articles & reviews

Memory of a Shape by Introdans ****
“From complex simplicity to a tidal wave of emotions”
Regina van Berkel’s […] ‘Memory of a Shape’, created for ballettmainz in 2009, was the Dutch premiere of the evening. Van Berkel's approach uses ‘fractal figures,’ figures arising from the multiplication of a basic form. The choreography is set to Theo Verbey’s ‘Fractal Symphony,’ an exciting composition that is alternately mysteriously sheer and rhythmically driving. Large, shape-shifting objects slide into position above the stage. The dancers are bodies clustering into their final position: it is often as if they are building a sculpture right before your eyes, in which they set another body in motion, or move it.
The central figures are a solo male dancer and a woman in white on pointe, who thanks to some solid partner work, is able to show wonderful, extremely elongated classical lines. Both turn up from time to time, a bit like a sprite and a magician. The group variations follow the music carefully, and use the space to its fullest. They are hectic, sparkling, energetic, then quieting down into a freeze. ‘Memory of a Shape’ is a challenge that should be danced and seen more often: an asset.
Mirjam van der Linden, De Volkskrant, 21 February 2017
Unity in opposites: Verbey's Ballade and Dutch Classical Talent
Vasi & Kemner: unity in opposites. The programme itself is full of opposites: a succession of ballades written from circa 1300 up until a very recent piece composed in 2016: classic alternating with modern. A ballade is a piece of music with a narrative character; a form that arose in the Middle Ages. A musical journey through time unfolds before us. […]
Here, we would like to specifically mention the Ballade that was composed for this duo of trombone and piano by Theo Verbey, born in 1959. This piece consists of three sections. The first part is heavy, penetrating and stirring: we must sigh deeply, we feel the world on our shoulders. Fortunately, the 2nd part is a toccata: exciting, sparkling sounds that both literally and figuratively create air; the audience bounces back and their faces again have a sunny disposition. A Bach-like chorale follows in closing, in which the piano sounds light-footed while the trombone interjects in a languid and touching way. This is truly a masterly composition, and it was sublimely performed. […]
This is a translated excerpt.

Source: Apeldoorndirect, published 14 April 2016

By Pedro Waldenaar and Marilyn O’Brien
Translated by Keyboard Translations
Apeldoorndirect, published 14 April 2016
An evening of debuts, premieres and introductions in Eindhoven
[...] The impressive Lumen ad finem cuniculi by the Dutch composer Theo Verbey experienced a committed, lucid and vivacious première. This energetic, as well as energizing, composition was commissioned by the orchestra to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the closure of the Dutch coal mines. The title “Light at the end of the tunnel” has therefore a suggestive, even a programme overtone. With this title, Verbey gave his listeners a correlation thread to follow on their way from darkness and desperation to the first radiant sparks of light. After every tunnel turn or a new sverve, the sparks flared up into stronger outbursts until the final meteoric explosion left no doubt possible about the dizzying light shining ad finem cuniculi. The composer’s musical ideas have found their form in an astounding orchestration. All orchestral sections are deserving a special attention, but the composition’s pulsing centrum was formed by two marimbas and two vibraphones. Their fundamental presence made them a real ‘light control panel’ of Theo Verbey’s new work.
By Olga de Kort, 28 October 2015
Bachtrack
Light at the end of the tunnel, an impression
It’s an image familiar to every under-grounder: lights emerging from the walkway. Lights at the end of the tunnel. Everyone with a mine history can visualize it: those dancing and rhythmically swaying lights coming from the helmets.

Theo Verbey (*1959) wrote Lumen Ad Finem Cuniculi thanks to a commission from philharmonie zuidnederland (South Netherlands Philharmonic), as part of the 2015 Year of the Mines. This work, lasting eighteen minutes, had its world premier in Parkstad Limburg Theater in Heerlen, Netherlands. In its program book, philharmonie zuidnederland describe the piece as a vision of the future. [...] The vision of the future reaches its expression in the last movement of the work, in which you can use your own associations with the music to visualize Light at the End of the Tunnel.

Verbey paid a working visit to Heerlen when he began working on the composition. He’s a stranger to mining history, except for the fact that one of his uncles worked in the Emma Mine (DSM)in Hoensbroek.

[...] Lumen Ad Finem Cuniculi is a work for large orchestra. The philharmonie zuidnederland filled the entire concert stage, where a central role was devoted to a prominently arranged percussion group consisting of marimbas and vibraphones. If you think in terms of the mining industry, then you can almost picture the hewers in the pillars, hammering at the coal front in the visual experience of this formation.

