Martijn Padding


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  • Martijn Padding (Holland Festival 2014)

Martijn Padding (Amsterdam, 24 april, 1956) studied composition with Louis Andriessen at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, piano with Fania Chapiro and musicology at the University of Utrecht. His oeuvre ranges from solo instrumental works to large-scale orchestral compositions and music theatre. His more recent works are less prone to the angular construction and pithy harmonic structure of his earlier pieces, and although Padding’s music often still exhibits a technical-musical aspect, a theatrical element is increasingly evident. Padding’s compositional aesthetic precludes any hierarchical relationship amongst, for instance, modernistic elements, influences from popular culture and historical-based doctrines.
Padding’s works are performed by prominent ensembles, soloists and orchestras in the Netherlands and abroad. He writes his music in close colllaboration with musicians and ensembles, including Gerard Bouwhuis, Asko|Schönberg, MAE ensemble, NAP, LOOS and the Veenfabriek.

Padding by Padding

In the following essay, Padding describes his musical credo:

When I was seventeen years old I took lessons from the marvellous pianist Fania Chapiro. I had to study a piece from Bartók's Microcosmos in which the left hand was notated in four flats and the right hand in four sharps, or vice versa. I didn't even notice the key signatures and practiced it with all the wrong notes. I thought it sounded fine and it cost me a huge effort  to relearn the piece in its original, 'correct' version.
I understood the music but it led to something new.

Later on I changed notes in other people's music on purpose   particularly highly respectable colleagues from the past. Improving on, and messing about with, the music of others is a good thing, because music is the domain of freedom and freedom should be abused whenever possible.
That is why I strive for an uninhibited manner of composing. Not at all economical!  Life is not a dress rehearsal for some performance in the afterlife. Just write, systematically or not, at the piano, and mind your chord progressions. Double bar, next piece.

Copy?  Why not. Repeat yourself? Also fine. Our brains are equipped with a wonderful capacity: the capacity to make mistakes. But I cannot copy or repeat my own work   somewhere along the line it goes awry. The pen takes on a will of its own, the notes slither about or they take unexpected turnings. I get myself into unintended situations. Hopefully this kind of estrangement will continue, because that is the best thing that could happen to music.

True innovation in art comes mainly by accident. It steals in unnoticed and only later appears to have been responsible for momentous results. Errors are therefore not only human, or even desirable for music. They are absolutely essential!

Martijn Padding (translation Jonathan Reeder)'

Towards an oeuvre

In 2009, Padding was selected for the International Rostrum of Composers for First Harmonium Concerto. For a performance of the complete series of Beethoven's nine symphonies with Jos van Immerseel and Anima Eterna at the Holland Festival in 2010, Padding wrote a new overture, Glimpse, with the same orchestration as Beethoven's The Creatures of Prometheus. In 2011 Padding won an Edison Klassiek Award for his CD Three Concerti. In March 2012 his composition In Memoriam Hector Berlioz premiered with Het Gelders Orkest, where he had been composer in residence during one season. In the autumn of 2012, three of Padding's compositions premiered: Things that fall apart, Gesprek (a duo composition with Louis Andriessen) and HOP. From 2012 Padding has been working on his new opera Laika, which will premiere in June 2014 at the Holland Festival. As well as working as a composer, Martijn Padding is also Head of the composition faculty at the Royal Conservatory of Music in The Hague.

Padding at the opera

PaddingAfficheHF2014Although Padding has composed just two operasbetween 2003 and 2014, his interest in musical theatre is evident from multi media theatre pieces such as as Oldenbarnevelt (1996) constructed together with Louis Andriessen, Paul Koek and Florentijn Boddendijk. This was followed by his first true opera Tattooed Tongues, composed in 200-2002, and premiered in Petersburg 2003. The opera deals with the Swedisch religious figure, the mystic Emanuel Swedenborg who lived in the period of realism. The story, however, has been transfered to modern times. A critic described it as:

'A musical language that nearly brings you to tears, in a way that you normally expect from baroque or romantic music.' (Olga Komok, Tijdschrift Cultuur, 38, Oktober 2-8, 2003.)

Tattooed Tongues includes theater, techno, film and other art forms. The libretto was made by Friso Haverkamp. The opera was promoted as 'the first succesful modern opera production in Saint Petersburg 2003.' Further works of music-theatre texture are Superville (2005), Licht is de Machine (2008), and Machine Agricole (2010). meanwhile, Padding composed a second true opera, Laika, which was premièred at the Holland Festival 2014.


The opera Laika iwas the result of a collaboration between Padding, Dutch author P.F. Thomése and the artist Aernout Mik. Pierre Audi, artistic director of the Holland Festival and The Dutch National Opera brought the three together, aiming for a performance excecuted by the AskoSchönberg ensemble. The libretto revolves around talkshowhost Robbert who is haunted by viewers statistics Queen Trix Dominatrix, while he wonders about his dreams of ere. Robbert seeks contact eith the kosmonaut Gagarin en space dog Laika, who are floating in the universe. After another discouraging meeting with Dominatrix, he decides to join them. The crew waves him off,  a choir rejoices in his escape. The score includes a 'viewers statistics aria',' a blink eye to the famous catalogue aria in Mozart's Don Giovanni (and a recurring theme in Dutch opera, since it was first introduced in modern Dutch opera in the 1969 opera Reconstructie, by the likes of Louis Andriessen, Reinbert de Leeuw, Jan van Vlijmen, Micha Mengelberg and Peter Schat. Another example is the 'decomposition of Don Giovanni by Floris Bergeijk into Donna Giovanna (2011, Opera Spanga).

Hoogtepunten uit Paddings' oeuvre

    Ritorno (1988) for saxophone quartet
    Blend (1992) for piano
    Nicht Eilen Nicht Schleppen (1993) for soprano and ensemble
    Nederland Muziekland (1994) for soprano and piano
    Scharf Abreissen (1995) for large orchestra
    Oldenbarnevelt (1996) opera, with Louis Andriessen, Paul Koek and Florentijn Boddendijk
    Ein Haus mit einem Dach (1998) for ensemble and voice
    Honk (2000) for small ensemble
    TATTOOD TONGUES (2000-2002) opera
    Mordants (2002) for violin and piano
    Sketchbook (2003-4) for baritone, fortepiano and ensemble of period instruments
    Unequal parts (2005-6) for piano and ensemble
    Superville (2005) music theatre
    2 scenes for orchestra (2007)
    Three reflexions on previous thoughts (2007, 2009, 2011) for orchestra and voice
    Eight Metal Strings (2007) mandoline concerto
    First Harmonium Concerto (2008)
    White Eagle (2009) violin concerto
    Licht is de Machine (2008) for voices and ensemble, music theatre
    Last Words (2010) for cello solo and ensemble
    Machine Agricole (2010) for voices and ensemble, music theatre
    LAIKA (2014) opera