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Orkest de Volharding


1972 - 2010


classical, contemporary classical music, jazz, minimal music

Orkest de Volharding

Orkest de Volharding is a “typically Dutch” ensemble of purposeful, socially engaged musicians. They play (in the words of the writer J. Bernlef) “straight-from-the-shoulder wind music”, most of it Dutch-made and almost always written for them, often in a collaborative effort between the composer and musicians. The orchestra decides on ...
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Dil Engelhard   fluit
Bob Driessen   saxofoon
Jaap Dercksen   piano
Hans Visser (2)   bass trombone
Jurjen Hempel   dirigent
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Former members

Theo Loevendie   saxofoon
Herman de Wit   saxofoon
Willem Breuker   klarinet, saxofoon
Jan Wolff   hoorn
Cees Klaver   trompet
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Mentioned in the biography of

1954   Cees van Zeeland
1967   Willem Breuker
1971   Misha Mengelberg
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Biography Orkest de Volharding

Orkest de Volharding is a “typically Dutch” ensemble of purposeful, socially engaged musicians. They play (in the words of the writer J. Bernlef) “straight-from-the-shoulder wind music”, most of it Dutch-made and almost always written for them, often in a collaborative effort between the composer and musicians. The orchestra decides on all matters of acquiring repertoire, manner of performance, and performance organisation democratically. In its first years, all of its members were in agreement on the central questions of “What do you play, for whom, and why?” During that period, they were united in opposition to the war in Vietnam. This anti-militant attitude, with all of its pros and cons, was long the ensemble's unswerving ideological premise. Idealism, activism, and high musical standards remained throughout intrinsic characteristics of Orkest de Volharding. Only in 1989 did the ensemble begin working with a conductor, a partial relaxation of its tendency to frown upon authority in any form.


Louis Andriessen is working on a piece that will be named 'De Volharding', a work meant to have a political message and to mobilize listeners. The music is inspired by recent (minimalist) pieces by Steve Reich and Terry Riley, as well as Igor Stravinsky's 'Piano Concerto', Bach's 'Suites', Pierre Boulez's 'Eclat', and Japanese gagaku music. Andriessen is looking for a sound quality not readily ascribable to any existing musical type: something between jazz and avant-garde music. On the advice of the saxophonist Willem Breuker, a mixed group of jazz and classical musicians is formed, its core including three trumpets, three trombones and three saxophones.

Louis Andriessen Willem Breuker


The ensemble meets for the first time in Louis Andriessen's attic on January 6. They discuss Andriessen's not fully notated piece 'De Volharding'. Its duration varies, between 15 and 40 minutes. In the piece, Andriessen muses on an interpretation of the technique Terry Riley used in the piece 'In C', a continuous repetition of simple melodic phases. On April 30 the group plays a short version of the piece at a youth rally protesting the Vietnam war in the Amsterdamse Bos. The complete work is performed on May 12 in an 'Inklusief Konsert' at the Carré Theatre in Amsterdam (Louis Andriessen: "Inclusive Concerts were a series of free musical manifestations that sought to break with the exclusive nature (hence the name) of the traditional concert, in part by presenting all kinds of music - Medieval, avant garde, pop, jazz, electronic, etc." ). Audience reactions in the full hall are mixed at first but the piece is enthusiastically applauded at the end. In September the musicians decide to continue under the name 'Orkest de Volharding'. During this period, the musicians are Cees Klaver, Arthur ten Bosch and John Floore (trumpets), Willem van Manen, Frans van Luin, Jim van der Valk Bouman, Wouter Hoekstra and Bernard Hunnekink (trombones), Theo Loevendie, Bob Driessen, Herman de Wit and Willem Breuker (saxophones and clarinet), Jan Wolff (French horn), Díl Engelhard (piccolo), Maarten van Regteren Altena (double bass), and Louis Andriessen (piano). On September 30, Orkest de Volharding plays for an audience of 10,000 at the Waarheidsfestival [Truth Festival] at the Amsterdam Rai.

Maarten Altena Theo Loevendie Willem Van Manen


By the end of the year, the ensemble has more than 15 pieces in its repertoire, including its own arrangement of Darius Milhaud's 'La Création du Monde', Igor Stravinsky's Tango, and various political songs.


Orkest de Volharding performs regularly – sometimes more than once a week – mostly at political manifestations, festivals and neighbourhood activist gatherings. Pieter Verhoeff follows the ensemble with a camera crew. On February 11, 1975, VPRO television broadcasts his film.