The four-movement work - the movements are played without interruption - is very melodic. Lyrical passages with solo cello or violin are alternated with rhythms which could be reminiscent of the hard work in the mines. Verbey calls it contrast and continuity. The percussion group continuously supports the piece with the warm tones so characteristic of marimbas and vibraphones [...]
At the end, the applause which Theo Verbey received was enthusiastic, heartfelt and well-deserved.
by Nico Zijlstra 23 October 2015(trans.Keyboard Translations)
De Mijnen (www.demijnen.nl)
Interview: A Composer is Primarily a Songwriter
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Theo Verbey: 'A composer is primarily a songwriter'
________________________________________
By
Thea Derks
Posted on Cultuurpers, 22 May 2015
The Dutch composer Theo Verbey (Delft 1959) writes music with a sumptuous beauty of sound, through which the achievements of centuries of musical tradition can be heard. He's made a name for himself with works such as Triade for orchestra (1991) and Expulsion for large ensemble (1988), and with orchestrations of pieces by composers such as Modest Mussorgsky and Alban Berg. He wrote Traurig wie der Tod for the Netherlands Radio Choir and the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, for the final concert of the concert series De Vrijdag van Vredenburg. The world premier took place in the Main Hall of TivoliVredenburg on Friday 29 May, 2015.
Six questions for Theo Verbey.
In the season's brochure of De Vrijdag van Vredenburg, your new work is announced as 'Elysium'; why did you choose a different title, 'Traurig wie der Tod'?
I had been planning to compose a piece for large chorus and orchestra for some years, envisioning a 'large space in sound' and a work of considerable length. The chance to realize my plans arrived when programmer Astrid in 't Veld asked me to compose a piece for the Netherlands Radio Choir and the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra.
Originally I had the title Elysium in mind, named for the Greek god’s residence after their earthly life. I had already made a number of sketches, but when I was ready to turn my ideas into music in the summer of 2014, I was confronted by several profound events. The health of my mother was deteriorating, and the disaster with flight MH17 took place. Reason enough to throw away all my sketches and begin anew.
For Elysium I had a number of texts in mind, in Latin and German, from various classical poets, including Virgil and Goethe. I never got to the stage of setting the texts to music however; the chosen verses were not particularly suitable ...
Theo Verbey's facebook page
Review: Brodsky Quartet & Loré Lixenberg – ‘Trees, Walls, Cities’
'The main focus of the evening, though, was the the forty-five minute work that comprised the second half, Trees, Walls, Cities. This ‘Song Cycle for the Modern Day’ was commissioned for the 2013 City of London Festival, in collaboration with Derry’s Walled City Festival. The eight songs were named after eight international cities, with texts and music by local poets and composers. This was in part a project about reconciliation, with many of the cities featured, such as Jerusalem and Berlin, marked either presently or historically by physical walls of division. This political aspect was perhaps most explicit in Yannis Kyriakides’s setting of a text by Mehmet Yashin in ‘Nicosia’. Here the poet’s sense of being stranded between languages, of lacking a mother tongue in a city divided by state politics, was neatly expressed by the device of having individual words or phrases from the text spoken by members of the quartet, thus fragmenting any sense of a unified poetic voice.

