Leo Samama
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In 2003 you published, with Arie Peddemors, the book Mozart and the Netherlands. A Bicentenarian Retrospect, an important and interesting collection of various scholarly papers on the multifarious aspects of the relationship Mozart and The Netherlands from 1765/1766 to the 21st Century. Can you tell us about the story behind the preparation of this beautiful book? What is the origin? What the process of selection and choice of papers and sections? What is the relation with the authors?
Arie Peddemors, then president of the Nederlandse Mozartvereniging, called me at a certain moment with the question to help him with the preparation of this book. I knew him since the early nineties, when he asked me to lecture together with professor Marius Flothuis and other colleagues at the yearly Mozart Week in Zeist. For the book, Peddemors had already approached several musicologists (mostly contributors of the Pro Mozart Magazine) to send in recent papers or the texts of recent lectures.

One of the best-known specialists of the music of Mozart, Marius Flothuis, whom I knew suite quite well since my early childhood, died two years before, in 2001, and left his research on Mozart's Requiem, and the articles Joseph – Wolfgang – Michael [on Mozart and the Haydn Brothers] and Amadeus at his best – According to Mozart to us to edit if necessary. Only the text on Mozart's Requiem needed some thorough editing.

Most other authors were (and still are) colleagues and friends, all noted specialists in the field of Mozart research: among them the pianists Bart van Oort and Frans Schreuder (Epta Frans Schreuder Prize, Epta Honorary Members), the musicologists Bastiaan Blomhert, Nancy van der Elst and Paul van Reijen, Jan Jaap Haspels, Emile Wennekes, and Rudolf Angermüller.

Thus, the choice was in fact rather simple. The topics were partly new, partly the result of many years of editing Pro Mozart. Most of the lay-out for the book was done by Arie Peddemors, who was also a specialist in lists – he had quite a collection of these, not only with all Mozart's compositions, and all recordings of a certain piece by Mozart, but also cities visited, books on specific topics, etc. I was in charge of the final editing of the main articles, Arie Peddemors of the lists and additions to these.

We were of course lucky to have been able to organise regular lectures on Mozart during our festival week in Zeist, and professor Flothuis had been writing on Mozart since the late 1930s. Peddemors, in fact, was the only person contributing to Mozart and The Netherlands who was not trained in music, although he was by all means a fanatic music lover, a fine amateur pianist and a professional archaeologist.


Leo Samama (b. 1951) graduated from the University of Utrecht in Musicology and studied composition and orchestral conducting. Samama taught History of Music and Culture at the Utrecht Conservatory 1977-1988, Musical criticism in theory and practice at the Royal Conservatory The Hague 1987-1988 and Music of the Twentieth Century and Musical Criticism at Utrecht University 1988-1991. He was a critic for De Volkskrant 1978-1984, a correspondent for the NRC Handelsblad 1986-1990. 
      Leo Samama sat on the board of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam as the orchestra's artistic advisor 1988-1994 and as artistic administrator (2001); 1991-1993 he was head of the orchestra's artistic department. 1988-1993, he was artistic adviser to the Centrum Nederlandse Muziek, an organisation specialising in the promotion of Dutch music, and 1992-1994 an advisor to the NCRV broadcasting company. He was head of the artistic department of the Residentie Orchestra The Hague 1996-2003 and its artistic administrator since 2004, and general manager of the Netherlands Chamber Choir 2003-2010. He is co-founder of the Netherlands String Quartet Academy and the European network for professional chamber choirs TENSO. Samama has given radio broadcasts and guest lectures all over the country and throughout Europe.
      As a musicologist he has written books on diverse topics. His study on Dutch music in the 20th Century (1986, 2006) is a standard. Samama’s books The Meaning of Music (2014, 2016), The String Quartet (2018) and Alphons Diepenbrock, A Vocal Composer (2012) have been hugely successful. In the Netherlands, some eighty hours of university lectures have been recorded and released on CD and streaming audio. As a composer he has written over one hundred works, that have been performed all over the world, recorded on radio and CD. 
      In 2010 Leo Samama was knighted as an Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau for his contribution to Dutch musical life.


