""(Laura) Aikin makes de Raaffs technically demanding music sound like childs play, mastered with a uncomparable naturalness and impressive ease.""klassik.com, 25-1-2016
Robin de Raaff (Breda, 1968) discovered his own diverse musical world through playing classical piano as well as bass guitar from a very early age. After being introduced to the legend and legacy of Jaco Pastorius, De Raaff’s musical world expanded explosively as an instrumentalist. Parallel with this early development he created his own music and lyrics for his Band where instrumental sections grew in significance, ultimately in to completely scored instrumental works. These instrumental compositions led him to enrol as a student of composition.
De Raaff is of the generation of Dutch composers emerging in the nineties. He first studied composition with Geert van Keulen at the Amsterdam Conservatory and later with Theo Loevendie, graduating cum laude in 1997. Still being a student in 1995 he encountered Pierre Boulez in a Masterclass who praised his String Quartet No. 1 “Athomus” creating a whole new momentum to his development and career. In 1999 De Raaff had the privilege of being invited to work as George Benjamin’s only composition student at the Royal College of Music in London where he also studied with Julian Anderson.
In 2000 De Raaff was invited to the renowned Tanglewood Music Center as the ‘Senior Composition Fellow’ which was the beginning of an ongoing relationship resulting in a series of commissions and performances (Piano Concerto No. 1 for the Festival of Contemporary Music and Entangled Tales for the Boston Symphony Orchestra) and performances of his septet Ennea’s Domein and Un Visage d’Emprunt. For 2015 De Raaff was commissioned to compose a Fanfare dedicated to the 75th Anniversary of the Tanglewood Music Center. His residency at Tanglewood in 2000 was the beginning of a bigger exposure with performances and residencies in North America through festivals and theaters such as: The Aspen Music Festival, Cabrillo Festival (Santa Cruz), State of the Union Festival (London), ISCM World Music Days, The Banff Center, CBC Parry Sound Festival (Ontario), Takefu International Chamber Music Festival, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Ultima Contemporary Music Festival, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center (New York), Betty Oliphant Theatre and Glenn Gould Studio (Toronto).
After a creative period of nearly 10 years, De Raaff finished his first opera RAAFF in 2004, which was commissioned by the Dutch National Opera in a co-production with the Holland Festival. The birth of this opera started with De Raaff’s success at a master class for young composers with Pierre Boulez organised by DNO in 1995.His second opera, also commissioned by DNO, resulted in Waiting for Miss Monroe (2012), which was received with much acclaim by the international press including The New York Times, Der Tagesspiegel and Der Süddeutsche Zeitung.
De Raaff’s Violin Concerto No. 1 “Angelic echoes” (2008, written for Tasmin Little and Jaap van Zweden) was selected as the Best Orchestral Work of the year 2008 in the Dutch composition competition Toonzetters. His special interest in this genre led him to compose many Concertos of which his Percussion Concerto (2014 commissioned by The New Juilliard Ensemble and premiered in Lincoln Center), is the most recent one.
In September 2016, his Oratorio “Atlantis”, an In Memoriam Pierre Boulez, was successfully premiered in Vredenburg, Utrecht (the Netherlands), to date De Raaff’s largest work for the concert stage. Early in 2017, his Symphony No. 4 “Melodies unheard” was premiered during a concert tour with the Arnhem Philharmonic Orchestra as part of his term as Composer in Residence.
The 2nd Sonata for Violin and Piano “North Atlantic Light” was given its world premiere in the Kurt Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall on the 4th of June 2018. It is based on the famous painting by Willem de Kooning, a fellow countryman of De Raaff. The larger vision on this painting, Violin Concerto No. 2 “North Atlantic Light”, was premiered in the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam, both versions were written for Tosca Opdam.
With the recent world premiere of Sfera for large orchestra in the esteemed ZaterdagMatinee, De Raaff finished his Symphony No 5 “Allegory of Time, of which Sfera is movement I and Unisono for large orchestra movement II.
Commissioned by the Holland Festival for their 75th Anniversary De Raaff composed his Piano Concerto No. 2 “Circulus”, premiered by Ralph van Raat, Matthias Pintscher conducting the Radio Filharmonic Oerchestra.
For 22 successive years, De Raaff has been Professor of Composition and Instrumentation at the Composition Department of the University for the Arts in Rotterdam, Codarts.
"(Laura) Aikin makes de Raaffs technically demanding music sound like childs play, mastered with a uncomparable naturalness and impressive ease."
" (...) It is an intelligent if not entirely successful attempt on a tempting but, perhaps in the end, a dramatically intractable subject. (...) "
The Guardian, 16-12-2015
["] .. The recording was quite successful, especially in 'surround' which brings the listener closer to the live experience."
"One of the focal points of the Holland Festival 2012 was Robin de Raaffs Marilyn Monroe-opera in a libretto of Janine Brogt. Challenge put this work on a perfectly catered double album."
De Volkskrant, 07-10-2015
Three stars ***
NRC Handelsblad, 14-9-2015