A song for the King

10 October 2022

Composer Max, Art of Sound Student Simon and the Brass Section of the RO teamed up for Prinsjesdag

Everything began with a One Minute Symphony, composed by Bachelor of Composition student Max van Platen.

Max was inspired by ‘the blue flame’ a painting by the Dutch artist Constant Nieuwenhuys and composed a piece for the Residentie Orkest as part of the educational cooperation between the orchestra and the Royal Conservatoire. The painting with the two colours reminded him of the concept of bitonality, using two keys at the same time. It was the first time that Max wrote a piece for an entire symphony orchestra which can be intimidating, but Max managed very well.

The artistic director of the Residentie Orkest (RO), Sven Arne Tepl thought so as well and really enjoyed Max’ composition. He decided to keep in touch with the young and aspiring artist. When Jan Anthonie Bruijn, Chair of the Eerste Kamer, was looking for a new talent to compose a short piece for the King of the Netherlands, Sven suggested Max.

The wishes for the composition were quite straightforward: A quintet for wind instruments (brass); something that sounds like an impressive overture in a jaunty tempo, a piece that could accompany the King on the State opening of the Dutch Parliament (Prinsjesdag).

To get into the right mood, Max watched YT-videos of previous important occasions such as Prinsjesdag but also King’s Day and the Remembrance of the Dead on May 4th. The music used on these days, especially for the fourth of May moved Max and set the tone for his composition. Usually, Max starts (in his opinion a bit old-fashioned) with a piano, a pen and a piece of paper. He tries out different tunes and chords until he finds his perfect melody. But Max also tries to imagine how the day will look like. He thinks about the musicians that will play his piece. It will be a long day for them and brass players need a lot of breath. He makes sure that everyone has enough breathing breaks and that there is a good balance between the instruments.

Another inspiration was the weather in The Hague in September. A typical Dutch autumn day will be windy and full of motions; leaves that dance in the wind, people holding on to their hats, hoping that they won’t fly away. You can hear all this in Max’ composition. It might be a stormy day, but he remains optimistic. This can also be seen as an allegory. For many, 2022 is a difficult year. War came to Europe; we are facing an energy crisis and people feel the inflation rising up. The King has to address all these difficult topics in his speech but he also has to make sure that his people remain hopeful.

Max is very grateful for the opportunities his studies at the Royal Conservatoire facilitated him with. Especially the cooperation with our partner, the Residentie Orkest is instrumental for KonCon students of various departments. It was an incredible experience for Max to be able to work with the amazing brass musicians from the Residentie Orkest.

But also, his teachers were an important part of his education. Max studied with Peter Adriaansz who challenged him on his musical ideas, resulting in him broadening his horizon. And the Head of the Department, Martijn Padding who helped him understand his own musical language. Composer legend and former KonCon teacher Guus Janssen had a big influence on him as well, and his occasional lessons with Louis Andriessen were also a great source of inspiration for Max.

Listen here to Max composition recorded by Art of Sound student Simon. This recording was broadcasted by Radio NPO4.

Royal Conservatoire The Hague · Ode Al Vento by Max van Platen

Three years ago, Composition student Maarten was asked to compose a One Minute Symphony for the RO as well. His piece was played during the Prinsjesdag Concert in 2019.

Residentie Orkest · One Minute Symphony - Troonrede - Maarten Bauer

Prinsjesdag in a Timelapse

© Pictures: Hans Kouwenhoven/ Staten-Generaal, Alex Schröder, Serge Ligtenberg/Eerste Kamer

© Recording: Commissioned by the Eerste Kamer and recorded by the Royal Conservatoire Art of Sound Department with the Brass Section of the Residentie Orkest. With kind permission of composer Max van Platen.