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Orchestral Works
(with or without solists)
  Chamber Orchestra   Chamber Music
Clarinet Concerto
Der Einsame im Herbst
Entangled Tales
Violin Concerto
  Piano Concerto
Time after Time

Piano Trio


Clarinet Concerto (2005-06)
Opgedragen aan Lorraine Vaillancourt, Simon Aldrich en Nouvel Ensemble Modern
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De concertvorm is een instrumentaal concept dat als een rode draad door het oeuvre van De Raaff heen loopt. Sterker nog, er is zelfs al een werk waarin de klarinet als solist optreedt: Dubbelconcert voor klarinet, basklarinet en orkest, geschreven in opdracht van de 'Matinée op de vrije Zaterdag' in 1997. De Raaff’s Dubbelconcert kan worden beschouwd als een voorloper van en als een vooruitwijzing naar dit Klarinetconcert. Evenzo als een nog te schrijven Basklarinetconcert. Wat de voorliefde van de componist voor de (bas)klarinet overduidelijk weergeeft.
In het vijfdelige Klarinetconcert, zien we net als in het Dubbelconcert, een manifestatie van verschillende krachten en krachtmetingen. De solist staat tegenover het orkest als in een strijd van het individu tegen de massa, een geliefd onderwerp van De Raaff. Het muzikale materiaal wordt in verschillende dimensies tegenover elkaar geplaatst en wel zodanig dat er een ‘’visuele diepte’’ ontstaat. Het idee is een muzikaal eerbetoon aan de allervroegste kubistische uitingen van schilders als Robert Delaunay en Pablo Picasso.
In de eerste twee delen van het Klarinetconcert, eerst snel en daarna langzaam, zien we een vervlechting van gelijkwaardige krachten. Deze lijken soms onafhankelijk van elkaar te bestaan in dezelfde ruimte. Als twee naburige hemellichamen in een universum, die tegelijkertijd samen de muzikale ruimte definiëren.
Vanaf het derde deel, getiteld Cadenza, zien we dat de schaduwklarinet, de klarinet in het orkest, zich langzaam losweekt van het orkest om zich bij zijn gelijke te voegen, de soloklarinet. Als evenwaardige krachten sluiten de twee klarinetten, bijgestaan door de marimba, deze Cadenza af in een obsessief en drammerig Duo in het donkere 'Chalumeau'-register van het instrument. Vanaf dit punt, in het vierde deel, neemt het orkest de krachtenbundeling over en stuwt deze nieuwe krachten verder dan de klarinetten ooit zouden kunnen doen.
Het vijfde deel is een Coda waarin de soloklarinet een poëtisch duo vormt met de 'schaduw'-klarinet van het orkest, tegenover een tot stilstand gekomen harmonische progressie, een gravitatie naar de diepste klanken van het orkest. Deze zuigkracht vanuit de diepte, vooruit gegaan door de klarinetten, is als een zwart gat dat het stuk wegzuigt in het luchtledige.

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Der Einsame im Herbst  for large ensemble
Program note for the American premiere in the Alice Tully Hall of Lincoln Center New York, on the 10th of December 2002
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In 1998 the Gergjev Festival, a festival programmed by and around the conductor Valery Gergjev, commissioned the Dutch composer Robin de Raaff to write a piece based on the theme of the festival that year, 'tragic love’. Arnold Schönberg was the main present and absent in the program. He was to be the subject of De Raaff's composition. Schönberg had survived his artistic sons Alban Berg and Anton Webern, and as a result lost the most important younger representatives of his twelftone technique. The title Der Einsame im Herbst (The lonely one in Autumn), named after the second part of Gustav Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde, captures in a striking way the tragedy of a men left alone in the autumn of his life.
The Kammerkonzert by Berg, written for Schönberg's fiftieth birthday, starts with the initials of Schönberg, Webern and Berg as three separate musical motifs simply played next to each other in the first three opening measures. That was to become the entrance to his composition in which De Raaff has blown up each of these initials into complete and separate movements, which are linked to each other. Creating a piece of 16 minutes out of the three opening measures of Berg's Kammerkonzert.

The first part of Der Einsame im Herbst is based on the Schönberg 8-tone motif, which is used in a fast way in the lower register of the ensemble and in a very slow way, as a long stretched melody, in the higher register of the ensemble. But mostly emphasizing the darker and deeper side of the ensemble.

