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Gaudeamus is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Did you know that this is a very suitable opportunity to reveal what perhaps should have been forgotten? To remember what should not be forgotten. To be amazed at all those moments when so much could go wrong. And how much still went right. To laugh at impetuosity. And to reflect on the value of unpredictability.

Did you know that Chinese composer Tan Dun’s European breakthrough in 1989 consisted of a series of stumbling blocks? The French called off the organisation of the ISCM World Music Days. Gaudeamus quickly saved the festival. At the eleventh hour Tan Dun was flown in for the performance of his On Taoism. There was scarcely any time left for a rehearsal. Then the only score, which was handwritten, disappeared… and was found again just in time. Tan Dun’s performance was still out of this world!
Click here for more on Tan Dun and Gaudeamus

“Gaudeamus may have rescued this ISCM episode from the French garbage dump, but with ‘On Taoism’ Tan Dun lifted the festival out of the mud pit of mediocrity.”


Did you know that Het Parool described Gaudeamus Muziekweek’s departure from Amsterdam at the end of 2010 as one of the worst events of that year: ‘Highbrow terrible’.


Did you know that hardly anyone managed to give a complete performance of Ferneyhough’s work in the late 1960s? The Gaudeamus Quartet did manage it in 1968! In 1977, virtuoso bass clarinettist Harry Sparnaay was also one of the few who managed to perform up to 70 percent of the prescribed notes. The music was set up on eight music stands across the full width of the stage, and had to be played with ‘circular breathing’, so with a continuous flow of breath. Programming this kind of work gave Gaudeamus the image of incomprehensible music promoter.

‘I was surprised about the third prize for the English­ man Brian Ferneyhough, who with his Sonatas for String Quartet I found far below par.’
Haarlems Dagblad, 1968

Did you know that the work with which Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf won the Gaudeamus Award in 1990 has never been heard? The jury deemed it a promising score. Conductor Elgar Howard, however, refused to put it on the music stand. According to the press, the audience was “spared a bleak listening experience”. Despite the promise of the Radio Chamber Orchestra to play it at a later date, the work has remained unperformed to this day.

‘The world is more complex than ever and I myself am a complex personality, so how else should I express myself?’
Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf in NRC Handelsblad, 10-9-1990


Did you know that studio CEM for electronic music, which was founded in 1961, still exists? Started in a pavilion in the garden of Huize Gaudeamus in Bilthoven, the studio recently ‘landed’ in Willem Twee Studios in ‘s Hertogenbosch, via Hilversum, Arnhem, Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Dedicated inspirers Michael Fahres and Armeno Alberts (still going strong) guide and have guided new generations of musicians in continuing to discover the multifaceted possibilities of analogue sound equipment. And apart from the CEM studio, Gaudeamus has also paid constant attention to the latest developments in electronic music, during the Music weeks and in various special festivals.

> Here you can read more about the involvement of Gaudeamus in the electronic music life in the Netherlands

Do you want to know more about the early years of CEM studio in the 50s and 60s and its continuation to Hilversum, Arnhem and eventually Den Bosch ? Read the exciting article of Kees Tazelaar.


CEM Studio for electronic music, Huize Gaudeamus in Bilthoven

Green Sounds – project of the Soundlings Collective, Gaudeamus Muziekweek 2014

Senses Working Overtime, Gaudeamus Muziekweek 2018

Festival Terza Prattica, 2000

Modèles sonores, the early years of electronic music, 1989

Gaudeamus Live Electronics Festival, 2006


Did you know that, long before the term ‘diversity’ was introduced, Gaudeamus brought together music from all over the world at the International Composers Workshop? The workshop took place annually, in Amsterdam and Bulgaria alternately, from the early 1980s until 2000. Under the direction of Ton de Leeuw and Dimiter Christoff, composers and musicians from Asia and Eastern and Western Europe worked together for a week on cross- fertilisation, presentations and concerts.

leaders of the workshop Ton de Leeuw, Chou Wen Chung, Theo Loevendie and Dimiter Christoff; with Vanessa Lann and Tonny Prabowo, 1990.


Did you know that Pauline Oliveros was the first female composer to win the Muziekweek, in 1962? It was not until 1985 and 1987 that she was followed by Unsuk Chin and Karen Tanaka. Anna Korsun won in 2014,and Kelley Sheehan in 2019. On the occasion of the 75th anniversary, Karen Tanaka, at Gaudeamus’ request, is writing a new piano work for Ralph van Raat. Gaudeamus also wants to offer more female composers a stage by raising the age limit and spreading nominations for the Muziekweek more evenly.

Anna Korsun

Unsuk Chin

Kelley Sheehan

Gaudeamus Muziekweek 1987: Michael Finnissy, Frances-Marie Uitti, Arne Melnäs, Karen Tanaka, Leonard Payton, Richard Karpen, Ron Ford, Giulio Castagnoli
© Co Broerse

Karen Tanaka, Gaudeamus Muziekweek 1987 Prize winner, and her publisher Elisabeth Gamber
© Co Broerse

In 2020 Karen Tanaka was commissioned by Gaudeamus to write Techno Etudes 2 for pianist Ralph van Raat.


