Amsterdam (2004) · 7 min

for Symphony Orchestra and Live Interactive Electronics (optional)

4 flutes (2 doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, English horn, 3 clarinets, 3 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, tuba, timpani, 2 percussionists, harp, strings

Commissioned by Jung-Ho Pak, and the World Youth Symphony Orchestra

Program Note

Amsterdam, for orchestra with optional electronics, was written for conductor Jung-Ho Pak and premiered by Pak and the World Youth Symphony Orchestra in August 2004 at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan, August 16, 2004.


De Ritis’s Amsterdam came about through a personal relationship, the composer’s friendship with conductor Jung-Ho Pak, whom he first encountered at UC Berkeley. Jung-Ho Pak suggested writing an orchestral piece in which the conductor could have several “solo” episodes controlling electronically generated sound via hand gestures, using the Buchla Lightning MIDI controller. As in Varèse’s Déserts, Amsterdam was designed so the electronics episodes can be separated out from the orchestral music. The purely instrumental version on this disc, featuring a slightly reduced orchestration, is a seven-minute, one-movement work in essentially three sections. An energetic opening episode, simultaneously forward-moving and harmonically stable, establishes E minor with low-brass and timpani pedal tones under arpeggios in strings and woodwinds. The asymmetrical shapes and varied lengths of the arpeggio-melodies create motion and tension, and a syncopated, repeated-note idea expands the harmony like a wedge. Slow harmonic transformation enlivened by active rhythm (which De Ritis attributes in part, in this piece, to “thinking about John Adams”) is an idea the composer has explored often. This first section ends abruptly, on an “incomplete” harmony, with the quiet middle episode picking up from the final C-sharp of the rising arpeggio. The material is not so different from the opening episode, but the effect is a striking contrast, due to slower tempo and a radical change of texture to flutes with harp, colored by glockenspiel and vibraphone. The concluding episode builds up gradually via the syncopated, repeated-note idea. Small changes in harmony loom large as rhythm and orchestration drive the piece to a vivid close. 

– Robert Kirzinger


“immediately appealing and effective… a vibrant overture-cum-toccata”

– Guy Rickards, Gramophone (July 2017)


“a three-part composition, with the outer sections driving and muscular, the inner a wash of colors and textures.”

– Kenneth Keaton, American Record Guide (November/December 2017)

View Score

Recorded on July 1, 2014 by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project under the direction of Gil Rose, Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory, Boston, MA; released on BMOP/sound 1051, January 24, 2017.

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