The second part is based on the initials of Berg. This 4-note motif has been verticalised into a chord. From the background, constantly in the middle register, these four voiced harmonies are slowly surfacing, accelerating and behaving more and more like a real choral. Towards the very end it puts its surrounding to the background, ultimately taking over completely.
Just as Berg used the choral 'Es ist genug’ (It is enough, Lord) of J.S. Bach in the 2nd movement of his Violin Concerto as a tribute to Bach, De Raaff creates a choral based on the Berg motif as a tribute to Berg.

The third part is based on the smallest of the three motifs, a three tone motif based on Webern, whose pieces are well known for their sparse textures and durations.
This movement is the thinnest and shortest movement. Thin, in terms of the emphasis on the lucid higher register, as well as the use of very thin, soft and slow staccato motifs.

Dramatically seen the piece starts thick, dark and heavy and over the course of the three movements, it vanishes into thin air as a metaphor for life and death.
In an abstract sense the composition is about, the difference between forground and background and the exchange of these dimensions. Dutch writer Harry Mulisch who is well known for his typical use of structure in his novels, wrote `De elementen' (The elements), in which a comparable situation appears that inspired De Raaff for the structure of the 2nd movement of Der Einsame im Herbst. In Mulisch's book every chapter has an element as a title. In the beginning seemingly unimportant, but little by little the chapters become shorter and the title more important. Accelerating towards the end the titles have become an inevitable catastrofic force.

