Louis Andriessen: De Tijd (Time). Schönberg Ensemble & ASKO Ensemble, Female Choir, Reinbert De Leeuw. Attacca 25100 (2005) barcode 7864975251002, Etcetera KTC 9000 – CD 20 (2006) barcode 8711801101330
Recorded live 1 June 2005, Opening Night Holland Festival
And again, time
29 October 2016
Dutch minimalist Louis Andriessen is a much-influential figure in his native country, both as a composer and as a teacher, and De Tijd (Time), from 1981, is one his recognized masterpieces. It is long (here 39:30 minutes in a single track, which still make it short on a CD with no complement), slow moving along a single tempo, ritualistic with its “space” chorus and its regular, pulsating punctuations of percussion (occasionally crashing, usually soft) separating would I can best describe as chordal blocks (but it turns out that Andriessen had the image of “blue columns”). And that’s about it. A certain stupefied fascination does emerge from the obstinate, slow-moving repetitive unfolding. It’s not a very demanding piece either. You can easily “hear” rather than truly “listen”.
Reinbert de Leeuw is the piece’s great champion – he made the premiere recording in 1982, on Composer’s Voice CV 8201 (LP only, not reissued to CD), with the Ensemble of the Royal Conservatory of The Hague. He re-recorded it in 1990 with his Schönberg Ensemble, then joined by the Percussion Group The Hague and the Netherlands Chamber Choir, a recording published by Elektra Nonesuch only in 1993, 7559-79291-2. 15 years later, he returns, live, at the Holland Festival. Interpretively and sonically, there is not much to chose between both versions (there’s hardly any audience noise in the live version until the final applause). So decision will depend on extra-musical considerations: availability, price (that excludes of course the Etcetera release, normally availabe only in the great Schönberg Ensemble commemorative set, unless of course you are interested in more than just Andriessen), liner notes – those of Attacca are very scanty, those of Elektra Nonesuch are very complete and include a welcome translation of the beautiful Augustine texts on eternity vs time used by Andriessen (drawn from the Confessions), sung so slowly that they’d be incomprehensible anyway in any language. Those of the Etcetera release are fine and include both text in Latin and translation, but then they come only in the thick booklet accompanying the set as a whole. So the Elektra Nonesuch studio version should probably be the first choice, and the Attacca remake or the Schönberg Ensemble Edition, a complement for the completist.