Maarten Altena
Photo Paul Koeleman
Photo Paul Koeleman

Maarten Altena short biography

In 2005, after twenty-five years, Maarten Altena takes his leave as artistic director of the Maarten Altena Ensemble, to fully focus on composing.

Maarten Altena (1943) first studies double bass at the Amsterdam Conservatorium, and later (1980-'85) takes private composition classes with Robert Heppener. Having started as an improvisor, in 1980 he founds the Maarten Altena Ensemble, for which he composes numerous pieces. In addition to this he composed for various other ensembles, soloists and orchestras, and has written music theatre and music for dance. Maarten Altena performed with his Ensemble in Europe, The United States, Mexico, Japan and Russia, originally as bass player, but from1997 solely as artistic director. In 2005, after twenty-five years, Maarten Altena takes his leave as artistic director, to fully focus on composing.

His compositions since include Song Book (Words of Whitman) (2008) for the Metropole Orchestra and Claron Mc Fadden, Scattered Scenes (2008) for the Amstel Quartet, Scrape, Scratch & Shake (2006) and Table Piece (2007) for Slagwerkgroep Den Haag, and the musical fairy tale De tapijtenweefster [The Carpet Weaver] (2010) for the Nederlands Blazers Ensemble, Claron Mc Fadden and Mattijs van de Woerd, based on a text by Abdelkader Benali, Up and Up | Down and Out (2010) for the ASKO|Schoenberg, based on a text by Tijs Goldschmidt. In november 2011 he finished working on Slam, Pluck and Blow for Ensemble Klang, and in 2012 he wrote Twomb, in cooperation with  Peter Adriaansz (for Slagwerk Den Haag).  2013 saw the birth of three pieces:  Green Horizon (for Godelieve Schrama), Consort Music, for  13 periodic recorders (for  Royal Wind Music) and  Seven Short Pieces (for recorders). In 2014  he wrote David's Koraal and in 2015 Seven Short Pieces for String Quartet. 

In 2012 Altena started working on an opera, The Shadow, based on the story 'The Shadow' by H.C. Anderson (libretto by  Frank Vande Veire). The piece was written for Slagwerk Den Haag, but up until now has not been performed. In the years that followed we saw the birth of Five Short Pieces for String Quartet (2018), Dreaming Jazz (2019), and Full Moon (2019), which premiered on line during the infamous Corona period, played by Ensemble Klang.

The beginning of the '20 brought us: Island (2021), a geographical/linguistic fantasy written for Noa Frenkel on words/vocals by Altena (for solo alto voice & recorded alto voice), and Dreamland (2021), on poems by Edgar Allen Poe. With Remember (2022) he went back to his performing roots: a solo piece for double bass.