Amsterdam, October 2002
—Robin de Raaff

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Entangled Tales (2007)
This is the world premiere performance of Entangled Tales, which was commissioned for the Boston Symphony Orchestra with financial support from the Fund for the Creation of New Music, The Netherlands
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Robin de Raaff’s new Entangled Tales for orchestra, completed earlier this summer, was commissioned as part of the initiative NL: A Season of Dutch Arts in the Berkshires, a season-long celebration of the cultural riches of the Netherlands. Arts organizations throughout the county, including the dance venue Jacob’s Pillow, visual art at the Clark Institute, visual art, theater, and music at MASS MoCA, and six programs at Tanglewood: the two Boston Symphony Orchestra concerts led by Edo de Waart this weekend, last week’s two performances by the Netherlands Bach Society, and two Ozawa Hall concerts—an all-Schubert program and an all-Beethoven program—by the Netherlands-based period-instrument ensemble Orchestra of the Age of Englightenment, on August 21 and 22 at 8:30 p.m.
As might be understood from the title of the piece, Robin de Raaff wrote his piece specifically for Tanglewood. The composer credits his experience here as the Senior Composition Fellow of the Tanglewood Music Center in 2000 as an important stage in his career, and he also remembers fondly the time he spent working and attending concerts here. His sparkling and uniquely constructed Enneas Domein was performed at that summer’s Festival of Contemporary Music. In 2001 he returned to Tanglewood as the recipient of the TMC’s Paul Jacobs commission to attend the premiere of the result of that commission, his Piano Concerto, performed by the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra led by Ludovic Morlot (then a TMC Fellow, now in the last month of his two-year tenure as assistant conductor of the BSO), and TMC Fellow Ralph van Raat as piano soloist.
Already before his Tanglewood sojourns, de Raaff was an acclaimed composer in his native country, having had performances by some of the best-known Dutch ensembles and instrumentalists, including the ASKO Ensemble, Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra, and the Nieuw Ensemble, which premiered his Flute Concerto under Ed Spanjaard and flute virtuoso Harrie Starreveld in 1997. De Raaff had attended Amsterdam’s Sweelinck Conservatory, working with composers Greet van Keulen and Theo Loevendie. After meeting and working with George Benjamin at Tanglewood in 2000 (Benjamin was a composer in residence and Festival of Contemporary Music director that summer), he went on to study further with Benjamin in at the Royal College of Music. Since then, his career has blossomed further, perhaps most notably with the production of his chamber opera RAAFF, which was commissioned by the Netherlands Opera and co-produced with the Holland Festival and premiered in June 2004. (The title RAAFF refers to the opera’s main character Anton Raaff, the tenor for whom Mozart wrote the title role of Idomeneo and to whom Robin de Raaff is distantly related.) The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra has performed his Concerto for Orchestra (originally written for The Hague’s Residentie Orchestra) and commissioned and premiered his Unisono. Recent major premieres include his Clarinet Concerto, first performed by Le Nouvel Ensemble Modern in March 2006, and his ensemble piece Time After Time, introduced by the Schönberg Ensemble at the Donaueschingen Festival in October 2006. His Piano Concerto, the Tanglewood commission, has had many performances since its premiere here in 2001.
De Raaff was approached about writing a new work for premiere at the Tanglewood festival about two years ago. This will be the first time he has collaborated with his countryman, conductor Edo de Waart, who is guest conductor of the BSO in two programs this weekend. About his current piece, de Raaff writes, “A newly commissioned work always starts from an utter and complete void. But as I sketch, more and more the important material separates itself from the lesser material, and in the end I always seem to end up with the ‘proper’ material that enables me to write an entire work, for whatever length; but that is a long journey.” When asked about whether the experience of working on his large-scale opera had changed his music, he replied,
" The oeuvre of a composer always splits itself into before and after the first opera…. My Piano Concerto, for instance, is a very constructivist piece—the length of the movements all correspond to a certain ratio, as do the rhythmic motifs, without losing the sense of real musical timing…and therefore everything is conceived from a sort of “perfect” plan…. While writing my opera I felt that the timing, from moment to moment, needed to be free, while the overall timing of the entire opera was carefully planned. After my opera I really let go of the constructivist approach to structure and the music that flows through it, and found that I had actually made a big step forwards. This piece Entangled Tales and many other newer pieces are much more free again. I use the same musical grammar as in the Piano Concerto and other earlier, pre-RAAFF works, but now more freely."
One of the key words in the composer’s comments is “flows”—the impelling motion of most of de Raaff’s work is one of its most audible characteristics, along with deft and scintillating orchestration reminiscent of Strauss or Debussy or, more currently, Boulez and George Benjamin. In Entangled Tales the composer employs a large orchestra with a full complement of percussion plus harp. Alto flute adds a touch of exoticism to the woodwind section. Instruments are grouped together for complex collections of musical gestures, which are themselves combined to form what might be thought of as multilayered “supermotifs,” as opposed to a simpler melodic or harmonic theme-group. Several of these dynamic gestures are used to form a fluid mosaic of rhythms, brief melodies, and timbres in an ever-changing texture, enhanced further by intricate attention to dynamics and articulation (accents, muting, tremolando, strings “col legno” or played with the wood of the bow, and so forth throughout the orchestra). In the largest sense, the experience is ebb and flow of musical density and intensity, from active hyperactive tutti orchestra to transparent, chamber-music like passages and back again, with all entangled details sparkling.

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Vioolconcert (2006-2008)
(opdrachtwerk ZaterdagMatinee – eerste uitvoering)
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Het woord concert roept vanzelfsprekend automatisch associaties op met de klassiek-romantische traditie. Echter als er een compositie is die niet aan het klassieke stramien van weleer beantwoordt is het wel De Raaffs Vioolconcert. Evenmin is zulks het geval bij het Vioolconcert (1935) van Alban Berg, die – evenals De Raaff - de verworvenheden van de traditie op een buitengewoon eigenzinnige manier hanteerde.
De wens een vioolconcert te schrijven, hield De Raaff al sinds zijn zestiende bezig. Niet alleen een opvallende zin voor proporties verraadt De Raaffs affiniteit met Berg – laatstgenoemde was eenvoudigweg geobsedeerd door getallen – maar vooral ook hoe deze getallen resulteerden in een buitengewoon lyrische en expressieve klanktaal. In Bergs Vioolconcert is bekende Bachkooral – ongeveer halverwege het tweede deel, dus op ruim driekwart van de lengte – een van de meest in het oog springende elementen. De Raaff was aanvankelijk van zins net als Berg een tweedelig concert te concipiëren, maar het werd uiteindelijk een eendelig werk. Opmerkelijk is dat ook De Raaff een koraalachtig gegeven de revue laat passeren. Hij brengt dat in tegenstelling tot Bergs in diens Vioolconcert niet aan het slot, maar vlak na de aanhef, zodat men van een spiegeling van het oude voorbeeld zou kunnen spreken. Anders dan bij Berg betreft het geen citaat, maar een eigen creatie.
De Raaffs werk begint met een orkestraal uiwaaierend fragment dat slechts aan de strijkers en twee klarinetten is toevertrouwd. Deze groep herhaalt telkens een melodische frase die onmiddellijk wordt ‘bevroren’ in een harmonisch moment. Uit die harmonische laag komt geleidelijk de stem van de viool tevoorschijn, terwijl de klank van het orkest uitdooft. Uit de dan ontstane tweestemmigheid ontvouwt zich het koraalgegeven. De Raaffs melodische frase tendeert naar een eindpunt, maar het harmonische centrum blijft goeddeels in het ongewisse, ook al is dat niet afwezig. Staat in Bergs Vioolconcert het kwint-interval in het middelpunt (het werk begint met de welbekende kwintenstapeling), bij De Raaff is dat de grote sext, die – om het even wat er zich in het betoog ook afspeelt – bij de luisteraar de indruk van een verwijd tonale structuur bewerkstelligt. Deze sext is de uitkomst van drie gestapelde kwinten (G-D-A-E); en zij komt overeen met de laagste en de hoogste losse snaren van de viool (de tonen G en E).

