Nieuw Ensemble

Having worked in the field of new music for almost four decades, the Nieuw Ensemble came to a halt at the end of 2019. One of the leading ensembles for contemporary music, the ensemble has been praised for its groundbreaking programming and renewal of the repertoire with almost 1000 commissioned compositions. Plucked instruments are at the heart of its characteristic sound; Ed Spanjaard has been the principal conductor from the start. In 1998 the Nieuw Ensemble and Joël Bons were awarded the prestigious Prince Bernhard Fund Music Prize for the ‘markedly lively and adventurous programming that could be described as crossing borders, both in the literal and figurative sense'.

In 2012 the ensemble was one of the groups most heavily affected by the severe cuts in the arts in the Netherlands. With the support from the City of Amsterdam the group could still survive for a few years but in 2017 this subsidy also stopped. In the autumn of 2019 the Nieuw Ensemble under the baton of Ed Spanjaard brought a finale with three different programmes: a tour with a new version of Bons' Thirty Situations (2017-19), a programme around the music of John Adams and Tan Dun and a closing concert on Saint Nicholas eve – a Dutch feast celebrated annually with the giving of gifts– where the ensemble performed favorite repertoire chosen by the audience. 

"We started with nothing and we end with nothing", said Joël Bons, founder and artistic director. "We are lucky to have experienced the most wonderful blossoming of ensemble-culture you can imagine. So we count our blessings: the NE has done a huge amount of stimulating projects, worked together with hundreds of composers of all ages and backgrounds, continuously premiered pieces especially written for us and gave concerts all over the world. We have realized almost all our dreams, it is time to move on". Ed Spanjaard and the musicians now work as freelance musicians or are retired; Bons concentrates on composing. His work Nomaden, written for the intercultural Atlas Ensemble which he founded in 2002, won the Grawemeyer Award 2019. The Atlas Ensemble will continue to exist.

Dear composers everywhere, thank you for all your works and the collaboration; dear listeners, thank you for listening with open ears; dear musicians, keep up the good work and continue performing adventurous, challenging, mindblowing, unheard new music! The Nieuw Ensemble wishes you lots of inspiration.

The complete archive of the Nieuw Ensemble is now housed at The Allard Pierson of the University of Amsterdam.

last performances:

Thu 5 Dec 2019 Amsterdam Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ 20.15

Nieuw Ensemble
Ed Spanjaard conductor
Wolter Wierbos trombone
John Snijders piano


Franco Donatoni (It 1927-2000) Refrain II (1991) 8'
Elliott Carter (VS 1908-2012) Con Leggerezza Pensosa (1988) 5'
Il Hoon Son (Korea 1990) Rhythm Bomb (2018) 8 à 10'
Theo Loevendie (Nl 1930) Bons (1990) 7’
Pierre Boulez (Fr 1925-2015) Eclat (1965) 7'  
Mayke Nas (Nl 1972) La belle chocolatière (2003) 5'
Mo Wuping (Ch 1959-1993) Fan II (1992) 10'
Georges Aperghis (Gr1945) Lost Connections (2017) 10'


Spot on John Adams
Thu 28 Nov 2019 Amsterdam Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ 20.15

Nieuw Ensemble
Ed Spanjaard conductor
Anna voor de Wind clarinet
Paolo Gorini piano

John Adams American Berserk
Tan Dun Circle with four trios, conductor and audience
John Adams Delen uit John’s Book of Alleged Dances voor strijkkwartet en prerecorded cd
Rick van Veldhuizen Pavane, corrodanse *
John Adams Gnarly Buttons


Thirty Situations
Thu 24 Oct 2019 Amsterdam Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ 20.15
Tue 5 Nov 2019 Grand Théâtre Groningen SoundsofMusic 
Sun 10 Nov 2019 Verkadefabriek Den Bosch November Music 20.30

Nieuw Ensemble
Ed Spanjaard conductor
Pia Davila soprano
Koen Kaptijn trombone 
Tristan Renfrow drums

