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Kersjes Prize winner Lodewijk van der Ree: 'Language strongly determines the sound of a choir'

'An inspired conductor, with an intelligent approach to the score, a clear stroke and the ability to draw a choir into his vision. According to the jury of the Kersjes Prize on Lodewijk van der Ree (1986), who received this year's executive award. I have worked with him many times and can wholeheartedly endorse this statement.

Carte blanche for Cappella Amsterdam.

In 2018, I moderated a public rehearsal and introduction at Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ, following the world premiere of La porte de l'enfer by the Spanish composer José Maria Sánchez-Verdú. The piece had been commissioned by the String Quartet Biennale, for Cappella Amsterdam and Quarteto Quiroga. Despite the limited rehearsal time, Lodewijk led the singers and musicians with verve through the composition consisting mainly of whispers, sighs and mysterious clanking noises.

A year later, Cappella Amsterdam gave him carte blanche for a full-length concert, also at Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ. Van der Ree put together a special programme entitled Time and the Bell. This refers to a verse by T.S. Eliot that Sofia Gubaidoelina used for her composition of the same name for soprano and string octet, from which only the movement for solo soprano was performed.

Early music alongside world premiere.

The concert was a fine illustration of Lodewijk van der Ree's broad orientation. Alongside music by Flemish polyphonist Johannes Ockeghem, he placed the world premiere of Kuma by Estonian Liisa Hirsch, inspired by one of the bells of Rostov Cathedral in Russia. Nice also that he has the modern classic Mortuos plango by British composer Jonathan Harvey on the lecterns and concluded the concert with the rarely performed Nachklänge From Dutchman Robert Heppener.

After the award ceremony on 3 December 2019 at the Concertgebouw, I asked Van der Ree about his plans. He will - at least for now - remain a choral conductor. No wonder, as he has a great affinity with the human voice and started his career as a singer. Because of his relationship with Estonian composer Evelin Seppar, he currently lives in Tallin, where he can study the much vaunted choral practice from the inside.


While orchestras worldwide are becoming more and more similar in sound, choirs maintain their individuality, according to Van der Ree. 'The language largely determines the timbre of a choir.' Asked about the differences in singing between Estonians and Dutch, he notes that the former are a bit more cumbersome. With the disadvantage that they sing music by polyphonists such as Monteverdi less gracefully than the Dutch, but the advantage that they perfectly convey the melancholy, dark sound of Russian music by Rachmaninov, for example.

He will spend the € 15,000 prize money on master classes with admired conductors such as Grete Pedersen and Marcus Creed. But above all, he considers good press photos and his own website important: 'I am somewhat invisible now.'

This will undoubtedly change soon.

You can listen to our conversation here. 

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Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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