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Willem Jeths,
Composer Laureate of The Netherlands
watch the Protestlied from the documentary:
Bloed, zweet en snaren. De mensen van het Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest

watch the documentary:
Het Palet van Jeths

music reviews


Joep Stapel:

There were high expectations for Willem Jeths’s first Symfonie, and indeed, the work fully lived up to them. Edo de Waart masterly led the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra in the first programme of the Saturday Matinee series at the ‘Royal’ Concertgebouw.
Having undergone substantial revision, two related works by Jeths (b. 1959), Scale and Metanoia, function as the central diptych of Symfonie. The two outer movements are existential musings on poems by Goethe, warmly sung by Karin Strobos. Symfonie is about the cycle of life, death, and life after death. In effect, Jeths has expressed this concept of constant transformation in music on a monumental scale. Despite its composite structure, Symfonie is characterised by a high degree of unity.
Like a modern-day Mahler, Jeths plays virtuosically with timbre and instrumentation by adding wine glasses and steel drums to the orchestra, scoring music performed by offstage instruments and, most notably, employing the resources at his disposal in an imaginative way. Original details proceed in quick succession without the material disintegrating, each gesture precise and exciting, and the palette both subtle and vast.
Those members of the audience seated behind the stage nearly jumped out of their skin when a percussionist began striking his instrument with a giant wooden mallet. The unexpectedly subdued ending was cathartically moving...

Roeland Hazendonk:

[…] Jeths’s idiom is more chameleon-like than personal, yet it is remarkable that neo-Romanticism can employ so literally the stylistic devices of the past without sapping the music of its vitality. That says something about how capable a composer Jeths is.


[…] The composition alludes to Mahler with the devastating hammer blows (ten of them in this work!) in the Sixth Symphony, the wrenching chord in the Tenth, offstage music, the post horn played at the top of the stairs, the use of vocal elements in a symphony and even the choice of poetry by Goethe, set in the outer movements. Like his predecessor, Jeths infuses the work with a philosophical intensity, like a reflection on life and death.
Nevertheless, the work does not sound like an Eleventh Symphony by Mahler. Suddenly, Alban Berg appears onstage. Does Jeths make reference to the fourteenth-century composer Machaut with his use of the retrograde form in the first movement? He captures echoes of the past in a musical language that intrigues the listener for nearly forty minutes, thanks to surprising details in the instrumentation and an ingenious scalar game. The sporadic outbursts are thus thrown into even greater relief in the many expressively coloured contemplative passages...

SCALE -le tombeau de Mahler- IN THE PRESS:


"Jeths brings you from 'stress' into relaxation... In SCALE Jeths has refined his colour-palette and now the theatre in his music is more prominent. This works!.... The end of the composition is moving and full of beauty with soft crystal glasses... "

"Refined construction of scale-characters.... Jeths in the spirit of Mahler...."


"Jeths is able to create beautiful colours and knows very well how to write for a huge symphony orchestra without straining after effects.... He tells, full of fantasy, a well elaborated and tense story...."


"Willem Jeths has a fascination for the concerto form,seeing the orchestra as a prism for reflecting and exchanging colours with the soloist. Jeths' Second Violin Concerto, subtitled Diptych Portrait, relates to his opera Hotel de Pekin and the character of the Chinese empress Cixi, with the bipartite structure representing two facets of a single personality, initially dark and complex, ultimately changed by experience. This transition is realised over the course of the stormy virtuoso cadenza, where the appearance of a series of harmonics is the means to realising a more natural order, calmer and enlightened, if not actually serene. Tasmin Little, who premiered the work at Amsterdam's Concertgebouw last year, played with authority"



Absent and dreamy, with vague tones of violins from distant planets where gravity doesn't exist. That's how the Violinconcerto nr. 2 of Willem Jeths (1959) starts . This new work was premiered during the 'ZaterdagMatinee' with the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and the violinist Tasmin Little conducted by Reinbert de Leeuw.

