Louis Andriessen's 1988 classic "De Materie" receives a knockout performance from some of the Netherlands' finest musicians.
Material and sources of inspiration for the work include: a text on shipbuilding by Nicolaes Witsen, the "Ideae Physicæ" of David van Goorle, Hadewijch's "Zevende Visioen" (Seventh Vision), "The Principles of Plastic Mathematics" by M. H. J. Schoenmaekers, texts about the Dutch painter Piet Mondriaan, excerpts from two sonnets by Willem Kloos, and finally a passage from the diary of Marie Curie and her Nobel Prize speech.
It's a Blue Whale of a piece: nearly 2 hours of relentless kinetic force. The first movement (of 4, each lasting 25-28 minutes) begins, famously, with a single chord repeated 144 times. But the full extent of Andriessen's ambition and audacity only begin to emerge as this juggernaut of a movement progresses: a full 25 minutes of more-or-less just hammering out richly harmonised chords in a kind of mantra-like fury.
The third movement, "De Stijl", inspired by the life of Mondriaan, uses boogie-woogie music as its motor along with a big band-style lineup, building up a 26-minute powerhouse of incessant funk. At one point, there's even a sort of boogie-woogie "fugue" built from piling successive entries of the main theme on top of each other and letting them play out independently.
The two slow movements - "Hadewijch" and the untitled final movement - also deal in unrelenting, obsessive focus on musical material and process (hence the title). But here, sheer power is traded in for glacial implacability: indeed, the last movement takes a full 19 minutes to reach its first climax!
Suffice to say this music is gigantic, thrilling, uncompromising and of visionary grandeur: a composer going the whole hog to do justice to the sheer magnitude of his subject-matter. One of the 20th century's key works, and perhaps the achievement of a lifetime for Andriessen - not to be missed!