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  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Multimedia projects
Recent premieres
  Other successful works

Robin de Raaff was born on December 5, 1968 in Breda, the Netherlands. He was raised in a very musical family where classical music and popular music were part of his daily life. As a child he received weekly piano lessons from his father and practised daily. De Raaff discovered his own musical world through playing the bass guitar, which he taught himself to play. As a teenager, under the explosive influence of fretless bass guitar legend Jaco Pastorius, De Raaff switched to fretless bass guitar, introducing him to a new world of complex instrumental music, and ultimately Jazz.
But even more passionately, already as a young teenager, composing his own music was his most important musical expression. Starting with pop songs, with ever increasing instrumental parts, larger symphonic proportions were soon imposed which inevitably lead him towards the great classical composers. Inspired by this newly discovered music De Raaff developed a musical style for symphony orchestra installing the necessity to compose in full score. After enrolling as a composition student at the Sweelinck Conservatory of Amsterdam, playing the bass guitar moved to the background, but his very broad musical interest would greatly influence his view on style in contemporary Classical music.
De Raaff first studied composition with Geert van Keulen and later with Theo Loevendie, with whom he graduated cum laude in 1997. In 1999 De Raaff had the special privilege of being invited to work as George Benjamin’s only composition student at the Royal College of Music in London where he also studied with Julian Anderson.

De Raaff is currently the Coordinator of the Composition Department at the Rotterdam Conservatory of Music (Codarts) where he has been a professor of composition and orchestration since 2001.

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In 2000 De Raaff was invited to the celebrated Tanglewood Music Center as the ‘Senior Composition Fellow’ which was the beginning of an ongoing relationship resulting in a series of commissions and performances, including the resident orchestra The Boston Symphony Orchestra. That same summer, De Raaff’s septet Ennea’s Domein was performed as part of Tanglewood’s Festival of Contemporary Music, a piece which was later programmed in the State of the Union concert of the London Sinfonietta in Queen Elizabeth Hall.
As a result of his success in 2000, the Tanglewood Music Center awarded De Raaff a commission to write a Piano Concerto which was premiered at the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music in 2001 by pianist Ralph van Raat and conductor Ludovic Morlot. Since the premiere, his Piano Concerto has been performed in Frankfurt, Utrecht, Amsterdam, Rome and London.
In 2007, De Raaff was commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra to write Entangled Tales which was performed in the famous Koussevitsky Shed, the main stage of the BSO in Tanglewood, again conducted by Ludovic Morlot. In later seasons Entangled Tales has been performed by Neeme Järvi with the Residentie Orchestra in The Hague and the Moscow Symphony Orchestra conducted by Otto Tausk.
De Raaff continues his relationship with Tanglewood with the upcoming American premiere of his quartet for clarinet, violin, cello and piano Un Visage d’Emprunt at the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music in August 2009.

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  performance photos
  click photo to enlarge
After a creation period of nearly 10 years, De Raaff finished his first opera RAAFF in 2004, which was commissioned by the Netherlands Opera in a co-production with the Holland Festival. The opera is written for 6 soloists, an actor, a chorus and an orchestra (Nieuw Ensemble).
The birth of this opera began with De Raaff’s success at a master class for young composers with Pierre Boulez organized by DNO (Netherlands Opera) in 1995. Boulez, whose high artistic expectations were very apparent in the class, singled out De Raaff’s string quartet Athomus (1992-3) with high praise, further confirming and encouraging the success that De Raaff was already having in Europe. As a result of this success, there was extensive press coverage of the masterclass, and De Raaff’s connection to DNO was established.
The initial idea of the opera RAAFF was inspired by the relationship between Anton Raaff, the tenor for whom Mozart wrote the title role of Idomeneo, and Mozart, and the story of Idomeneo and it’s creation. Pierre Audi introduced De Raaff to Janine Brogt who would become the librettist for RAAFF.
Under the direction of Pierre Audi, to whom the opera is dedicated, and the musical direction of Lawrence Renes, RAAFF was premiered on June 23rd, 2004.

A recording of the premiere of RAAFF which features such celebrated performers as soprano Danielle de Niese and the two tenors Marcel Reijans and Mark Tevis is available on CD under the label of Etcetera Records.

Photos RAAFF
photos credit: Clärchen and Matthias Baus
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Netherlands Opera production

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
performance photos  
click photo to enlarge  
Another development in De Raaff's career is the relationship he built with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. His Concerto for Orchestra, a piece which was originally commissioned and premiered by the Residentie Orchestra in The Hague, was included in the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s series “Teacher and Student” in their 2002-03 season. This concert highlighted the teacher / student relationship between Messiaen and Benjamin and between Benjamin and De Raaff. George Benjamin was the conductor of this concert.
Following the success of this performance, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra commissioned De Raaff to write Unisono for large orchestra which was premiered under the direction of Ed Spanjaard in Amsterdam in December 2004.

