Louis Andriessen (1939-2021)

Symphony for open strings (1978)

for twelve solo string instruments

  • General information
    • Composition date: 1978
    • Duration: 25 mn
    • Publisher: Boosey & Hawkes
Detailed formation
  • 5 violins, 2 violas, 3 cellos, 2 double basses

Premiere information

  • Date: 1978

    Pays-Bas, la Haye, Conservatoire Royal.

Program note

The open-string orchestra consists of twelve soloists. The ensemble has all the chromatic tones over a range of nearly four octaves at its disposal. But for a melody of four consecutive tones four players are required.

The work was written for a group of string players at the Conservatory, a kind of teaching project for ensemble playing and counting.

As regards the composition technique, I employed symphonic procedures: recurring motives, a developing musical motion, and something like a recapitulation. I had not used techniques like these since the fifties, and they could be my answer to the neo-romantic movement: young composers writing once again for the symphonic orchestra. In this sense the Symphony is ambiguous, using ‘symphonic’ techniques while an open-string orchestra will never sound like a real symphony orchestra.

This work has benefited from that discrepancy – in other words, for a symphony orchestra I would have written a different work.

Louis Andriessen.