The Dutch label Attacca Babel's Louis Andriessen: De Stijl -- Trepidus -- Dances is a no-nonsense packaging of three Andriessen works that made their bow between 1983 and 1991. Although the Attacca disc does not provide a great deal of detail about the origin these recordings, they appear to be live, probably of the premiere performances as captured in Dutch radio broadcasts.
De Stijl forms the third part of Andriessen's trilogy De Materie and is one of his major pieces, written as an homage to Dutch abstractionist (and boogie-woogie fancier) Piet Mondrian. Even as such, it utilizes features that are readily associated with Andriessen, for example boogie-woogie bass lines, chattering saxophones in the manner of Stravinsky's Ebony Concerto, and highly rhythmic and prominent percussion. This is performed by the ensemble Kaalslag (i.e., the ensembles De Volharding and Hoketus performing in tandem) under the direction of Reinbert de Leeuw, who would record it again with the Schoenberg and ASKO ensembles for Nonesuch nearly a decade later. Of the two recordings, the Nonesuch is clearly preferable; while the 1985 premiere of De Stijl was a good one, this performance is still a bit rough around the edges and the recording perspective is distant, favoring the percussion over everything else. The piano piece Trepidus, played here by Gerard Bouwhuis, comes off well, but the piece is frankly not one of Andriessen's most inspired ideas, consisting of two outer sections made up of static, dissonant chords and a faster middle section.
Louis Andriessen: De Stijl -- Trepidus -- Dances justifies its existence through inclusion of Dances, which, despite the title, is a mostly static work for voice and chamber orchestra. Claron McFadden contributes her marvelously pure and weightless soprano voice to a sensitive, ethereal accompaniment provided by the Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra under Gunther Schuller. Dances is as appealing and easily accessible a work as one is likely to find among Andriessen's corpus; it is easily the highlight of this collection and this is its only recording thus far. Andriessen fans will want this just to have Dances; others should wait until this work finds issue on disc along with recordings that are less disposable.