Als orkest vermomde viool
Een ander element van belang is dat van de ‘geografie van de uitvoering’. De eerste en tweede violen staan in een horizontale rij vooraan opgesteld en vormen een soort ripieno-ensemble van solisten. Deze verwerken de motieven op een hoketus-achtige manier. In diepste wezen suggereren zij daarmee een ruimtelijke uitvergroting van het solo-instrument. Voorts zijn de snaren van de grotendeels op open snaren spelende tweede violen (N.B.: het opereren met open snaren geldt voor de hele strijkersectie tijdens de belangrijke eb- en vloedmomenten) een kleine secunde lager gestemd, waardoor de impressie van een ‘als orkest vermomde viool’ eens te meer wordt versterkt. Dit kan mede worden opgevat als een hommage aan Jaap van Zweden, aan wie deze compositie is opgedragen (behalve voor hem werd het stuk ook voor Tasmin Little geschreven). De rol van de strijkers – met inbegrip van instrumenten als piano en harp die, samen met het strijkorkest, het arsenaal van snaarinstrumenten compleet maken – is veelal geïsoleerd van die van de rest van het orkest, waarin met name de blazers bepaalde melodische wendingen versterken. Doordat de strijkers in belangrijke mate alleen op open snaren spelen, ontstaat een zeer boventoonrijke sonoriteit. In relatie met het gangbare toonarsenaal levert dat een verbeeldingrijk contrast op tussen het aardse en het bovenaardse.

Vervolgens zij vermeld dat De Raaffs Vioolconcert, evenals dat van Berg, een instrumentaal requiem is. ‘Dem Andenken eines Engels’ staat als motto boven Bergs partituur, en De Raaff nam dat opschrift in zijn partituur over. Toen hij ongeveer halverwege het scheppingsproces gevorderd was, ontving hij het bericht dat een goede vriend was overleden, die een begenadigd saxofonist was geweest. Als een klinkende hommage laat de saxofoon dan ook tegen het einde van het concert van zich horen.
Wie ‘engel’ zegt, zegt ‘aura’. En dat laatste, het bereiken van een equivalent van een aura in klank, wordt gerealiseerd doordat De Raaff de boventonen – de losse snaren zijn rijk aan zulke boventonen – een belangrijke rol toebedeelt. Bovendien hanteert hij subtiele dynamische schakeringen (crescendi/decrescendi) binnen de afzonderlijke en ‘stilstaande’ tonen van de solist. De Raaff werd hiertoe naar eigen zeggen geïnspireerd door het gregoriaans. Deze aloude muziekvorm klinkt doorgaans in grote kerken met een immense akoestiek. In die akoestiek konden de boventonen een bijna eigen leven leiden en ontstond een intrigerend contrapunt met de gefixeerde toonhoogtes. In het spel van de boventonen openbaarde zich, meende men, het zingen der engelen.