Both performances by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra are documented on De Raaff’s portrait CD "Orchestral Works" on Etcetera Records. Also included on this CD is a recording of De Raaff's internationally acclaimed Piano Concerto. This portrait CD received a rave critical review in the Dutch national Classical Music Magazine “Luister”, scoring a 9 out of 10 in the rating.
The CD is available throughout the world.

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Multimedia projects

Counter Phrases, a film concert by ROSAS Ensemble and Ictus Ensemble
In 2001, De Raaff collaborated with the renowned Belgian Ictus Ensemble through a fortunate encounter with composer and cinematographer Thierry DeMey in Spring Dance 2000, a workshop for composers and choreographers in Utrecht.
This lead to a critically acclaimed Multimedia project called "Counter Phrases" with both the ROSAS Dance Ensemble and the Ictus Music Ensemble, led by choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and conductor Georges-Elie Octors. For this project De Raaff was commissioned to write a musical reaction to a filmed choreography, shot by Thierry DeMey on location in the beautiful Belgian countryside.
This multimedia concert included nine other filmed choreographies set to music by Harvey, Reich, Lindberg, Francesconi, Hosokawa, Romitelli, Aperghis, Van Eycken and DeMey. Since the World Premiere in 2003, this project has toured to many of the major concert halls of Europe including, Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels, Barbican Centre in London, Birmingham Symphony Hall, Konzerthaus Wien, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Kölner Philharmonie, Cité de la Musique Paris, Opera Leonard de Vinci in Rouen, Auditorium Lyon, Théâtre de Caen, Grand Théâtre du Luxembourg and Opéra de Lille.
A DVD of "Counter Phrases" is available by the ROSAS Ensemble, as part of a retrospective DVD Box of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s work. (with ROSAS and Ictus Ensembles.)

Megumi, a dramatic documentary by director Mirjam van Veelen

Robin de Raaff was introduced to cinematographer Mirjam van Veelen through their mutual close friend and saxophone player William Raaijman (1972-2007). Mirjam had an idea for a new dramatic documentary about a Japanese girl named Megumi Yokota, who, on her way back home from school, was abducted by North Korean spies in 1977. And the silenced voice of Megumi would be performed by William on several saxophones.

This was picked up with great enthusiasm by Robin de Raaff, who always wanted to compose a work especially for William. This installed a very close artistic team to support Mirjam van Veelen's idea for her new film.

De Raaff finished his score for Megumi as a set of movements for saxophone solo and ensemble, performed by William Raaijman on saxophones and the Doelen Ensemble conducted by Maarten van Veen. The score for Megumi is dedicated to William Raaijman who died a few weeks after the recording sessions were completed.

Festivals in which Megumi has been shown

2008 International Film Festival Rotterdam, World Premiere
2008 Visions du Reel, International Documentary Film Festival in Nyon, International Competition
2008 Asian American International Film Festival in New York
2008 Amakula Kampala International Film Festival in Uganda
2008 The Netherlands Film Festival in Utrecht
2008 De Balie, Celluloid Digitaal, Amsterdam
2008 Corona Cork International Film Festival in Cork
2008 Festival International du Film Independent in Brussels
2008 Centre Pompidou in Paris, les Cinema's (selected by Geraldine Gomez)
2008 Siebold Huis in Leiden, Leids Filmfestival, Leiden
2009 The Bradford International Media Museum Film Festival in Bradford
2009 London International Documentary Film Festival (LIDF), Special Mention Best Film
2009 Planet Doc Review Warsaw, Magic Hour Competition
2009 Barbican, Cinema in London, DocSpot Season (part of the LIDF)

And from 15 November 2009 until 15 January 2010 Megumi will be shown in the Independant Asian Movie Festival for a total of 84 times, in Sinema Old School in Singapore

For more information about Megumi and/or Mirjam van Veelen, please visit: www.mirjamvanveelen.com

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Recent premieres
In December 2008 conductor Jaap van Zweden, violinist Tasmin Little and the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra gave the world premiere of De Raaff’s Violin Concerto in the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam, a commissioned work for the ZaterdagMatinee series. With a monumental duration of 32 minutes, De Raaff’s new opus was performed to a sold out Concertgebouw.
De Raaff’s Violin Concerto met with high critical acclaim in all the national newspapers. Furthermore, it was selected as the Best Orchestral Work of the year 2008 in the Dutch composition competition Toonzetters, competing with 8 other Dutch works for the special prize Best Musical Work of 2008. His Violin Concerto will be performed in the Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam on 30 August 2009, where this ultimate prize will be announced.

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Other successful works
Der Einsame im Herbst for large ensemble (1998)

This commissioned work for the annual Gergiev Festival in 1998, programmed by Rotterdam Philharmonic’s Chief Conductor Valery Gergiev, was premiered by conductor Henk Guittart and the Doelen Ensemble. This is one of many fruitful collaborations with Henk Guittart, who was also a member of the Schönberg Quartet.
After this world premiere, Der Einsame im Herbst had numerous performances, including a performance in Alice Tully Hall in New York’s Lincoln Center with the New Juilliard Ensemble and conducted by Joel Sachs, in Amsterdam’s Paradiso performed by the Radio Chamber Orchestra and conducted by Peter Eötvös, and in Stadthaus Winterthur Konzertsaal performed by MusikKollegium Winterthur and conducted by Jac van Steen.
On the 30th of August a performance with the Asko/Schönberg Ensemble in the Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ in Amsterdam, with Clark Rundell conducting.

