North Atlantic Light by Robin De Raaff (2019)

New Orchestral Works Commissions

Robin de Raaff based his Violin concerto no. 2 on the painting North Atlantic Light by Willem de Kooning, a masterpiece by one of the most thought-provoking artists of the 20th century. De Kooning (1904 – 1997) was born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, but lived and worked nearly his whole life in the United States. Although he is seen as a major exponent of abstract impressionism, he himself hated this classification, particularly because abstract art represents only a part of his impressive and varied oeuvre.

Instead of trying to fit the work to a specific soloist, this time I involved Tosca Opdam from the start. She was very involved in the artistic process
(Robin de Raaff)

North Atlantic Light was completed in 1977, a difficult period in De Kooning’s life characterized by depression, self-doubt, and an increasing alcohol addiction. None of this had any effect on his creativity, however, because it is in this period that he painted a huge number of abstract canvases around the major themes of eroticism, women and landscapes.

You could say that we both were inspired by the painting. It inspired me to think about solutions on how to translate this, and what to translate
(Robin de Raaff)

North Atlantic Light is one such landscape, or perhaps more accurately a seascape, inspired by the coast of Long Island, New York, near his home in East Hampton. “I reflected upon the reflections in the water, like the fishermen do,” he stated in his description of the painting. And although in the broad and heavy brushstrokes of the painting’s abstraction, the sea might not directly be interpreted, the silhouette of the tiny sailboat and its reflection in the water do give a subtle hint in that direction.

Bio Robin de Raaff

Robin de Raaff was born on December 5, 1968 in Breda, the Netherlands. He was raised in a very musical family where classical music and popular music were part of his daily life. As a child he received weekly piano lessons from his father and practised daily. De Raaff discovered his own musical world through playing the bass guitar, which he taught himself to play. As a teenager, under the explosive influence of fretless bass guitar legend Jaco Pastorius, De Raaff switched to fretless bass guitar, introducing him to a new world of complex instrumental music, and ultimately Jazz.

But even more passionately, already as a young teenager, composing his own music was his most important musical expression. Starting with pop songs, with ever increasing instrumental parts, larger symphonic proportions were soon imposed which inevitably lead him towards the great classical composers. Inspired by this newly discovered music De Raaff developed a musical style for symphony orchestra installing the necessity to compose in full score. After enrolling as a composition student at the Sweelinck Conservatory of Amsterdam, playing the bass guitar moved to the background, but his very broad musical interest would greatly influence his view on style in contemporary Classical music.

De Raaff first studied composition with Geert van Keulen and later with Theo Loevendie, with whom he graduated cum laude in 1997. In 1999 De Raaff had the special privilege of being invited to work as George Benjamin’s only composition student at the Royal College of Music in London where he also studied with Julian Anderson.
Since 2001 De Raaff has been a professor of composition and orchestration and an active faculty member at the Composition Department of the Rotterdam Conservatory of Music (Codarts).

You can be inspired by anything if you just take the time to observe the world around you Robin de Raaff -


Violin concerto no. 2 ‘North Atlantic Light’ is commissioned by and dedicated to Tosca Opdam.

Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra playing Violin concerto no. 2 North Atlantic Light

On 20 May 2019 Robin de Raaff answered questioned from our young audience. We organise composition workshops for high school students aged 15 -18 years old at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. After the workshop they attend the concert and get to meet the composer himself.

The interview with Robin de Raaff

The photogallery
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