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Louis Andriessen
Composer and professor of music composition at the University of Leiden, the Netherlands

The high and low art of singing:
Cathy Berberian as a classically trained Armenian-American singer

Louis Andriessen leaves Musicology and chooses the perspective of the young composer who went to Milano to study with Luciano Berio, where he played cards a lot, learnt to know Berio’s wife, accompanied Cathy B. at the piano and became close friends with her. The letters in his personal archive testify of her personal and professional struggles in the last decade of her life and of her warm and brilliant personality.

Andriessen will focus on important facts of Berberian’s musical life, such as her marriage to Berio, Berio’s works written for her and her own repertoire. In a time when different musical genres were far apart and musical hierarchies and opinions were strongly held, she found and took an enormous freedom, performing Kurt Weill, the Beatles, Jacques Offenbach, and other fringe composers.

Part of Andriessen’s contribution will be devoted to the birth of Berio's Folk Songs. This top hit of new music is the result of Berio’s and Berberian’s ideological and musical collaboration. Andriessen joined in as a student assistant, writing down the Azerbaijan Love Song which closes the collection.

Andriessen does not share the musical ideology from which the piece emerges. The piece is a good specimen of Berberian’s objectives and of her creative influence on Berio. Her voice kept inspiring him, and many other composers.

As an American born from an Armenian family, she never left her roots, singing Armenian songs and spreading the sense for anti-hierarchy she took to Europe from the New World, breaking through all kinds of musical borders.

Finally, Andriessen considers the grand solo recitals as examples of Berberian’s ideas and personality, and as the ultimate collaboration between her and Berio.

In the early sixties, Louis Andriessen studied with Luciano Berio in Milan. There he met Cathy Berberian, with whom he regularly performed as a pianist. They became close friends, and corresponded over the years. As a composer, he developed a style inspired by Stravinsky, Ives, jazz, Bach and be-bop. He is now widely regarded as the leading composer working in the Netherlands today and is a central figure in the international new music scene.
In the last decade he collaborated with filmmaker Peter Greenaway in a film and two stage works. He is currently working on an opera based on Dante with the filmmaker Hal Hartley.

For more information:
Boosey website on Andriessen
Donemus website on Andriessen