Amsterdam elevates maestro on his 80th birthday

Amsterdam elevates maestro on his 80th birthday


norman lebrecht

September 09, 2018

Reinbert de Leeuw was yesterday awarded the Silver Medal of Amsterdam on the day he turned 80.

Founder of the Schönberg Ensemble (now Asko | Schönberg), Reinbert divided his attention mainly between ultra-modernism and period instruments.

He recorded extensively for Philips.


  • Alan says:

    Congratulations, maestro!
    I have had for years a Philips 2-CD set of RdL playing Satie.
    He certainly understands the meditative/hypnotic side of this often misunderstood composer.

    • John Borstlap says:

      The advantage of the slow pieces of Satie is that you don’t need much technique or musical imagination to perform them satisfactorily. Their aesthetic scope is extremely narrow. Also, RdL’s interest in Satie was mainly caused by the music’s poverty, the absence of almost everything that makes music interesting. This nicely combined with RdL’s disgust of the Great Repertoire, in which he could not possibly hear anything of interest (as he extensively revealed in his booklet ‘Musical Anarchy’, 1973).

  • Alan says:

    Here is a link to a very interesting 1983 radio interview of RdL re: the music of Satie.

    (You may have to copy this link and paste it into your browser.)

  • John Borstlap says:

    To call RdL a ‘maestro’ is an over-generous gesture to an old man who has contributed so much to the erosion of music life in the Netherlands. He was a member of the small group of young people in those jolly sixties who tried, by disrupting perfectly normal concerts and spreading nonsensical progressive ideologies, and condemning every musical activity which did not conform to their Party Line of Utopia, as ‘bourgeois’, to get their cranky ideas accepted in concert life with means which would be considered criminal offences outside the sphere of culture.

    Also RdL was instrumental in the hijacking of the subsidy institute by this small group of self-appointed ‘avantgardists’, so that they could live comfortably on the gullability of the government, who equally believed in progress. It looked like the Soviet elite who, claiming to defend the proletariat, made sure they could skim the resources for their own luxury living.

    As for RdL own musical abilities: conducting modernist music does not require the talents which are a condition for the regular repertoire. And then, even what he thought of as modern music was often based upon misunderstanding – I remember a performance of Schoenberg’s ‘Pierrot Lunaire’ with his Schoenberg Ensemble which reduced the piece to a rationalistic construction (and with lots of wrong notes), deleting the entire expressive dimension form the work, totally against Schoenberg’s obvious intentions (it is a tragic/ironic sort of romanticism). RdL advocacy of the most boring, empty, pathetic, pretentious atonal monstruosities like those of Klaas de Vries – unbearable imitation of stale modernism – showed him up as someone without the basic musical talents which are a condition sine qua non for any musical culture.

    And his own music? He stopped composing because music life did not conform to his ‘ideals’. At least, one truly positive deed. His own musical imagination says it all:

    But at least he got his medal….. so much for ‘Amsterdam’s cultural awareness’.

    • Alan says:

      Also sprach Borstslap….

    • Melisande says:

      Hopefully all these bitter and disgraceful words do relieve you, Mr. Borstlap?
      It seems that’s what twitter is for a disappointed man.
      But still: keep up the good spirits. All musicians working with and dedicated to Reinbert de Leeuw have the contagious spirit all the time. Hurrah!

      • John Borstlap says:

        You must be an entirely uninformed person… lucky you! It is not my fault if reality sounds bitter – which I’m not since I have nothing to do with people like RdL or the Dutch subsidy system – and the last thing I want is to wake-up the reassuring sleep of the ignorati. But a public reward for someone who has contributed to the erosion of music life in Holland, invites for a correction.

        • jaypee says:

          And you think your daily rant on a classical music forum is an effective “correction”?
          Wow… I’ve always thought you were an arrogant know-it-all bitter old man… Now I realize that, on top of that, you’re pathetic and delusional.

    • Pianofortissimo says:

      The music (or sonic art) in this link reminded me of the work of another musician who turned 80 earlier this year: Alexander von Schlippenbach. With a pedigree of serious studies, he moved on (or back) to the avant-garde and later to free jazz, or free improvisation, or what you name it, and is able to perform 12-tone improvisations.

    • Conducting Feminista says:

      DAMN RIGHT! Every woman conductor is vastly superior over this overrated guy.

      • John Borstlap says:

        I know that players of a Parisian orchestra which, by accident, invited RdL for a guest appearance, complained about his defective technique and lack of musical understanding. But these flaws don’t seem to have been a gender question.