a. Publications (read/download .pdf)

b. Compositions (read/download .pdf)

c. Leo Samama's Official Site:
    1. Leo Samama Composer
    2. Leo Samama Musicologist
    3. Leo Samama Lectures

    A. Leo Samama on SoundCloud
Piano Sonata No.2, opus 36, "En Voyage", performed by Ronald Brautigam, recorded by NCRV Radio, 1991

    B. Leo Samama on SoundCloud
En Hollande, Opus 56, for soprano and string quartet, has been recorded here by Nienke Oostenrijk and the Daniel Quartet. The text has been taken from Verlaine's Quinze jours en Hollande.

Leo Samama talks about the Fontys Academy of Music and Performing Arts
(in Dutch with English subtitles)
You have worked also as general editor of Pro Mozart Magazine, the official magazine of Dutch Mozart Society. Can you tell us about this activity? How it started and how it was carried on through the years. You have also published Mozart: A lecture about his life and work for Home Academy : what is your interest in Mozart as a man and a composer and what is your vision of him, within the context of the 1st Vienna School (for Home Academy you have produced also lectures on Beethoven and Schubert)?
Unfortunately, I can be quite short about this first item. I have been asked only a few times to take over the final editing of Pro Mozart. In the years 1999 – 2006. Arie Peddemors was so busy with his own research as an archaeologist and as the new president of the Nederlandse Mozart-Vereniging, that he asked me to help him. However, I was as busy as he was, in my case as of 2001 as the artistic administrator ad interim of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and since 2004 of the Residentie Orkest in The Hague, with Evgenii Svetlanov as our chief-conductor. Thus, we split a bit all work. Peddemors choose the articles or the lectures to be converted by the authors into articles, and I did the final editing of the texts.

By the way, the recorded university lectures (all in Dutch!) came a bit later, from 2006 onwards, starting indeed with four hours on Mozart (2006 was a Mozart year!), and reaching in 2019 (in December) some 80 hours on a different composers (life and works) and diverse philosophical topics.


My interest in Mozart dates from my early childhood years and is quite private too. In 1957, when I was 6 years old, the lady living opposite of our house was dying. She was in those days a famous Hammerklavier performer, Alice Heksch, specialized in Mozart's music. Her children stayed in my parents' house during the day, in order not to disturb their mother too much. In those same days my parents had given me a recording of Mozart's life told for children by a famous French actor, Gérard Philippe. The recording was called La vie de Mozart and it told in detail also the death of young Mozart's mother, in Paris 1778. With underneath the music of the Piano Sonata in A minor. For decades, the combination of someone dying and this dramatic music could not be separated… Later when I was eleven a received another essential Mozart recording, that is still with me: Mozart's Piano Concerto in D minor performed by Sviatoslav Richter.

Mozart was a unique composer, especially since for us he seems to have been the ultimate genius, who like an angel could compose without much effort...

... At least, that is the 19th Century image we have made of him. In reality Mozart was – like Beethoven and Schubert – a very hard worker, who, as Haydn once said to his father, had an incredible knowledge of the science of music, and who knew himself he had accomplished this knowledge on a level very few would ever reach.

Mozart was a composer living on the brink of an aristocratic and a bourgeois society, who was well aware that without a fixed job on some court (by preference in one of the capitals of Europe), he had to forge a bond with a rather unknown audience of mostly laymen who did not ask for his music, but had to pay for the tickets to go to his concerts. For them he had to write music that kept the middle between head and heart, meant for Kenner und Nichtkenner, as his father advised him. Exactly that makes his music, that is so much imbedded into the world of opera (also his string quartets and sonatas are opera), still today expressive and dramatic, alive and intriguing. He was in fact the first romantic composer, the first who knew how to get hold of an audience of more or less anonymous Nichtkenner.

Haydn did the same in London with his symphonies and in Vienna with his oratorios. Beethoven made even a clear division between music for a dedicated audience of aristocrats and Kenner (the sonatas and quartets) and for the general laymen (most symphonies and the concertos).

