Reinbert de Leeuw has died at the age of 81 in his hometown Amsterdam. From the late 1960s onwards, De Leeuw frequently directed productions at Dutch National Opera.
De Leeuw studied piano and music theory at the Conservatory of Amsterdam, followed by composition lessons with Dutch composer Kees van Baaren at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague. After his graduation, he remained connected to the Royal Conservatory as a teacher for more than fifty years. In the 1970s, De Leeuw became known among the general public through his records of compositions by Eric Satie. His unique interpretations fostered a new appraisal of the work of this French composer. In 1974, together with students of the Royal Conservatoiry, he founded the Schönberg Ensemble, with which he dedicated himself to the performance of contemporary music. He was a guest conductor with major orchestras in The Netherlands and around the world, such as the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. From 1994 to 1998, he was artistic director of the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music in the United States.
In 1968, he made his debut at Dutch National Opera with the opera Reconstruction, created by a collective consisting of Louis Andriessen, Hugo Claus, Misha Mengelberg, Harry Mulisch, Peter Schat, Jan van Vlijmen and himself. It was the first in a long series of productions that he led at Dutch National Opera, including productions of The Rake's Progress by Stravinsky, Rêves d'un Marco Polo by Claude Vivier, and world premieres by Louis Andriessen's De Materie (1989), Writing to Vermeer (1999), La Commedia (2008), and Rob Zuidam's Rage d'amours (2005). De Leeuw's last performed at Dutch National Opera as a pianist with an intimate performance together with Barbara Hannigan during director Pierre Audi's farewell gala in 2018.
In 2008, he was appointed Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion and in 2018, he received the Prince Bernhard Culture Award, which honoured his extraordinary commitment to the development and performance of contemporary music in the Netherlands and abroad.
Photo: Michel Schnater.