Holland’s best musician of 2020 is a banger

Holland’s best musician of 2020 is a banger


norman lebrecht

December 05, 2019

The Dutch Government’s 2020 Music Award for young classical musicians has been granted to a percussionist, Dominique Vleeshouwers.

Past recipients include Janine Jansen, Pieter Wispelwey, Jard van Nes and Christianne Stotijn.

Vleeshouwers is a genre-bender who covers anything from hip-hop to gamelan.

Not everybody is thrilled by his selection, given that it is made at the expense of a ‘pure’ classical musician.


  • John Borstlap says:

    These videos are unbearable, could not see them out.

    The choice is not surprising, since the Netherlands are the European country most eager to leave the ‘elitist, authoritarian, undemocratic, suppressing, conservative’ classical music culture behind and replace it by the ‘true art of the masses’, as a liberation from unjust domination by a foreign power.

    High art has never really rooted in Holland, as it has always been instinctively associated with surrounding, threatening cultures. This is understandable since the country was constructed during and after a long liberation war with Spain, and suffered terribly under French and German invasions. Hence the local cultivation of smallmindedness, the popularity of ‘the underdog’, and leftist, totalitarian conformism which celebrates the ‘culture’ of the masses. Gifted artists go abroad to make a career and when they come back famous, they are the subject of proud chest beating, enhancing the nation’s self-image. The country is wonderful for many reasons, but art is not one of them.

    • Djeedo says:

      So you say that (classical!) percussion players are less worth than other “real” musicians?
      You might be right about the government of the netherlands,but in your words it sounds like the end of the classical music world to give a price to a (very good) percussion player…a “banger” (not very nice,Mr Lebrecht).
      Shouldn’t we all be a little more open in 2019???

      • John Borstlap says:

        I’m all for openness, but I regret that in reality, ‘openness’ most of the time means: being open to inferiority and populism. It is hardly EVER an openness to a better quality, better taste, better awareness of cultural relevance within the context of modern times.

        Percussion players are not ‘less worthy’ than ‘real’ musicians, but the revealing videos in this post show musical exercises definitely less worthy than serious music making – not because it is a percussion player but because of the low level of the result.

        It may be helpful to remember that most percussion instruments have no tone pitch but produce sound effects. And the percussion instruments which do produce a tone, like timpani, glockenspiel, marimba etc., derive their meaning from their timbre rather than their tone, except where they are part of a contemporary music ensemble where they often are the only instruments that produce tones at all. So, percussion all on its own is not a completely musical thing, it is a sound art thing, subservient to a musical work where it has an important role. On its own it looses much of its musical raison d’être. This is the reason of its popularity in the context of sound art where it has a much more independent role than within a musical context.

        The level of cultural expertise of the Dutch government with this sort of awards is embarrassingly revealed with this percussion player. But it is a long-standing policy to not be informed, which is also demonstrated by the way the generous subsidies for new art are handled, both for the visual art and music: very ‘open’ to the most abject amateurism with the exclusion of anything else. It is the usual, oldfashioned mindset of the French Revolution: liberty, equality, fraternity, but not for you, you and you. Hence, the Grawemeyer Award for Joel Bons is, however one could have objections to it, something infinitely more deserved than this sorry populist 2020 government music award which is merely embarrassing. (It makes me think of the Matthijs Vermeulen Prijs which is given to what has emerged as the worst new music piece imaginable.)

    • EGJ says:

      I think that countries like the conservative United States of Donald Trump are much more stupid than ex-communist nations of Europe.But Netherland have much less art than Germany,France or Spain,that is obvious.

  • Anon says:

    And engaged to be married to the hugely talented conductor Elim Chan. Powerhouse couple!

  • John Porter says:

    This “banger” is a wonderful musician, doing all sorts of interesting and important projects on and off the mainstage. Bravo to the Dutch government for this selection.

    • John Borstlap says:

      The government should change the name and the intention of this award to be able to rightfully reward someone with such interesting projects. The confusion of ontological concepts is staggering.

  • drummerman says:

    I’m an ex-banger and I thought these two video clips were great.