—Maarten Brandt

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Piano Concerto
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Dutch composer Robin de Raaff (b.1968), a Tanglewood Composition Fellow in the summer of 2000, won that year’s prestigious Jacobs Commission, the fulfillment of which resulted in the initial three movements of the Piano Concerto, which received its world premiere in the summer of 2001 at Tanglewood. It received critical acclaim from:
-Paul Griffiths in the New York Times: “This was where the echoes of Mr. Ligeti's music came in […] But Mr. de Raaff has his own way of weaving together allusions to things as disparate as medieval music (again) and Varèse, and his own poetry.”
-Richard Dyer in The Boston Globe: “The Piano Concerto is sophisticated in structure and workmanship, and the slow central section rises to eloquence.”

The performance tonight will be the World Premiere of the Piano Concerto in its complete form, with two added new movements that were completed last summer.

Writing a piano concerto, or a concerto in general, poses a lot of questions concerning balance between the soloist and the other instruments. “I immediately chose to keep the ensemble to a minimum, to be able to emphasize and explore the more subtle character of the piano”, as done so explicitly in the slow, second movement of this concerto. The first three movements form one arch, one bow, of which the three movements are an uninterrupted part, as do the last two seperate movements. There is a break in between the 3rd and the 4th movement, ultimately forming two larger movements with smaller inner movements.
The idea of the piece is very much a structural one inspired by the Violin Concerto of Stravinsky. In Stravinsky’s concerto every movement starts from the same musical gesture from which rather different music evolves. In De Raaff's Piano Concerto all five movements start from the same musical situation, the interval the fifth (d1–a1) in the middle register. This opening gesture, which forms a focal point from which musical environments both derive and arrive, thus creating completely different musical worlds that are constructively different yet linked together by a common root and common material. The relation between the movements is always 1:2, creating the fast, initial movements (quarter = 100) of exactly five minutes, then the slow 2nd movements (quarter = 66) of exactly 2 1/2 minutes and then a fast movement again of exactly 5 minutes, derived from the ratio 2:1:2, creating a Fast-Slow-Fast total movement. The last two movements have the same relationships in tempo, duration (1:2) and character.

This Piano Concerto is dedicated to De Raaff’s former teacher George Benjamin.

—Robin de Raaff, Amsterdam, 28th of October 2002

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Time after Time (2006)
Dedicated to Reinbert de Leeuw and the Schönberg Ensemble
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In 2004 The Netherlandse Opera and The Holland Festival performed the world premiere De Raaff's opera RAAFF, about the famous German tenor Anton Raaff who premiered Mozart's Idomeneo in 1781 in München at Karl Theodor’s Court. After having written RAAFF, a piece in which the multiplicity of musical ideas is of crucial importance to the development of the characters and the underlying dramatic development, De Raaff more and more felt the urge to write music where a single idea defines the whole outline, shape and impulse of the composition. This commission from the Donaueschingen Contemporary Music Festival became the object of that ideal.

The title Time after Time immediately reveals and time and repetition as very important elements. Instead of Time or Tempo being a factor that has been chosen intuitively, here Time has become a structural element, the very fabric of the work.

Time after Time is a setting of small chains, reccuring gestures that are clicked together to form larger chains, that then click together on a larger scale. The Tempo or Velocity around those reccuring gestures gradually speeds up, where as the absolute speed of those reccerences remain frozen in time.

This treatment is inspired by a technique that is very common in modern day cinematography. It is a musical equivalent of a lens-effect a subject can undergo by zooming from wide angle lens to a tele-lens while the subject’s size in the frame remains the same. The distance of the subject to the actual lens has to be constantly adjusted, causing the size of the subject in the frame to seemingly freeze while the surroundings very dynamically change, the effect is very impressive.

The musical dialogue starts when the friction builds up between those frozen gestures and gestures that actually do modulate in time with the general speed-up. And the musical climax starts at the moment the tempo starts slowing down again while those frozen gestures finally start speeding up against the general slow-down of the piece, in a poetic play of elements

From a completely artificial idea a very simple musical idea arose, with very clear rhetorics. Creating common ground in the vastly remote plains of extreme velocities, ever connected through the fluidity of time.

