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Willem Jeths was born on August 31, 1959, in Amersfoort, The Netherlands.

He is known for his compositions ranging from orchestral and chamber music to choral music, songs, and operas. Notable works include three operas “Ritratto” (2019), “The Tell-Tale Heart” (2018), and “‘Hôtel de Pékin”(2007), initially in an atonal idiom, but later flirting with tonality.

In November 2014 he was appointed by the copyright organization BUMA/STEMRA as the first “Componist des Vaderlands” of The Netherlands (Composer Laureate of The Netherlands). 

In 2024, his composition for choir “Viaggio italiano” was premiered at the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, performed by the Netherlands Radio Choir (Groot Omroepkoor) under the direction of Benjamin Goodson, featuring pianist Thomas Beijer and oboist Hans Wolters. Additionally, his composition “Kelimutu” was performed in Amsterdam at the Alba Rosa Viva Festival, performed by Erik Bosgraaf, Ralph van Raat, and Sasha Witteveen. In the same year, his “Mors aeterna” returned to the stage of the Concertgebouw with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra (Nedpho) conducted by Hartmut Haenchen who performed it also in 2023 in Genova, Italy. Furthermore, his monodrama “The Tell-Tale Heart” received its Italian premiere in Urbino and Ancona by the Wunderkammer Orchestra with soprano Jelena Dojçinoviç, conducted by Mattia Dattolo. 

Currently, he is working on his third piano concerto, commissioned by the Residentie Orchestra of The Hague for pianist Ellen Corver.

Jeths draws inspiration from the past in his music and attempts to enrich it through experimentation, storytelling, and the creation of archetypical moments. He describes his music as exploring extremes: "strict purity versus distortion, loud against soft." While his compositions are vibrant with tone colour, Jeths is economical with his musical material. He meticulously refines timbral effects, constantly seeking innovative approaches to orchestration and instrumentation. In almost all of his works, the theme of death is a recurring motif.

In recent years, Willem Jeths has received numerous commissions. To name a few: His last opera “Ritratto” commissioned by the Dutch National Opera & Ballet, Cello Concerto No.2 “Nell'oltretomba" commissioned by the Cello Biennale Amsterdam for Johannes Moser and premiered by Leonard Elschenbroich, "Suite Ritratto" commissioned by the Philharmonie Zuid Nederland, "Ishq" and "Maktub" for the Calefax Reed Quintet. Additionally, he composed his monodrama “The Tell-Tale Heart”, “Recorder Concerto” for Erik Bosgraaf, Violin Concerto No. 2: "Diptych Portrait" for Tasmin Little, and his “Requiem” for the Dutch Radio Choir (Groot Omroepkoor) and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, all of which were commissioned by the ZaterdagMatinee. Moreover, his String Quartet No. 3: "Intus trepidare” has been composed for the Kronos Quartet. Jeths' notable work for the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra includes "Scale -le tombeau de Mahler-“ and the “Flugelhorn Concerto”. 

Willem Jeths’ music has been conducted by numerous esteemed conductors, including Ed Spanjaard, Jaap van Zweden, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Markus Stenz, Edo de Waart, Lucas Vis, James Gaffigan, Geoffrey Paterson, Otto Tausk, Reinbert de Leeuw, Michael Schønwandt, David Robertson, Jan Latham-Koenig, Lev Markiz, David Porcelijn, Peter Eötvös, Thomas Søndergård, Hartmut Haenchen, Jac van Steen, Antony Hermus, Benjamin Goodson, Stijn Berkouwer, Giuseppe Mengoli, Klaas Stok, Tetsuji Honna, Matthias Brauer, Kenneth Montgomery, Thierry Fischer, Bernhard Klee, Marc Soustrot and others. His compositions have been performed across Europe, the USA, Canada, Mexico, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, and South Africa.


Since 2007, Jeths has held the position of professor of composition at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam (CvA). Before that, he was the senior composition teacher at the Fontys Conservatoire in Tilburg from 2002 to 2007.

During the 2004-2005 season, Jeths was the composer-in-residence with Het Gelders Orkest and the Brabants Orkest. This was followed by residencies with De Doelen in Rotterdam in 2005-2006 and with the Orkest van het Oosten in 2006-2007. In 2000, Rotterdam hosted a three-day Willem Jeths Festival, and in 2019, Jeths was the composer-in-residence at the Staunton Music Festival in the USA.

In 2023, Willem Jeths was invited to conduct a composition masterclass at the Conservatorio Statale “Giuseppe Verdi” in Ravenna, Italy. Later that same year, he conducted another masterclass at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique (CNSMD) in Lyon, France.

Jeths won the Composition Prize from the Conservatoire of Utrecht in 1988. His composition, “Novelette” for violin and piano (1986), was selected for the ISCM World Music Days in 1990 in Oslo.

For his first string quartet, “Arcate” (1990), Jeths received a distinction award. The following year, he received another distinction for the same work, arranged for string orchestra. In 1996, Jeths received the second and third prizes in the Internationaler Wiener Kompositionswettbewerb for his violin concerto, “Glenz”(1993), and his first “Piano Concerto” (1994).

In 2008, “Meme” (concerto for  2 solo violas and orchestra or ensemble) was selected for the Toonzetters Prize.

In November 2014, he was designated by the copyright organization BUMA/STEMRA as the "Componist des Vaderlands" of The Netherlands, becoming the first Composer Laureate of the Netherlands.

Also in 2014, Jeths won the prestigious “Amsterdam Prijs voor de Kunst” (Amsterdam Prize for the Arts) for his entire oeuvre, awarded by the Amsterdam Fonds voor de Kunst (AFK).


“For me, intuition and associations are the keywords while composing, together with striving towards a clarity and economy of musical material. Life/Death and Nature are the main sources of my inspiration. …It is not surprising that people say orchestral colours and timbres are my ‘trademark’.”

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