Given the diversity of the collaborators, the range of moods was unsurprisingly wide-ranging across the cycle as a whole, from the earthy rhythmic energy of Isidora Zebeljan’s ‘Dubrovnik’ to the reconstruction of a sacred baroque in Theo Verbey’s ‘Utrecht’ or the modernist dissonance of Gerald Resch’s ‘Vienna’. One of the most effective songs was Jocelyn Pook’s ‘City of London’, where one of the cycle’s central poetic images was put to subversive means. Elsewhere, trees represented freedom and peace, but here the same image functioned as a symbol of social inequality, with the music underlining the critique through its ironic use of a brittle folk idiom. Such songs provided a fantastic platform for the extraordinary vocal versatility of mezzo-soprano Loré Lixenberg, who moved from a rich operatic sound to sprechstimme, from naïve folkishness to violent snarls...' by G. Masters
The Oxford Culture Review
Four-star review of The Stolz Quartet's CD
[...Haikus by De Vries, 4 Preludes to infinity by Verbey and a fragment from Zuidam's 'A love unsung' are a lot more accessible, lyrical and more melodious, with a highlight being the splendid third movement, 'Religious', from Verbey's 'Preludes', in which the composer gets under the skin of seventeenth century counterpoint.
Verbey also provided the arrangement of Scriabin's 4 Preludes. 33, four ultra short poetic sketches...]
By Erik Voermans
5 June, 2014
Het Parool (Amsterdam daily paper)
'Dutch Masters' from The Stolz
"The Stolz Quartet (oboe and string trio) plays music from Dutch contemporary composers. New works but also compositions arranged for them of works by Maurice Ravel, Alexander Scriabin and Franz Liszt. The result is an excellent and balanced collection of 20th century music.[...]Composer Theo Verbey arranged four short piano preludes written by Scriabin and composed ’4 Preludes to Infinity’. Four compositions in which he used several compositional skills and shows the fragile sense of music.[...] It’s obvious, this quartet loves the music they play which overleaps to the listener and makes them enthusiastic as well."
By Mattie Poels
March 9, 2014
Musicframes
Jean-Guihen Queyras and Ensemble Resonanz, Berg, Lyrische Suite, Schoenberg, Verklärte Nacht
"Hearing both works in the string orchestra version in this way heightens the expressiveness of each work and, at least to me, allows us to see the similarities. (,,,) Queyras and Ensemble Resonanz give us soaring renditions of both works. If the "Lyric Suite" seems in the string orchestra version virtually new, it is no doubt my reaction after a near lifetime of appreciating the quartet version. It may take a little more careful listening for the balance of thematic materials to re-emerge (if you like me are used to the quartet reading), but it may give us a different set of insights and appreciate the expressive angst of the work all the more." by Grego Applegate Edwards, January 22, 2014
Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review
Transparent and Passionate
"Berg's Lyric Suite was written around 1925. It is a work that more or less follows Arnold Schoenberg's 12-tone method with, appropriately, lyric and hyper-romantic gestures from a string quartet (original version). In 1929, Berg set three movements of the Suite for string orchestra. Somewhere around 2010, the whole work was recast for orchestral strings, and the present version is, evidently, the first commercial recording of this version.(...) This CD provides wondrously clear and moving performances of two major works of 20th century modernism. The first rate musicianship of the performers and the silvery, reflective recorded sound make this a recording that I will return to again and again. I love the original versions of both these works. But these versions, if they need it, are justified by this extremely attractive recording." by Stephen McLeod, 26 January, 2014
Amazon
Osiris Trio review on Musicframes
A link to a review by Mattie Poels, of the
Osiris Trio's new ’25th Anniversary Box’ on Challenge Records. Review in Dutch and English
Musicframes
Stolz Quartet Review

'Theo Verbey, in addition to arranging Scriabin for the quartet, wrote a new work for the ensemble called 'Four preludes to infinity'. Fireworks are suddenly heard, from the oboe against the misty sounds of the strings... Music with balls, I wrote in the margin'.
By Marianne de Feijter
October 17, 2013
(Translation: Google)
Muziek van Nu
The terror of games: RIAS Chamber Choir and Ensemble musikFabrik at Musikfest Berlin
'If there were a gold medal for programming at Musikfest Berlin, it would go to last night’s concert with the RIAS Chamber Choir, Ensemble musikFabrik, and a host of other musicians, gathered under the baton of James Wood. I award the prize (if only I could!) not only for the pieces that were played, both rare and alluring (Ríkadla, a late set of children’s rhymes from Janácek for choir and ten instruments; marches and the monstrous Verborgene Reime from Kagel; and the 1919 version of Stravinsky’s Les Noces, completed in 2007 by Theo Verbey, whose orchestration includes two cimbaloms and a pianola player!), nor only for the marathonic length of the program (which, along with the instrument changes, required two intermissions), but also for the programmatic links that bound this utterly zany line-up.'
by Dan Wang on 18th September 2013
Bachtraxk
Brodsky Quartet/Lixenberg – review

"[...] Antique musical references give character and a sense of direction to Theo Verbey's song based on Peter Huchel's text The Garden of Paracelsus".

by George Hall
Thursday 27 June 2013
The Guardian
Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra Review
'...The concert began with Alban Berg's Piano Sonata, Op 1: an intensive twelve minutes that seem to float along in a style between late romanticism and modernism. Theo Verbey built the architectural waves in which the work is created, with a huge orchestral force that lets the piece build up again and again, returning to a simple string quartet. Between these waves, the brass and five (!) percussionists provide eruptive climaxes.