Although Mozart and Haydn influenced each other mutually, and Beethoven received Mozart's spirit out of the hands of Haydn (as count Waldstein advised him to do), all three were equally influenced by a multitude of other composers, predecessors and contemporaries alike. Many of these influences did not come from Vienna at all, but from the Balkan (Haydn), Italy, France and Southern Germany (Mozart), from France and Italy (Beethoven), from Moravia, Bohemia and Germany (Schubert).

Thus, the first Vienna School does not exist; it is, as so much, an invention of late 19th Century musicology!

So true! It is a fact that Mozart and Haydn, already in 1786, were publicly considered like the Klopstock and the Gellert of music. This parallel drawn between the two couples of artists had a fundamental normative meaning for its time. As a matter of fact, Gellert (1715-1769) and then Klopstock (1724-1803) had fundamentally changed and developed the German language, by creating new literary, linguistic and artistic standards and models that would be carried on and further refined by Schiller, Goethe, and others. Therefore the identification Haydn=Gellert and Mozart=Klopstock meant that Haydn (the so called London snuffbox!) and Mozart (the so called Paris snuffbox!) were already considered themselves normative models for music, and not only in Austria or in the German Nations but also in a much wider European context (and in the case of Haydn we well know what London snuffbox really meant!). At this point, perhaps, the term Haydn & Mozart Era (or Mozart & Haydn Era) may be, probably, a better choice... 

In your book Mozart and the Netherlands. A Bicentenarian Retrospect (2003) you published an extremely interesting article on the treatment of music fragments/style derived from Mozart's music by other composers after 1791 on and with a detailed analysis of this kind of treatment by the composers and the contemporary composers of the 20th century and you yourself pointed out that this matter has really many multiple facets and that there were certainly still many things to say on this subject. Now, after 16 years, in 2019/2020, what is your vision of the treatment and re-use of Mozart's music and style in the production of contemporary music?
Again, the answer is in the mentioned article itself.

Since the late 1980s the whole idea of avantgarde (dodecaphonic, serialist, postserialist, aleatoric, etc.) was slowly demolished by neo-romantic, neo-tonal and new age music. Or as Adorno would have said: regression (when he mentioned Stravinsky versus Schönberg).

Of course, Mozart is still there; and his music is still an important influence on many composers, however not stylistically, but technically: every tone counts, all material should be used ad fundum, never write what can’t be heard, always be expressive (composing is communicating!), tell stories not theories.

The use of quotations and allusions is not en vogue in our days anymore. Or maybe I should formulate this differently: the old rules of unity of time, place and action do not exist anymore in contemporary music. Composers allude, quote and mix styles and techniques as freely as they wish...

...The one single highway in the arts during many centuries has been replaced by a multitude of roads and routes.

The one single certainty one had regarding the development of music (e.g. from Haydn to Mozart to Beethoven and on via Schubert and Schumann to Brahms) seems to have been a sign of partial blindness and has been replaced in the late 20th Century by many different certainties, a labyrinth of possibilities, each of them equally true and equally important. Generally, we use for this situation the denominator postmodern, although that too is a mere invention of researchers and not of the artists themselves.

What I wrote in my article on the treatment of Mozart’s music by composers before 1980 is in 2019 a document of no more than historical value. But the philosophical basis is still useful: all art is the result of the world we live in, which is the result of what we have made of that world. We humans make the world that makes us… Thus, all art is political, is part of the politeia. That was one of the results of a study far larger than only the chapter on Mozart that I wrote in the late 1980s, covering the art of referring in music (oeuvre de reférence) philosophically and historically, and finally all the way until the late 1980s (including the music of among others Bernd Alois Zimmermann, Luciano Berio, George Rochberg and Alfred Schnittke).

    C. Leo Samama on SoundCloud
This piece is a prequel to either the Brahms Serenade, which I arranged for winds, or the Dvorak Serenade for winds. Performance by the Netherlands Wind Ensemble.

    D. Leo Samama on SoundCloud
Concertante for viola, flute, string orchestra and percussion, performed by Yuko Inoue with the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra under Otto Ketting, 1983.

