Ton de Leeuw (1926-1996)
Car nos vignes sont en fleurs : pour 12 voix mixtes (1981)
Choir: Nederlands Kamerkoor
Conductor: Ed Spanjaard
written for l'Atelier Vocal
Ton de Leeuw was a Dutch composer. His youth spent in Breda was culturally rather isolated, the radio being his main access to music. Nevertheless his interests ranged wide including medieval, Renaissance, contemporary and non-Western styles. In his teenage years a leaning towards philosophy and religion was fostered through personal contact with the Dutch writer Pieter van der Meer de Walcheren, who was himself connected to the French Roman Catholic revival which centred around Jacques Maritain. After private music lessons with Louis Toebosch (1946), he studied composition privately with Badings (1947--1949). He was in Paris from 1949 to 1950, where he took analysis with Messiaen at the Conservatoire and orchestration privately with Thomas de Hartmann; five years of ethnomusicology with Jaap Kunst followed. In 1954 he started work as a music producer for the Nederlandse Radio Unie, where he stayed until 1959 playing an important role in bringing contemporary and non-Western traditions to the Dutch public. He was next appointed head of composition at the Amsterdam Conservatory (1959--1986), of which he became general director (1971--1973) and artistic director (1973--1986). He was also senior lecturer of contemporary music in the musicology department of the University of Amsterdam (1963--1983), and in 1981 he was composer-in-residence at UCLA, Berkeley.
Throughout most of his professional life de Leeuw gave guest lectures and guided workshops internationally, speaking in particular about interaction between different cultures. Of particular significance to his own music were visits made to Iran and India in 1961, at the invitation of the Dutch ministry of education, to assess the possibilities of cultural exchange. He was the chief organizer and chairman of the Musicultura meetings (1974--1984) in the Netherlands, devoted to bringing into contact composers, musicians and musicologists from across the world.
They continued under his guidance as international composers' workshops (1984--1996), organized by the Gaudeamus Foundation. His book Muziek van de twintigste eeuw has contributed significantly to music education in the Netherlands and abroad and many of his composition students have played, and continue to play, a prominent role in musical life, among them Jos Kunst, Straesser, Keuris, Janssen and Hoenderdos. After 1986 de Leeuw devoted himself entirely to composition, living in Paris and Vétheuil. His various prizes include the Prix Italia (1956, radio oratorio Job), the Prix des Jeunesses Musicales (1958, String Quartet no.1), Prize of the City of Amsterdam (1970, Lamento pacis), and twice the Matthijs Vermeulen Prize (1982, Car nos vignes sont en fleur, and 1997, posthumously, complete output).