—Robin de Raaff

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Chalumeau for clarinet and piano
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Robin de Raaff, whose father introduced him to the piano, received his musical education at the Sweelinck Conservatory in Amsterdam, where he studied with Geert van Keulen and Theo Loevendie. He participated in a Pierre Boulez master class and studied with Brian Ferneyhough at the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik in Darmstadt in 1996. In England, at the Royal College of Music, he studied with George Benjamin, who invited him to Tanglewood as a senior fellow. The Tanglewood Music Center commissioned him to write a piano concerto, which was premiered there. At present, de Raaff is working on a large-scale symphonic work for the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra to be premiered in 2004. Since 2001, De Raaff has taught composition and instrumentation at the Rotterdam Academy of Music. In collaboration with Pierre Audi, artistic director of De Nederlandse Opera, De Raaff is developing an opera, Raaff, scheduled to have its premiere with the Netherlands Opera and the Holland Festival on June 26, 2004. The subject of the opera is Anton Raaff, the tenor who sang the title role in Mozart’s Idomeneo in 1781.

De Raaff began developing his own methods of organizing musical structures, which led to his style of musical composition, in which he subjects various parameters to numerical relationships. “I really feel a need to let my intuition be guided by numbers,” he says, “because it forces me to investigate areas I’m not familiar with.”

De Raaff has received numerous awards, including the KNTV Composition Prize, the first prize at the International Competition for Composers of Chamber Music, the Young European Composers Award in Leipzig, and the AG Kunst Prijs.

De Raaff feels that his style has progressively become more concentrated and focused. “My first pieces were influenced by serialism, mainly that of Boulez. I was very much taken by that kind of complexity; you can lose yourself in it totally. But you take the risk that afterwards no one remembers a single note. In order to truly absorb serial music, every listener should ideally have perfect pitch. That’s why I now strive more for unambiguousness. What I write is still complex, but the gestures are more distinct and understandable. The notes themselves have more meaning—on the one hand because I devote more attention to their melodic aspect, and on the other hand [because I create] more points of repose that make the moments of motion more effective.”

His Chalumeau for clarinet and piano, dedicated to both Céleste Zewald and Jaap Kooi and commissioned by the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, receives its US premiere in tonight’s concert. De Raaff has explained that the inspiration for the title Chalumeau comes from a specific register in the clarinet, which is at the bottom and is lower and darker than the other clarinet registers. It is also the name for a shepherd’s flute, an instrument akin to the recorder. The dark color, usually in the lowest register of the piano and reappearing in different settings throughout, is a constant factor in the piece. De Raaff uses the coloration in what he calls “structural counterpoint with the development of a bell-like sound in the upper, middle, and lower registers of the piano pitted against the low, slow chalumeau clarinet register.” This bell-like sound ultimately takes over at the end of the piece.
—Note by Susan Halpern
—Copyright © 2003 by The Carnegie Hall Corporation

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Piano Trio (1996/rev. 2001)
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It is a real challenge for a composer to write for one of the more standard and traditional historic ensembles. Like for instance the string quartet, woodwind quintet, string trio, and of course the piano trio. But somehow that challenge seems to appeal to Robin de Raaff since he has written a string quartet called Athomus, a woodwind quintet called Aerea as well as a Piano Trio.
But especially this last medium, the Piano Trio, seems to perfectly suite the musical language that De Raaff has developed in his more recent work. One element, which is maybe the most outspoken one in De Raaff’s music, is the aspect of layering different rhythmical processes. The Piano Trio combines perhaps the most contrasting, almost opposing, sound characteristics in one ensemble. The sound of the ever decaying piano as opposed to the string instruments that, with their bowing technique can do the exact opposite, being crescendo.

This contrast, is the starting point for De Raaff’s urge to layer seemingly independent musical structures as completely separate entities. But also as more unified entities by juxtaposition, which is a direct influence from the music of the Renaissance where rhythmical units are often juxtaposed in different speeds, giving a result that fascinates Robin de Raaff. Like in Renaissance music, the rhythms that De Raaff uses to control and determine are often simple rhythmical ratios that construct both the macrostructure and the microstructure, and all scales in between those extremes.

But the result is not an abstract musical language, on the contrary, his music seems to have a very clear dramatic direction. Starting with a cello solo, the introduction consists only of the two string instruments, where the piano comes in as a real intruder. But as the piece unfolds, we see the struggle of the instruments to become unified, falling apart again in the very end, leaving us only with the two string instruments revealing a chorale that has been trying to resurface ever since the piece started.

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