After lengthy discussions, the musicians vote to expel Willem Breuker from the ensemble. It is a painful decision. Andriessen and Breuker formed the ensemble together. However, there is considerable unrest over Breuker's contribution (thought to be too small). It is clear to all that his priorities lie elsewhere. Gilius van Bergeyk replaces Breuker on the saxophone. A larger crisis arises in the spring. Political conflicts concerning Amsterdam (regarding the building of a subway) are playing out in the group. How essential is the preference to perform at political manifestations? How important is the group's self-chosen role of playing mostly contemporary Dutch music? The conflict eventually develops personal repercussions. When it becomes evident that compromise is impossible, Maarten van Regteren Altena, Gilius van Bergeyk,Toon van Ulsen, Cees Klaver and Herman de Wit are forced out of the ensemble. They attempt to continue together on their own, leading to the formation of two similarly named orchestras, but they ultimately split up. The remaining members of Orkest de Volharding take a two-month break.

Gilius van Bergeijk


In late January, Orkest de Volharding appears in its new make-up and within several months it performs more than 40 times. These appearances seem sometimes more like political gatherings (in which the ensemble performs contemporary Dutch music) than regular concerts (in which they also perform political rallying songs). Andriessen leaves the ensemble in August to concentrate on composing.


This is the last year of the city of Amsterdam's Centrale Aanbiedingen [Central Offerings] programme for neighbourhood concerts, begun in 1974, which Orkest de Volharding often took part in. On September 11, the ensemble plays at Amsterdam's Jaap Edenhal at a political manifestation organized under the motto “International Isolation for the Chilean Junta”.


The ensemble's members meet to discuss a possible trip to Chile. They have been invited by Chilean trade unions to perform at May 1 International Workers' Day celebrations. Since September 1973, Chile has been ruled by the dictatorship of General Pinochet, which has forbidden Workers' Day demonstrations. Orkest de Volharding, which has performed at other foreign political events, accepts the invitation. On April 30 they perform in a textile factory in Santiago de Chile for a large, enthusiastic crowd. Among the pieces they play is the illegal Lied van de Macht van het Volk [Song of the Power of the People]. For trumpeter Henk van de Velde , who joined the ensemble shortly before their departure from the Netherlands, this is the first concert with De Volharding. The next day the ensemble members take part in a fast-growing protest march. The police intervene, and 600 people are arrested, including seven members of De Volharding. After several hours, the foreigners are released. Upon arriving at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, the ensemble gives a press conference and then proceeds immediately to the St. Dominic Church in Amsterdam for a gathering protesting the Chilean dictatorship to tell of their experiences. The ensemble remains active in various Chile protest activities during this period. On March 1 the Orkest de Volharding Cooperative Association is established, with Jan Wolff, Bob Driessen and Toon van Ulsen as its first board members.


According to the Buma Association, which together with Stemra Foundation watches over composers' copyright, Orkest de Volharding performs more Dutch compositions than anyone else. On February 1, a series of recordings with the VARA broadcasting company is completed.


The ensemble gets regular rehearsal space at the music centre 'De IJsbreker' in Amsterdam. Niek Nauwen becomes its concert coordinator, but leaves the same year.


Orkest de Volharding begins its concert on September 11 in 'De IJsbreker' with a commemoration of the fall of Salvador Allende, the Chilean president who was murdered in a coup d'état in 1973. On November 21 it performs at a nuclear-weapons protest at the Museumplein in Amsterdam. The crowd is estimated at 450,000 people.


Orkest de Volharding celebrates its 10th anniversary with the publication of '10 Jaar Volharding – een verslag door Rudy Koopmans & Orkest de Volharding' [10 Years of Volharding – a report by Rudy Koopmans & Orkest de Volharding]. The painstakingly documented book gives an account of the ensemble's history, its goals, and way of working, placed in the context of political events in the Netherlands and abroad. The Swedish composer Klas Torstensson, by now fully acclimated to the Netherlands, writes 'Järn' [Iron] for the ensemble to a commission from the Ministry of Culture, Recreation and Social Work. The music critic Frits van der Waa notes that the piece introduces new developments. New in particular for the ensemble itself is that the piece is conducted – by the composer.


For the 'Kaalslag' project, Orkest de Volharding temporarily merges with the 'Hoketus' Ensemble – also founded by Louis Andriessen. The result is issued on an Attacca label recording of new pieces by Willem van Manen, Louis Andriessen, Cees van Zeeland, and Cornelis de Bondt.


The pianist Jaap Dercksen becomes Orkest de Volharding's business manager.


Orkest de Volharding appoints Cees van Zeeland its first conductor. He is not the boss, but simply beats the time of the music while critically listening. Commissioned by the Rotterdam Arts Foundation, the American composer Michael Torke writes 'Rust' for the ensemble. The title is a reference to the “rusty” timbre the composer gave the basic chord of the composition.