As a contemporary composer you have written many works. Among them there are also a few which may have, curiously, a direct link to Mozart or Haydn (at least, in the choice of the instruments): your Clarinet Concerto Op. 74, Clarinet Quintet Op. 51 and the String Quartets Op. 59, Op. 79, Op. 85; and in the CD Fresh, Sweet & Sturdy your composition Syrènes Op. 87 was chosen with works by Haydn and Gershwin. In 1982 you also published a book on Beethoven's piano sonatas: do you think Mozart, Beethoven and the 1st Vienna School (or, better, as we have seen before, the Haydn & Mozart Era) may have had also a role in your being a contemporary composer and in your music? What are your projects for the future? And what is the importance of The Netherlands in your work as a scholar and as a contemporary composer?
On the first point my answer is quite elementary: that was purely coincidental and not a choice...

... My writing for the clarinet or for string quartet was simply the result of commissions by clarinettists and by string quartets. And Mozart and his music had no deal in these decisions. Nor does my saxophone quartet have any relation with either Haydn or Gershwin. Of course, sometimes I do try to bring different ideas and techniques together, especially in my earlier works until the early 1990s, where I have used quotes and allusions as so many of my contemporaries have done in the second half of the 20th Century.

However, if we really want to discern influences in music, then probably those of Frank Martin and Benjamin Britten (both from my teens), Olivier Messiaen (who was for many years a mentor and dear friend), my composition teacher Rudolf Escher and mentor around 1970, Bruno Maderna.
From the great composers of the past (even Josquin, Palestrina, Monteverdi, but certainly also Bach, Mozart, Beethoven or Schubert) I learned to always be expressive, to communicate in my music, to follow my own voice and use my material as economical as possible.

    E. Leo Samama on SoundCloud
De solitude en solitude was composed in 1999 for the Leo Smit Stichting and dedicated to Eleonore Pameijer and Jeff Hamburg. The live performance is by Nienke Oostenrijk (soprano), Eleonore Pameijer (flute), Doris Hochscheid (cello), and Frans van Ruth (piano).

    F. Leo Samama on SoundCloud
The Concerto was written in 2005 for André Kerver and the Netherlands Symphony Orchestra (Orkest van het Oosten) and premiered that same year under Valery Petrenko.

    G. Leo Samama on SoundCloud
The Triptico for two guitars was written in 1978 and consists of three movements: Planh, Canzon and Danza. This recording has been made by the Groningen Guitar Duo, still one of the most lovely performance of this piece.


The book on the Piano Sonatas by Beethoven was meant for the Beethoven cycle by Alfred Brendel at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw during the 1982/83 season. It was at same time the program book for these concerts and published for use outside the concert hall. However, the book was soon sold out and remained out of stock. Therefore, I have decided to rewrite and enlarge this book for 2020, for the Beethoven's 250th Anniversary (1770-2020). After nearly forty years...


As I explained above my work as a musicologist has only little influence on my work as a composer, with one exception, that I had the opportunity as a musicologist to meet and speak many composers of name around the world, write about their music and thus learned by far more about music than any musicological education could ever have offered. The other way around was as well the case: as a composer my view on music is always from the inside, from the point of view of a composer, and not so much from the point of view of theorists and musicologists who have seldom tried their hand on writing music themselves.

Part of this can be read not only in my books on composers or genres, but also in my personal philosophy of music, recorded in my book The Meaning of Music. Among my plans for the future are a sequel to this book, but also a book on the Lied, as a sequel to previous books as the Solo Concerto and The String Quartet (both written in Dutch). As a composer I mostly write what people ask me to write. Thus, for the next few years a handful of pieces are somewhere developing in my head. I hope that my busy schedule as a lecturer and as a member of diverse boards in the musical world, provide enough time to do what I am still dreaming of.

Finally, The Netherlands as such have no importance for my music. Of course, Dutch musicians do. But the general attitude by the Dutch government towards music in The Netherlands is rather negative and condescending. Compared to 20 years ago, the situation is even quite demoralizing. My own education and cultural background are more European than Dutch, being of mixed Tunisian, French, Italian and Dutch parentage, having been educated mixed Dutch and French, and having studied in the USA too. But as an artistic manager and founder of organisations in the field of music, I am of course quite Dutch, with a preference of building instead of dreaming only.


