To our sadness we learned last week that Hans Kox, central composer at the Orlando Festival 2019, died on Monday 25 February at the age of 88 in his hometown Haarlem.
In the national press Kox was described as a composer of great importance to us, a great professional who wrote expressive music with international allure. It was also referred to how much he – as unfortunately is customary – was underestimated in his own country, and how he was seriously damaged in the seventies, by what can be considered a destructive attack on his composing on the part of the press and some of his colleagues. However, Kox did not allow himself to be silenced, and until recently he composed a beautiful and rich oeuvre. Many CDs bear witness to his importance, see also http://hanskox.nl/media.
Kox also found brilliant advocates in the recent past, such as the Jenufa Quartet, the Attacca label by Sieuwert Verster, conductor Jaap van Zweden, Saturday Matinee and many others.
For me there were many reasons to make him the central composer of our 2019 edition. First of all the quality of his rich chamber music oeuvre, the many instrumental scorings that were suitable for us, and certainly it was also a modest attempt to compensate a little for the general underestimation and undervaluation.
Unlike my friendship with the previous central composers, Jonathan Dove and Louis Andriessen, I hardly knew Kox personally.
After a few days of personal contact in the 70’s, when I played the viola in the War Requiem of Britten under his direction, as a guest in the Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra, for a week of which I have beautiful memories, I was very moved by our contact on the valuable Sunday afternoon of February 10, when we talked about his beautiful and important chamber music. It was a happy and joyful afternoon, and I was very impressed by his cheerfulness and his powerful optimism.
We talked about programming about two and a half hours of his music, and I am grateful that he has explained his preferences. I would have liked so much that he would experience this tribute optimally, with the serious performances on Orlando by fantastic musicians, hopefully resulting in a beautiful Hans Kox CD. I also looked forward to, and with me the seven young masterclass musicians I had already informed, the performance of the piano quartets and the piano trio in Haarlem, even before the summer.
I speak on behalf of the Orlando musicians when I say that we will miss Hans enormously this summer, and I assure you that we will work hard to make a nice tribute to him, with the choice of 14 compositions from his chamber music, covering a period of 56 years of his composing.
In the words of music journalist Bas van Putten: “His beautifully executed scores bear witness to an intense melodic talent – everything sings, including the instrumental – and ditto technical refinement. It is dynamic, restless music, with extreme contrasts between motoric rigour and hymnic lyricism, ostinato and liberamente. Traditional music too, thought in terms of thematic-motivic development, melody and accompaniment, harmony and counterpoint. Conceived in the context of a strongly expanded, but always tangible tonal background.
Read his biography here.