At the age of seventy, he remains a bit of a badass


In November, 1969, a group of radical young Dutch musicians ran amok at the Concertgebouw, the fabled Amsterdam concert hall. At the start of a performance by the Concertgebouw Orchestra, the troublemakers, who included the composers Louis Andriessen and Reinbert de Leeuw, began making noise with nutcrackers, rattles, bicycle horns, and other devices. They also distributed leaflets denouncing the orchestra as a “status symbol of the ruling élite.” The Netherlands being both a tradition-minded and a tolerant land, the Nutcracker Action, as it was called, elicited an ambivalent response: the provocateurs were summarily ejected from the hall, but their ideas prompted much serious discussion. Forty years on, the Nutcrackers have become eminences: Andriessen is the most influential of Dutch composers, and de Leeuw, who has focussed on conducting, has held posts from Tanglewood to Sydney. Yet they haven’t quite sold out. Although Andriessen occupies the Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair at Carnegie Hall—the kind of big-money post that his younger self might have mocked—Carnegie’s recent survey of Andriessen’s work and that of his colleagues and protégés, de Leeuw among them, has revealed an undiminished capacity for making mischief. The composer still resists Romantic trappings, favoring what he has called a “terrifying twenty-first-century orchestra” of electric guitar, keyboards and Hammond organ, saxophones, bongos, and other non-Wagnerian instruments. He likes amplified, pop-style voices better than pure-toned, vibrato-heavy ones. His pantheon of idols has Bach and Stravinsky at the center, but also makes room for Count Basie, Charlie Parker, and the Motown greats.

more from Alex Ross at The New Yorker here.