Michel van der Aa


February 2014

Up-close spreads its wings

Kaori Yamagami, White Light Fest NYC

Originally written for Sol Gabetta and the Amsterdam Sinfonietta, Michel van der Aa’s Up-Close is being taken up by a growing number of soloists and ensembles since winning the Grawemeyer Prize for Composition a year ago.

Several of these performances have been in the United States, where it is making quite an impact. In October the piece received its US premiere at the Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival, where it was performed by Kaori Yamagami and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Last month it was also performed at Walt Disney Concert Hall, by Johannes Moser and the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s New Music Group. The concerts were previewed in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and both earned strong press reviews.

Writing for the New York Times, Vivien Schweitzer praised the “chilling … film-noir cello concerto” for its “remarkable intertwining of sound and image”. In the Wall Street Journal Heidi Waleson wrote that “The final, slow moments of the piece, with the echoing solo cello and the woods darkening around the filmed woman, who clutches a flickering lamp, made for a haunting, ambiguous culmination.” And finally, Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times described Up-Close as “a trek out of the chamber and into a new corner of virtual reality.

The Los Angeles performance also saw Moser become the work’s first male soloist. Swed noted the effect this had on the interpretation of the piece: “No longer alter ego, the woman in the film became more like a poignant maternal memory, and that proved a highly effective new touch.

The US performances continue this month, when Up-Close will be played at the Merrill Wright Mainstage Theater in Seattle by Julie Albers and the Seattle Chamber Players, conducted by Alastair Williams. Further performances this year include the Finnish premiere in Helsinki, by the Avanti! chamber orchestra and Kaori Yamagami (4 May), and by the Czech Philharmonic under Kent Nagano at the Vorsprung-Festival, Ingolstadt, Germany (16 July). That will bring the total countries in which the work has been performed up to twelve.

Johannes Moser & LA Philharmonic Orchestra

Kaori Yamagami & Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, NYC

Konstanze van Gutzeit & Berg Orchestra, Prague


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

  • 04 June 2019
    Eight (world premiere)
    Virtual Reality installation. Kate Miller-Heidke, Nederlands Kamerkoor
    Runs from 4-23 June.
    Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ, BAM zaal, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • 07 June 2019
    akin (North American premiere)
    Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
    Otto Tausk, conductor
    Nicholas Wright, violin. Harriet Krijgh, cello
    Orpheum, Vancouver, Canada
  • 08 June 2019
    Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
    Otto Tausk, conductor
    Nicholas Wright, violin. Harriet Krijgh, cello
    Orpheum, Vancouver, Canada



  • ‪beta testing ‘Eight’! ‬
‪premiere on 4 June @hollandfestival ‬ ‪https://eightvr.net‬ ‪beta testing ‘Eight’! ‬ ‪premiere on 4 June @hollandfestival ‬ ‪https://eightvr.net‬

recent video

Eight - teaser

eightvirtual reality installation ft. Kate Miller-Heidke
1:22 min.

recent audio


Editors Jonathan Reeder, Tim Rutherford-Johnson
Web-design Studio Lonne Wennekendonk
Realisation Martijn ten Napel & Kyver
Latest update 17 May 2019