Biography Guus Janssen

Guus Janssen (1951) studied piano and composition at the Sweelinck Academy of Music in Amsterdam. His music is difficult to categorize. It can be a composed improvisation (Brake for pianosolo) or an improvised composition (parts from his Violin Concerto or his opera Noach). Music is like life itself, sometimes it asks for fast decisions and sometimes it needs to be thought over a lot.

As a pianist and harpsichordist he 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 pianotrios to 11 piece band and opera orchestra.

As a soloist, playing mainly his own compositions and improvisations, he has appeared at a lot of international festivals. In addition he has 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 them 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 his standing and quality as a composer, Janssen won the Matthijs Vermeulen Award, 1984.

So far Janssen has composed four opera’ s in collaboration with Friso Haverkamp: ‘Faust’s Licht’ (1988/1993), ‘Noach’ (1994), ‘Hier' (2000) and 'Blue, a Pinnocchio in reverse' (2010

In 2015 he composed the opera ‘Koeien operamisha’ for the ICP Orchestra with a libretto by Cherry Duyns, both music and texts base don material of Misha Mengelberg.  The opera had its premiere in the Holland Festival followed by a very well received tour along dutch theatres.

In 2012 Janssen was honoured with the prestigious Johan Wagenaar Award for his whole oeuvre and in 2015 he received the ‘Art Award’ from the Foundation Adriaan Roland Holst.

The jury of the latter praises the flexibility of Janssen as improviser, his enthusiasm as composer and performing musician and his curiosity to new froms of music and combination of idioms.