Did you know that Pauline Oliveros gave not only the first, but also the last performance of her work with Gaudeamus? In 2016 the American composer/accordionist was invited to the festival ‘LeGuessWho?’ in Utrecht. Her concert took place on November 13 at Theater Kikker. Eleven days later, back home in New York, she died unexpectedly.

Click here for more on Pauline Oliveros and Gaudeamus

from left to right Enrique Raxach, Raymond Baervoets, Antonio Ruiz-Pipó, Pauline Oliveros, György Ligeti, Elmar Seidel and Ton de Kruyf


Did you know that Gaudeamus has only had three directors in 75 years? The changes took place modestly. Photo opportunity? When Chris Walraven said goodbye and Henk Heuvelmans took over, the press photographer saw the two of them standing by the window and, ‘click’, the photo was taken. Have a nice day.


Walter Maas, 1945-1963

Chris Walraven, 1963-1991

Henk Heuvelmans, 1991-2020; and Martijn Buser, from 2021


Did you know that already in 1972 Gaudeamus explored what would happen if you also invited musicians from other branches of music to the Gaudeamus Muziekweek? So all of a sudden there stood on stage a combination of the Theo Loevendie Consort and the pop group Focus. But for the press and audience the ‘compartmentalisation’ of the music disciplines was still too strong for them to appreciate a cross-border experiment with improvising jazz or pop musicians. The experiment was not repeated for quite a while…

From left to right Misha Mengelberg, (behind him) David Bedford (of the pop group Kevin Ayers and the Whole World), Enrique Raxach, Martin Sigrist, …, Theo Loevendie, Thijs van Leer (of the pop group Focus). Standing: Pascal Rijnders and Walter Maas


Did you know that even after less succesfull cross-border experiments in earlier years (see previous page), Gaudeamus again entertained the audience with other styles of music during the ‘Night of the Unexpected’ sessions in the BIM-huis, the Melkweg and Paradiso? Visitors came to see an artist known to them and in between were surprised by an ensemble or composer with completely different music. The very first time, a visitor returned to the box office after some time to get his money back because “it was not exactly what he had expected”.


Did you know that the ‘Night of the Unexpected’ accompanied Gaudeamus in the move from Amsterdam to Utrecht at the end of 2010, and has taken place in TivoliVredenburg since 2016 under the name Gaudeamus Saturday Night?

Curator Roland Spekle explaining the concept of The Night of the Unexpected in 100 seconds. The first of three Utrecht based Nights of the Unexpected took place at Tivoli Oudegracht on September 6, 2012.


Did you know that even by Gaudeamus’ standards some musical experiments are still difficult to put in the right context? The American composer Daniel Lentz once attached ‘neurophones’ to the bodies of some musicians to ensure that recorded sounds of a choir and orchestra would sound loud internally and would cause the body fluids to resonate. The sound picked up was then projected back into the hall via small speakers.


Did you know that this same Daniel Lentz felt like a loser when he received the Gaudeamus Muziekweek’s first prize in 1972? With his composition Canon & Fugle he had wanted to ban any form of competition in order to promote peace in the world. And he of all people had now won a competition.






‘I consider my over-win as a loss. Canon & Fugle is the first piece I wrote on commission, from a foundation called The Cooperators. Its mission is to promote world peace and ban competition. It is precisely with this piece that I have now won a competition.’
Daniel Lentz about the Gaudeamus Award 1972


Did you know that the Consolation I entry by the now renowned Helmut Lachenmann was not awarded a prize in 1968 because it had already been performed elsewhere? The jury was obliged to follow its own rules: a piece had to premiere during the Gaudeamus Muziekweek. In the press there was talk of an “overly strict rule” for an “unassailable masterpiece”. Lachenmann then made his breakthrough elsewhere…

One could imagine other criteria that would avoid this kind of unpleasant outcome without compromising the exclusivity of the Gaudeamus Muziekweek.’
Haarlems Dagblad, 13-9-1968

Did you know that in 1994 the police came and implacably pulled the plugs out when The Birmingham Electro Acoustic Sound Theater – aka The Beast – did a quick ‘soundcheck’ with about a hundred speakers before a performance in the Posthoornkerk in Amsterdam? Unsuspecting co-users of the monumental building were shocked by the “noise of fighter jets roaring through the church”. In great haste the Stedelijk Museum was found willing to have The Beast perform there the same weekend, with all the speakers included.

Jonty Harrison tijdens opbouw BEAST in het Stedelijk Museum

Gaudeamus is celebrating its 75th anniversary.

Do you want to discover more about its turbulent past, the unexpected present and the unknown future ?

Back to the Anniversary overview page

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