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Shift Festival - Continuum Music

Wednesday, February 25th at 9 pm

Performance by Dutch Pianist/Composer GUUS JANSSEN

Pianist/composer, improviser/notated music preciser, recognized equally in jazz and new music, Guus Janssen reflects the borderless musical scene of the Netherlands.  It’s appropriate then that he is part of the opening event of SHIFT festival in Toronto – a 45 minute solo piano set at 9:00pm, at Gallery 345, followed by the festival’s opening reception. 

Born in 1951, he studied piano and composition at the Sweelinck Academy of Music in Amsterdam. As pianist and harpsichordist he has performed in various groupings with musicians from John Zorn to Gidon Kremer. Since the early 1980’s he has led his own ensembles, ranging from piano trios to 11 piece band and opera orchestra. 

As a soloist, playing mainly his own compositions and improvisations, he has appeared in many international festivals. He has also performed with many of the leading Dutch ensembles and orchestras.  

Janssen’s achievements in the field of jazz and improvised music have been widely acclaimed; it was for these that he received the Boy Edgar Award, 1981.

His compositions, quite apart from the pieces written for the Janssen ensembles, range from piano music and string quartet to symphonic work; they have been widely played by, amongst others, the Kronos Quartet, the Schönberg Ensemble, the Ebony Band and the Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest. In recognition of this body of work and his standing as a composer, Janssen won The Netherlands’ most prestigious honour, the Matthijs Vermeulen Award (1984.)

Janssen has composed three operas in collaboration with Friso Haverkamp: Faust’s Licht (1988/1993), Noach (1994) and Hier (2000). Noach was staged a second time by the Dutch National Opera in 1999.    Last February his work Verstelwerk had its very successful New York premiere in Zankell Hall performed by the Riverside Orchestra. Cellists Larissa Groeneveld and Ernst Reijseger played his double concerto Belvédère with the Brabants Orkest last season wh ileJanssen was composer in residence.

In June his new piano solo cd was released by GeestgrondenCd under the title Out of frame. Andy Hamilton of Wire Magazine wrote, “a solo piano gem by the still too little known Dutch pianist, featuring his quirky mix of styles ranging from his Baroque heros Sweelink, Scarlatti and Bach, to Lennie Tristano and Bert Kaempfert… musical humour of a high order by a genius of the postmodern.”  Of the earlier release, Klankast, Jerome Wilson wrote in Cadence, “You’d think he was Chico Marx after studying with Misha Mengelberg or maybe the other way around.”

Last November in Amsterdam two new works had their premiere: Four Songs for sheng and orchestra during the Nederlandse Muziekdagen, and Ex Tempore for the combined Ives Ensemble and Continuum during SHIFT festival, which also takes place in Toronto, February 25 – March 3, and April 2.  Ex Tempore is performed by the touring Ives Ensemble and Continuum on Feb. 28; a second work, Veranderingen for two pianos, is performed by Toca Loca on Feb. 27. 

For more information on SHIFT visit