Mihkel Kütson and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin together unlocked all the facets of the piece, and it was like a fairy tale that is told in a foreign language - sealed in its own internal logic, but full of unexpected poetry...'
by Rosemarie Frühauf, June 10th, 2013
The Epoch Times
Gig review: Brodsky Quartet, Royal Conservatoire, Glasgow
'Verbey’s Spring Rain was immediately likeable and its sudden dramatic eruptions played well to the Brodskys’ love of the theatrical... '

By David Kettle
The Scotsman, 26-11-12
Review: GIMF – The Brodsky Quartet – Holy Trinity Church
Saturday 9 March 2013

by The Stage Dragon

'...To start the second half, the wheel turned up Theo Verbey’s Spring Rain. An atmospheric gem encapsulating the weather, Verbey’s work was one of those composed especially for the Brodsky Quartet. There was no doubt about the imagery of this piece and it went down a storm . There were raindrops, sometimes light, sometimes heavy, blended with a broad and sonorous violin tune.'
Guilford Dragon News
The Brodsky Quartet show their true musical colors at Utrecht's Vredenburg
'After reeling from the effects of the Shostakovich and a brief intermission mid-concert, the quartet took the stage once more to present the (their) first-ever Dutch performance of Theo Verbey’s Spring Rain. Yet another atmospheric gem capturing the most well-known facet of Dutch weather(...)
Sprinkled with light dropping effects and a sonorous violin melody above, the work is a microcosm of a storm taking place on stage'.
Submitted by Kristen Huebner on 19th November 2012
Bachtrack
Amsterdam Sinfonietta: Debussy, Mussorgsky, Weinberg and Shostakovich
"Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death is a work that has been orchestrated many times by great names including Rimsky-Korsakov, Glazunov and Shostakovich, which made me very curious as to what Theo Verbey’s 1994 orchestration would sound like. It stayed rather close to the original piano score (definitely more so than, for example, Shostakovich’s orchestration – which sounds as much like Shostakovich as it does Mussorgsky). This meant that the orchestra played a subdued role, which the Amsterdam Sinfonietta did surprisingly effectively. This allowed for the real star of the evening, mezzo-soprano Christianne Stotijn to become the focal point. Stotijn is an incredible singer: her voice is clear, warm and powerful and her stage presence is mesmerizing. But what made this performance memorable was her understanding and execution of the songs. In the first song, ‘Lullaby’, Stotijn demonstrated the different characters, the mother and Death, with intonation and body language, and she continued this throughout the song cycle. This meant that even for someone who does not understand a word of Russian, it is entirely clear what the songs mean and what is going on. Mussorgsky’s figure of Death has many different faces; he is seductive, soothing, aggressive, even joyful – and all of these elements were present in Stotijn’s performance."Submitted by Renée Reitsma, ypgtcm.blogspot.com on 10th April 2012
bachtrack
Berg Lyric Suite decrypted - Audi, Amsterdam Sinfonietta Barbican
This wasn't just another concert. It was Liebestod, a truly unique exploration of Berg's Lyric Suite. Berg's piece is a compelling work, whose mysteries were only revealed about twenty years ago when the composer's letters to his lover Hanna Fuchs-Robettin were released...
Again, it's the Lyric Suite but not quite as we're used to. This time,instead of four instruments, it's arranged for larger forces (partly by Berg himself in 1928, the rest by Theo Verbey in 2005). This balances the intensity of the spoken passages and emphasizes the extreme "madness" Berg speaks of. Words and music intertwine, too, though the music isn't as abstract as might seem.
by Anne Ozorio
March 19th, 2011
Classical Iconoclast
"Dutch Master Triumphs on the Rhine"
"Regina van Berkel is one of the most outstanding Dutch choreographers. For her superb theatrical choreography, with the seemingly contradictory title "Frozen Echo", her fellow countryman, composer Theo Verbey, expanded an earlier orchestral piece into an extremely expressive triptych." (translation K. Schönberg)
Feb. 21st, 2011
Tanznetz
Verbey Orchestral and Chamber Works
'Maybe Theo Verbey doesn’t transcend his times, but he does capture them in an engaging manner. Triade and Conciso are energetic and appealing, recalling Michael Torke in their vitality, but without the latter’s pristine soullessness. Verbey’s orchestration of Sunless, restrained and thoughtful, could alone guarantee him repertoire status.'
Gramophone
Dazzling Works: Contemporary music from the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
"Theo Verbeij's LIED for trombone and orchestra seems, in fact, to be a succession of four 'songs' in which the soloist Jörgen van Rijen, the orchestra's principal trombone player and the composer's fellow Dutchman, makes his instrument sing with an overall gentleness and expressiveness that denies any popular impression of its bombast personality. Verbeij, who was born in 1959, handles the orchestra with deftness. In the last 'song' there is no doubt a touch of Stravinsky behind the agile trombone."
by Patric Standford
January 22, 2009
Record Box
The Grammar of Listening, by Frits van der Waal
THE GRAMMAR OF LISTENING
In a famous story by the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges the Aleph is mentioned, ‘the place where all places of the earth come together, seen from all corners, without merging’. In the music of Theo Verbey one sees the same aspiration to universality. His oeuvre is less staggering and its diameter is less compact than
the two or three centimetres the author as cribed to the Aleph, but it is just as Borgesian in its kaleidoscopic richness and its many references to, for one, the work of Borges: the titles
of The Peryton (1990) and The Simorq (1989) are derived from his Book of Imaginary Beings.
Already in 1992 Verbey said, ‘I try to compose music that is influenced almost up to its saturation point: not by fifty, but by hundreds of years of tradition.’ The numerous compositions he has written since then confirm that his dialogue with the past has only become more labyrinthian and intense. In a way Verbey can be compared with the American John Adams, who is also painstakingly on the lookout for influences and absorbs them without renouncing his identity. However, the comparison is bound to fall short. Adam’s music has its roots in minimalism, while Verbey’s has its roots in serial music that is based on numerical structures, even though it has become a lot more consonant over the years. The influence of Boulez can still be heard in an early work like Inversie (Inversion, 1987) and until the present day his music is based on systems of numeric relations - a way of thinking that comes directly from the 50s and 60s, although the result is completely different in sound.
Verbey has named this process fractal technique, after the complex figures discovered by the Polish-French mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot, of which the shape is repeated down to infinite micro-levels (another idea that could have been taken from a story by Borges).
Brochure, Theo Verbey
Dishes From a Recipe for Eye and Ear
"...Theo Verbey’s “Man Ray — La Retour à la Raison” begins with repeating figures in the manner of 1970s Minimalism and morphs gracefully into a rich, atonal piece."
by Allan Kozinn
April 6th, 2009
New York Times
Wine, Woman and Song: a Bushel of Berg
Theo Verbey’s 1984 orchestration of Berg’s opus 1, his 1908 Piano Sonata, is a persuasive translation into a Wozzeck-esque tone poem; while the pianistic origins of the textures aren’t completely transformed, Verbey provides a myriad of instrumental touches that move beyond mere transcription.

