Peter-Jan Wagemans (1952) studied organ, composition and theory of music at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague, and studied for some time in Freiburg with Klaus Huber. His music has been played at several festivals, including Donaueschingen (Music II, conducted by Ernest Bour) Royan, Warsaw, Venice Klagenfurt and Prague. In the last decade, his music has been performed by almost all orchestras and ensembles in the Netherlands, including the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra under Ricardo Chailly (The city and the Angel, commissioned by the orchestra) and Mariss Jansons (Moloch), the The Hague Philharmonic (which premiered his Seventh Symphony under Reinbert de Leeuw), the Rotterdam Philharmonic and the Dutch radio orchestras. He also composed works for the Schönberg ensemble, the Volharding the DoelenEnsemble and a large cycle of piano pieces for Japanese pianist Tomoko Mukaijama (Het Landschap) In February 2011, his full-length opera Legende (Legend) had its scenic premiere in Amsterdam with great success. The concert premiere of this work was performed by Jaap van Zweden at the Concergebouw in 2006. Furthermore, his work has been played by symphony orchestras in Kassel, Freiburg, Geneva, Berlin, Dresden and Clairmont-Ferrand, among others. Because Wagemans wanted to focus solely on the development of his music, he never bothered much about the distribution of his music abroad. As a result, he became one of the most widely played and appreciated composers within the Netherlands, but is little known outside his home country. Before his retirement, Wagemans was the head of the compostion department at Rotterdam Conservatoire (Codarts) and worked from 2000-2006 as programmer of Holland Symfonia and its predecessor, the North Holland Phil Orchestra. Between 1990 and 2012, he was the artistic director of Rotterdam’s DoelenEnsemble for new music.
To escape the methodology of serialism, Wagemans developed an alternative method of composition early in his career. In the upper layer of his music, he conceives a narrative line, which can be compared to the plot of a film: ‘Music tells a story, like all temporal art,’ says Wagemans. ‘ In the underlay are structure and archetype, which together shape the sound and expressiveness of a composition – similar to visual language and design in cinema. That underlay comes into existence while improvising at the piano, in a constant back-and-forth between ratio and intuition. This way of working results, for instance in the case of the gigantic Seventh Symphony from 1999, in music that is easy to follow from a traditional listening position and at the same time has a spontaneous, almost improvisatory character, and whose proportions at the structural level are calculated to the last beat.