company The Virtual Dutch Men, ‘Eight’ is a unique fusion of music, theatre VR and visual art, in which audience members wear VR headsets to walk through and manipulate an installation of physical and virtual objects. As they do so, they piece together the story of a woman whose memories are spread across the walls.

The music that plays throughout the installation has been written by Van der Aa and is performed by Kate Miller-Heidke (who also appeared in Sunken Garden and The Book of Sand) and the Nederlands Kamerkoor (who also sang for ‘The Book of Sand’).

Mischa Spel in NRC describes the experience of ‘Eight’ as “like entering an unprecedented dream world” and called it “an important and pioneering work”. The New York Times (Joshua Barone) described ‘Eight’ as “a breakthrough for virtual reality in classical music”, while Parool (Erik Voermans) called it an “innovative tour de force”. As Spel advises: “You have to experience “Eight” because this mix of music theatre and VR is unprecedented and offers a glimpse into the genre’s endless future possibilities.”

MCO 390
Beijing will also see the Chinese premiere of Van der Aa’s clarinet concerto Hysteresis on 25 October. This performance will feature the soloist Jaan Bossier with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Vicente Alberola. Van der Aa will also give a lecture on music and technology as part of the festival.

‘Eight’ is a co-commission of Holland Festival, Festival Aix-en-Provence, Beijing Music Festival, KunstFestSpiele Herrenhausen and the Helsinki Festival. In 2020 it will be performed at the KunstFestSpiele Herrenhausen in Hanover between 15 May and 12 June, and at the Helsinki Festival from 13 to 30 August. A full list of dates, tickets and more information can be found at eightvr.net.

May 2019

Premiere of ‘mixed reality’ installation ‘Eight’ at Holland Festival

eight news

Visitors to this year’s Holland Festival will be able to experience a truly trailblazing premiere with Eight, Michel van der Aa’s latest work of ‘mixed reality’ music theatre. Created with the designer Theun Mosk and virtual reality company The Virtual Dutch Men, ‘Eight’ is a unique fusion of music, theatre VR and visual art, in which audience members wear VR headsets to walk through and manipulate an installation of physical and virtual objects. As they do so, they piece together the story of a woman whose memories are spread across the walls.

The music that plays throughout the installation has been written by Michel Van der Aa and is performed by Kate Miller-Heidke and the Nederlands Kamerkoor. After ‘Sunken Garden’ and ‘The Book of Sand’ (on which the Nederlands Kamerkoor also appeared), ‘Eight’ is the third collaboration between Van der Aa and Miller-Heidke, and the Australian singer and actress will appear on a new album featuring the music of ‘Eight’ alongside new tracks, to be released this autumn.

‘Eight’ is also the first production of the doubleA Foundation, launched by Van der Aa in 2018 to support the production and touring of new and existing works that stretch the boundaries of music theatre, opera, concerts, audiovisual exhibitions, digital art, multimedia and film. Future projects for the Foundation include a film opera, a large-scale work of music theatre and a visual art collaboration.

As well as the Holland Festival, ‘Eight’ is a co-commission of Festival Aix-en-Provence, Beijing Music Festival, KunstFestSpiele Herrenhausen and the Helsinki Festival, and after June it will tour to those festivals in 2019 and 2020. A full list of dates, tickets and more information about Eight can be found at eightvr.net.

May 2019

World premiere of double concerto ‘akin’

Akin-Sol Patricia Michel

In May Michel van der Aa’s dramatic and explosive concerto for violin and cello akin received both its world premiere (at the Philharmonie in Cologne) and its Dutch premiere (at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw). ‘akin’ was written specially for violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and cellist Sol Gabetta, giving full expression to their extrovert playing styles. In the composer’s own words, ‘akin was inspired by the friendship between these two very special string players, reflected in the score through their sharing of the same musical material and communication with a similar voice.’

Both performances were well received. Neue Musik Zeitung’s Juan Martin Koch wrote that the world premiere provoked “Great cheers” from the audience in Cologne, and made a favourable comparison with Brahms’s Double Concerto in the way ‘akin’ offers a “portrait of two instruments in harmony”. After the Dutch premiere the next day, NRC’s Joep Christenhusz wrote of “a compelling tension that leads to a blistering battle of strings to the rhythm of pounding toms and sharply striking percussion”, and described the piece as “high quality, vintage Van der Aa”.
Peter Lint, writing for Trouw, also praised the soloists, describing them as excelling “with total dedication to and belief in Van der Aa’s notes”; their “forceful, charged performance and expressive stage presence”, said Christenhusz, “kept the audience on the edge of their seats for half an hour”. Finally, wrote Koch after the German performance, “This piece has what it takes – with appropriately explosive soloists – to enter the repertoire.” (read full reviews)

Canadian performances of ‘akin’ are now on the horizon. The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, with soloists Nicholas Wright, violin, and Peter Wispelwey, cello, will give the North American premiere at the Orpheum in Vancouver in June. This will be followed in March 2020 by a performance by Simone Lamsma, violin, Harriet Krijgh, cello, and the NAC Orchestra at the Southam Hall in Ottawa.

April 2019

World premiere 'akin': double concerto for twinned strings

Akin, the new double concerto by Michel van der Aa for violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and cellist Sol Gabetta, receives first performances in Cologne and Amsterdam in May.

 Violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and cellist Sol Gabetta are soloists in Michel van der Aa’s new double concerto, Akin, premiered at the EIGHT BRIDGES festival in Cologne by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra on 9 May. The 25-minute work was commissioned by ACHT BRÜCKEN/Musik für Koln and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra with funds from the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation and Fonds Podiumkunsten.

After the premiere at the Philharmonie in Cologne, the concerto travels on with soloists, orchestra and conductor Peter Eötvös for its Dutch premiere at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam on 10 May. North American performances follow with the Vancouver Symphony on 7 June and the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa in March 2020.



Michel van der Aa has worked with both soloists on earlier projects – Patricia Kopatchinskaja on the violin work Double and Sol Gabetta on his Grawemeyer Award-winning cello concerto with film Up-close. As the composer notes: Akin was inspired by the friendship between these two very special string players, reflected in the score through their sharing of the same musical material and communication with a similar voice. When I was deciding on a title I was drawn to an image of identical twins, inseparable and thinking in a related manner to all outward appearances but perhaps with different personalities beneath.”
— David Allenby/Boosey & Hawkes Quarternotes

about

Michel van der Aa (Netherlands, 1970) is a truly multidisciplinary figure in contemporary music. A unique voice, he combines composition with film and stage direction, and script writing. Classical instruments, voices, electronic sound, actors, theatre and video are all seamless extensions of his musical vocabulary.

upcoming performances

  • 26 February 2021
    Shelter (German premiere)
    NDR Chor, Klaas Stok conductor
    20.00 hrs, Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg, Germany
  • 20 March 2021
    Upload (world premiere)
    Julia Bullock, Roderick Williams
    Ensemble MusikFabrik, cond. Otto Tausk
    Dutch National Opera
    Stopera, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • 22 March 2021
    Upload
    Julia Bullock, Roderick Williams
    Ensemble MusikFabrik, cond. Otto Tausk
    Dutch National Opera
    Stopera, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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