Unusual vague, subtle sounds are superseded by firm figurations of the violin and the orchestra. It justifies the subtitle 'diptych portrait'.

The Violinconcerto is not a synchronized diptych portrait, but a voyage of 21 minutes through a dark and enlightened world. Large arches of tension are developped.

The violinist takes the lead and guides self-convinced through dark clouds, icing coldness, a rainbow and sunshine. The orchestra follows the violin closely apart from some exuberant explosions. A game of holding and seducing suits the Brittish violinist Little (1965) very well. Precisely, elegantly and sturdily she lines out a fascinating trace.

The long cadenza for the violinist which seems connected to "SOSIA" a piece that Willem Jeths composed last year for Janine Jansen, gives the impression of standing apart. The many notes and complicated stops seem like a struggle . The conclusion of the concerto compensates the cadenza and works like an enchantment in which the piece ends in a stilly atmosphere deprived of virtuosic sorrows"


"Jeths is a fantastic composer who knows how to transform drama into music"


"Notes that excel in atmosphere and sensitiveness"


"Jeths' music sounds: intense, grazing, twisting, shivering"

"A splendid piece about Cixi: the last empress of China. About the gap between East and West, about power and impotence"

"It is a sound-cosmos in which Jeths' basis-idiom, consisting of piercing secunds and augmented fourths, is interlarded with transparant, sometimes frantic "Chinoiseries"


"The musical and vocal performance is excellent with Marie Angel in the impressive principal part as Empress"


Intus Trepidare, 3rd string quartet performed by the KRONOS QUARTET, Sydney
The Dutch composer Willem Jeths's Intus Trepidare (Trembling from Within) was also strongly sectional, like trying to play gutsy riff in a dream where things keep going absurdly wrong.
Peter McCallum, 3 March 2005


Intus Trepidare, 3rd string quartet, performed by the KRONOS QUARTET on 5 February, Carnegie Hall New York
Willem Jeths, a Dutch composer, was represented by "Intus Trepidare" ("Trembling from Within"), a 2002 work in which manic chordal bursts and eerie sliding music coalesced as a quirky, off-kilter dance.
Allan Kozinn, 8 February 2005


Intus Trepidare, 3rd string quartet, performed by the KRONOS QUARTET 22 January Barbican Centre, London
"..... a sublime ending that drifted slowly into silence, left one grasping at thin air."
Richard Wolfson, 25 January 2005


Intus Trepidare, 3rd string quartet performed by the KRONOS QUARTET, Eindhoven (World Premiere, 16 October 2004)
FASCINATING STRING QUARTET BY WILLEM JETHS The Kronos Quartet has added with Jeths' new string quartet Intus Trepidare (Trembling from Within) an expressionistic and well-constructed piece to their repertoire. The middle-section of Intus Trepidare breaks out in a rather hysterical waltzing quotation from Alban Berg's Lyric Suite which is not meant as a startingpoint for a classical melody and harmony: Jeths makes especially use -as he always does- of soundlayers where density and colour are the headlines. Very strong in this respect is the way colour and atmosphere alternate, and the slowly looming up of something melodical that always seemed to be snowed under untill it breaks out in Berg's paean.
Roeland Hazendonk, 18 October 2004


Flugelhorn Concerto: 'Jeths' most colourful and exuberant composition to date... excitng to the very end', 'a terryfying adventure, a concerto that growls like a hell-hound'
Ernst Vermeulen


"Jeths wrote his masterpiece "Flux/Reflux" as a kind of a requiem in which the ebb and flow of the sound refer to the big themes of life: death and eternity."
Anthony Fiumara, 10th of April 2001


"Flux/Reflux- a subtly orchestrated piece by Dutch composer Willem Jeths- was another highlight. Inspired by two deaths- that of the composer's mother and that of a former teacher- it seems to meditate on change and constancy, and the joy and grief of transformation; it makes beautiful use of an Eastern palette- in this case, temple bells and gongs."
Monday, November 27, 2000