Samama Fellowship with Holland Baroque 2019/2020

Holland Baroque is an international ensemble based in The Netherlands playing over 60 concerts a year in Holland and abroad. We invite guests such as Giovanni Sollima, Reinbert de Leeuw, Lars Ulrik Mortensen, Alexis Kosssenko Hidemi Suzuki, Amandine Beyer and others.

Baroque music is the key, but we build bridges to other musical styles.

Several trainees have found their place as regular players in the ensemble or join the orchestra on a regular base since Holland Baroque started to offer this Training Course. Joining the Training Course is a chance to get to know the ensemble as well as improving your own skills and deepening your career as baroque musician.

       Other projects by Leo Samama:
a. Netherlands String Quartet Academy (co-founder)
b. European network for professional chamber choirs TENSO (co-founder)
c. 150 Psalms & 150 Psalms Utrecht

Gramophone Article on Leo Samama
Your favourite work by Mozart and your favourite work by J. Haydn.
I have no favourite works by any composer, or better said: my favourite is virtually always the last piece I have heard.

A favourite work by a great composer feels like denying the other works to be favourites too. It is like children. None of them is your favourite, and all are!

However, I love Mozart’s opera Così fan tutte (and on 26 January 2020 we celebrate its 230th Anniversary!) and I am in awe for the finale of his Symphony in C (Jupiter), and Haydn’s Cello Concerto in D major next to Die Schöpfung.
Do you have in mind the name of some neglected composer of the 18th century you'd like to see re-evaluated?
Not particularly... However, the music of composers like Jiri Benda, Jean-Joseph de Mondonville and Martin Kraus certainly should be more often performed!

Mozart loved Benda (during his journey in the Netherlands Mozart received a much appreciated gift: G. Benda's Harpsichord Sonatas in printed edition), and Kraus was in many ways a Mozartian with his richly lyrical music.

The music of Mondonville, as many others in those days, prove that what we call the Viennese classical tradition was in reality quite international, as Mozart’s music was not so much Viennese but above all European!

Name a neglected piece of music of the 18th century you'd like to see performed in concert with more frequency.
More in general Haydn’s operas [here Dorati's Vol. 1 & Vol. 2] and Dutch music of the 18th Century, e.g. Unico Willem van Wassenaer and Christian Ernst Graf (or: Graaf) [see CD Albums infra].

19th Century and early 20th Century researchers have blocked quite often our view on music by bold and even narrow-minded visions of what great music should be.

Thus, much fine music was put aside for being minor or not Mozart, but even Mozart’s own music was filtered, declaring Don Giovanni more important than Così fan tutte, or the Piano Concertos in D minor and C minor more important than late B flat Concerto...

The same holds for lesser known composers of the later 18th Century in The Netherlands, England, Russia or Spain… As if all classical music could only originate from Vienna...

C.E. Graaf, Symphony
Have you read a particular book on Mozart Era you consider important for the comprehension of the music of this period?
The Mozart biography by Wolfgang Hildesheimer is quite exceptional.

Apart from this I haven’t read much specific and/or recent books about the period.

I compile my information from a multitude of books and texts, by preference sources written in the times of Mozart: letters, diaries, reviews, theory books, and so much more.

Very interesting is Nannerl Mozarts Tagebuchblätter edited by Walter Hummel.
Name a movie or a documentary that can improve the comprehension of the music of this period.
Generally, the movie Amadeus is still the most interesting survey, even with some historical mistakes.

In Search of Mozart will certainly help understanding the composer and his times, as well as several movies like Nannerl, la Soeur de Mozart or Liaisons dangereuses, or The Duchess.

Nannerl, la soeur de Mozart (2011)

Dangerous Liaisons (1988)

The Duchess (2008)
Do you think there's a special place to be visited that proved crucial to the evolution of the 18th century music?
Apart from Vienna, virtually every city visited by Mozart: Olmütz, Paris, London, The Hague, Mannheim, München, Prague, Bologna, Milano, Rome…

These cities are also proof of Mozart’s place in European culture.

He was a true internationalist!

Thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!
Thank you!