Der Einsame im Herbst is available on Composers Voice CD “Between Nightbar and Factory”, performed by the Doelen ensemble and conducted by Arie van Beek.

Double Concerto for clarinet, bass clarinet and orchestra (1996-7)

De Raaff’s Double Concerto had an unusual start. After famous Dutch bass clarinet player Harry Sparnaay and Michel Arrignon (principal clarinet player of the Ensemble InterContemporain at that time) premiered De Raaff’s Equilibre for clarinet and bass clarinet in Theatre des Champs Elysées in Paris. This collaboration resulted in a new work for clarinet, bass clarinet and orchestra. This became De Raaff’s first commission for the ZaterdagMatinee. His Double Concerto had its world premiere in the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam with solists Harmen de Boer (cl.) and Harry Sparnaay (bcl.) and the Radio Chamber Orchestra conducted by Peter Eötvös, meeting up with rave reviews in the Dutch national newspapers.
This began his collaboration with conductor Peter Eötvös who would become a consistent force in De Raaff’s career with performances of Der Einsame im Herbst and Piano Concerto.

In 1998 De Raaff’s Double Concerto was selected for the Gaudeamus week and as the Jury Selection for the Gaudeamus Prize.

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2009 Winner Buma Toonzetters Prize 2008, Violin Concerto selected as best Dutch composition of 2008
1998 Bernhard van den Sigtenhorst Meyer Prize from Geneco for his Double concerto for clarinet, bass clarinet and orchestra
1997 First prize at the 1997 International Competition for Composers of Chamber Music in Winterthur (Switzerland) for his work Anachronie for flute and harpsichord
1995 Academisch Genootschap Prize for his compositions Contradictie I for flute solo, Athomus for string quartet and In memoriam Dmitri Shostakovich for 2 trumpets, 2 horns and orchestra
1995 KNTV Composition Prize for De vlucht van de magiër for soprano, flute, mandolin, guitar and harp on a poem by Serge van Duijnhoven
1995 BP's Young European Composers Seminar in Leipzig. De Raaff received a special prize three of his chamber music compositions, Equilibre for clarinet and bass clarinet, Athomus, and Contradictie I

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Robin de Raaff worked with ensembles, musicians and orchestras from all over the world, such as:

Peter Eötvös, Reinbert de Leeuw, Jaap van Zweden, Marin Alsop, Ilan Volkov, Neeme Järvi, Kristjan Järvi, Joel Sachs, Emilio Pomarico, Ludovic Morlot, Lothar Zagrosek, Ross Pople, Jac van Steen, Lucas Vis, George Benjamin, Otto Tausk, Christian Eggen, Ed Spanjaard, Lawrence Renes, George-Elie Octors, Stefan Asbury, Henk Guittart, Etienne Siebens, Daniele Calegari, Lorraine Vaillancourt, Micha Hamel, Arie van Beek, Maarten van Veen, David Smeyers, James Avery, Ulrich Pöhl, Clark Rundell, Marco Angius, Zsolt Nagy, Huub Kerstens

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Royal Festival Orchestra, Radio Filharmonic Orchestra, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Symphony Orchestra of the “Hessischer Rundfunk”, Moscow Symphony Orchestra, Junge Deutsche Philharmonie, Residentie Orchestra, Radio Chamber Orchestra, Het Brabants Orkest, Musik Collegium Wintertur, Netherlands Ballet Orchestra, National Philharmonic Orchestra, Cabrillo Festival Orchestra

New Juilliard Ensemble, London Sinfonietta, Ictus Ensemble, Schönberg Esemble, Asko Ensemble, Nieuw Ensemble, FCM Ensemble (Tanglewood), Doelen Ensemble, Le Nouvel Ensemble Modern, Ensemble Algo Ritmo, Insomnio Ensemble, Arditti Quartet, Raschèr Saxophone Quartet, Mondriaan Quartet, Schönberg Quartet, Het Trio, Osiris Trio, Cikada Ensemble, Asasello Quartet, Breitner Quartet, Fodor Quintet, Syrinx Saxophone Quartet

Tasmin Little, Harry Sparnaay, James Campbell, Ralph van Raat, Simon Aldrich, Marien van Staalen, Harrie Starreveld, Michel Arrignon, Danielle de Niese, Marcel Reijans, Joshua Ellicot, William Raaijman, David Wilson-Johnson, Maria Kowan, Annett Andriesen, Barbara Hannigan, Luisa Sello, Alicia DiDonato, Valéry Giullorit, Daniel Rowland, Joe Puglia, Ad Welleman, Leo van Oostrom, Mark Haanstra, Pauline Post, Céleste Zewald, Eric Rynes, Marrit Winger
, Monique Krüs, Monique Scholte, Jana Machalett, Mark Tavis

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