Alban Berg: Orchestral Works
Isabelle van Keulen, violin
Geraldine McGreevy, soprano
Robert Murray, tenor
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Mario Venzago, conductor
Chandos CHSA 5074(2)
By Matthew Guerrieri
August 6th, 2009
The Faster Times
Berg-Three Pieces; Violin Concerto;etc
"The orchestration of the Piano Sonata by Theo Verbey gives us a virtually new piece. The impact of the brilliantly idiomatic scoring makes it a quite different affair from the work played on the piano, and is a real addition to the repertoire." by Michael Tanner
BBC Music Magazine
Fractal Symphony
"For a composer the challenge is to write music on a complicated foundation which is for the audience immediately understandable and a pleasure to listen to . Theo Verbey has reached new heights in succeeding in this task. This work in five movements is captivating for its full 30 minute duration."
Kees Arntzen, January 31, 2005
Trouw
Berg/Verbey Sonata op. 1
"Theo Verbey's orchestration of Alban Berg's Sonato for piano Op.1 from 1984 sounded Mahleresque in its ability to carry one away. The beauty of sound is not only astonishing, but also serves to shine a beacon on Berg's romantic roots."
by Joachem Valkenburg,September 16, 2005
NRC Handelsblad
Expulsie
"By far the most substantial piece of the evening was "Expulsion" by the Dutch composer Theo Verbey. Like many other composers from the Netherlands, Mr. Verbey obviously appreciates the pulse and clarity of Stravinsky, in combination with the ruder dynamism of popular music as mediated by, again, American minimalists. But his music is unusually intricate and poetic. "Expulsion," for an ensemble of 24 players, is based, according to the composer, on an oscillation of two chords, but these provide just a haze over continuous contrapuntal interplay. One has the sense of numerous instrumental voices talking to one another, of music talking to itself, just being there. Not demanding attention, almost resisting it, the piece hooks one in. The Absolute's performance could have been more carefully modulated, but its liveliness was persuasive, and one was left wanting to hear more of this composer."

by Paul Griffiths, April 20, 1999
The New York Times
Chaconne
"Mr. Verbey's piece was distinguished by nice junctures where the instruments took over the same note from one another. Perhaps there was an allusion here to the ensemble's name, for the three string tunings the instruments have in common: G-D-A, or sol-re-la, euphoniously reassorted."

Paul Griffiths,
April 14, 1998
The New York Times

Contemporary Classical Music Composer

Theo Verbey is the Dutch composer of modern classical music who is best known for his elegant and rhythmically transparent compositions, characterized by careful and rich instrumentation. It's contemporary classical music that musicians enjoy playing again and again; it's music that makes a real connection with listeners. For commission inquiries, please send a message via the Contact page.

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