For its 20th anniversary, Orkest de Volharding gives a retrospective of its work in two series of concerts, including performance in St. Petersburg, Russia. On March 8 it gives a concert at De IJsbreker Music Centre with a programme compiled for the VARA Matinee. In addition to a work Louis Andriessen wrote for a TV film by Peter Greenaway, the programme includes a series of pieces written for the anniversary: 'Vogelvrij' [Free as a Bird] (Richard Ayres), 'Frist' (Michiel Braam), Obrecht-Motet (Michael Finnissy), and Three Mechanisms (Rob Zuidam). Astrid Seriese sings. After, the orchestra tours the Netherlands and Scotland.

Astrid Seriese Michiel Braam Robert Zuidam


In Amsterdam's Felix Meritis building, the orchestra premieres The Jazz Connection programme with among other works the piece 'F. 031' by Peter van Bergen. Pay-Uun Hiu writes in de Volkskrant: “In this work De Volharding seems decisive, with blaring, well-timed chords and spot-on saxophones and trumpets”. In other pieces she misses at times Louis Andriessen's odd canonic srtructures.


For its 25th anniversary, Orkest de Volharding organises a festival at the Vredenburg Music Centre in Utrecht that includes performances by kindred spirits in jazz and world music. Donemus issues a recording of a May 12, 1972, performance as a special edition with its journal Key Notes.


Orkest de Volharding presents its Extravaganza programme conducted by Jurjen Hempel. The programme consists of five Dutch pieces, each about 15 minutes long. Three of the works are premieres: 'Burn/one' by Wiek Hijmans, 'The Way of the Ram' by Vannessa Lann, and 'Via Via' by Paul Termos. Frits van der Waa writes in de Volkskrant: “The thirteen musicians' playing leaves nothing to wish for, and the music may not always storm the gates of heaven, but it's certainly worth hearing”.

Paul Termos Wiek Hijmans


Composer and musicologist Anthony Fiumara becomes the ensemble's artistic director and Els Wijmans its business manager.


Commissioned by Orkest de Volharding, the composer Merlijn Twaalfhoven brings visual artists, theatre makers, composers and performers together to experiment with new concert forms, the creative use of space, and audience participation. In three periods, artists who cannot read music develop new forms of communication with images and music. On performance evenings, audiences are led through the Korzo theatre in The Hague for divergent and surprising presentations. The artists involved are: Govinda Mens, James Beckett, Stani Michels, Richard Niessen and Annelys de Vet (visual arts); Boukje Schweigmann and Ina Stockem (theatre makers); and Mayke Nas, Aspasia Nasopoulou, Kristoffer Zegers, Marianthi Papalexandri and Samuel Vriezen (composers).

Merlijn Twaalfhoven


Orkest de Volharding tours the United States. The programme at Lincoln Center in New York includes Louis Andriessen's 'M is for Man, Music and Mozart'.


In the 'Vogelvrij' [Free as a Bird] series, the orchestra works with young English composers. Christopher Fox serves as guest programmer. There are five premieres on the programme: 'De Groote Muziek' [The Great Music] (Christopher Fox), 'Intermittence' (Joanna Baille), 'Concerto grosso' (Michael Wolters), 'Ullrich 1 and 2' (Laurence Crane), and 'Music for People Who Like Nature' (Andrew Hamilton).


The Fund for the Performing Arts advises the minister of education, culture and science, Ronald Plasterk, to cut off Orkest de Volharding's state subsidy. In October, Alexander Rinnooy Kan, chairman of the Social-Economic Council, and other prominent people sign a letter to the Permanent Chamber Culture Commission in which they point out the damage done to music ensembles that receive negative recommendations from the Fund. The ensemble's Cooperative Association status is transformed into a Foundation. According to Roland de Beer in de Volkskrant, nearly half of the ensemble's members leave, most involuntarily.


Starting January 1, the ensemble is no longer subsidized, and it sees no solution but to disband. On February 19, Radio 4 broadcasts a retrospective of its eventful history. The programme maker Wim Laman also draws attention to other ensembles that are in difficulty. The programme includes music by, among others, Louis Andriessen, Steve Martland and John Adams. On July 7, the orchestra performs at the Muziekgebouw aan het IJ in a special collaboration with the Dutch chapter of The International Association of Music Libraries, Archives and Documentation Centres. The Italian soprano Cristina Zavalloni sings, in, among other works, Andriessen's 'Y Después' (1983), on texts by Federico García Lorca. In addition to Andriessen, a piece by Joey Roukens is performed: 'Shifting Lines, Shifting Colors' (2003).


Orkest de Volharding releases its last CD, a double album with older pieces, two of which appear in previously unreleased arrangements. Andy Gill writes in the English newspaper The Independent: "This 2CD set features splendid interpretations of minimalist works by the Dutch ensemble Orkest de Volharding." On February 21 Orkest de Volharding gives its last concert at the muzyQ building in Amsterdam.

Discography Orkest de Volharding

In the discography you will find all recordings that have been released listed chronologically. We restrict ourselves to the title, the type of audio, year of publication or recording, label, list of guest musicians, plus any comments on the issue.

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