Joël Bons Thirty Situations

Premiere Georges Aperghis – Lost Connections 
Mon 6 May 2019 Cologne Philharmonie 20.00
Thu 9 May 2019 Amsterdam Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ 20.15 >
introduction 19.15

Nieuw Ensemble
Ed Spanjaard conductor
Makiko Goto koto
Harrie Starreveld flute

Misato Mochizuki Silent Circle
Hanna Eimermachern The Hurdy Gurdy
Carola Bauckholt Points of Presence
Georges Aperghis Lost Connections (premiere)


An Evening of Today 2019
Thu 14 March 2019 Amsterdam Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ 20.15 > 
introduction 19.15
Sat 6 April 2019 Den Haag Korzo 20.30

Nieuw Ensemble
Ed Spanjaard conductor

six premieres
Celia Swart Zoning out  
Thomas Brown Another Configuration 
João Ceitil Laminar Flow
Alberto Granados Reguilón Wrecks  
Andrea Guterres The False Awakening
Vitali Karagkezidis Quotes  

see also

Tradition and Innovation
Thu 13 December 2018 Amsterdam Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ 20.15 >
introduction: Joël Bons in conversation with Rodney Sharman 19.15

Nieuw Ensemble
Ed Spanjaard conductor
Mattijs van de Woerd baritone
Roméo Monteiro Airmachine 2
Wilbert Bulsink Airpiano 

Dufay/Robert Heppener Donnes l'assault a la fortresse 
Dufay/Robert Heppener J'atendray
Rodney Sharman Nader tot U for baritone and ensemble
Rodney Sharman Small Flowers (premiere)
Pavel Haas/Jan van Vlijmen Vier Lieder for baritone and ensemble                                          
Wilbert Bulsink Op/Weg...geblazen for Airpiano and ensemble
Ondrej Adamek Conséquences particulièrement blanches ou noires Concert for Airmachine 2 and 14 instruments 


Mon 15 October 2018 Arnhem Musis 20.00 >
Thu 18 October 2018 Antwerp deSingel 20.00 >
Sun 21 October 2018 Amsterdam Cello Biënnale 17.00 >

Jean-Guihen Queyras & Atlas Ensemble
Ed Spanjaard conductor

Joël Bons Nomaden (2016)

A highlight of the Cello Biennale Amsterdam 2016 was the premiere of Nomaden, composed by Joël Bons and performed by master cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras and the Atlas Ensemble, conducted by Ed Spanjaard. Nomaden is a richly varied mosaic, a continuous stream of music lasting for one hour. Queyras enters into dialogues with top musicians from different cultures such as the Azerbaijani virtuosi Elshan Mansurov on kamancha and Elcin Nagijev on tar, the superb Zhao Yuanchun on Chinese erhu, the renowned Persian setar player Kiya Tabassian, the poetic Neva Özgen on Turkish kemençe, Chinese sheng phenomenon Wu Wei and Japanese sho magician Naomi Sato.  

Words of praise for Nomaden
review Het Parool 31-10-16 >
review de Volkskrant 5 stars 31-10-16 >
review NRC November Music 8-11-16 >
excerpt Nomaden from 1H10Min in Podium Radio 4 >
Het Parool interview with Joël Bons 27-10-16 >
de Volkskrant interview with Joël Bons 20-10-16 > 


The big change

After three decades of prosperity the Nieuw Ensemble was severely hit by the big cuts in the Arts. The Big Change meant that we continued our work on a much smaller scale. We worked until end of 2019 at our studio EAR, a vibrant hub we shared with other musicians and composers located at the Grasweg 41R in Amsterdam Noord.

The Nieuw Ensemble said goodbye to structural subsidy in 2012 with The Ark of Joël, featuring the music of artistic director Joël Bons.
The concert of 21 December in Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ received rave reviews:
5 stars in de Volkskrant >
4 stars in Het Parool > and NRC >