‘To me, good music is adventurous, well varied and takes sound as its basic reference. As a composer, I try to create for every ensemble a special sound, in which I like to cooperate closely with the musicians. Furthermore, it’s the character of the musician, which determines a great deal of the process of composing: it is very inspiring to work with enthusiastic musicians!’

Compositions of Max Knigge have been performed over the years by renowned soloists and ensembles, including the ASKO|Schönberg, Trio Burlesco, Nobuko Imai, Amstel Quartet, Dudok Quartet and the duo Hochscheid en Van Ruth. September 2007, Max was awarded the second prize of the NOG Young Composers Competition for Nazomer, for orchestra. In October 2006 he received the first prize in the Riciotti Arrangers Competition. In 2010, the stage work Het spookschip (The haunted ship) on a text written by Carel Alphenaar, was premiered in Amsterdam by members of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.

Max started with violin lessons, and the composing came along as a logic fact. First lessons in composition he got at the age of sixteen from David Rowland: ‘He constantly made me listen to styles and composers that were new to me. However his idiom was diametrically opposed to mine, I took his advice very seriously. It was almost like shock therapy, but it was incredibly inspiring.’

‘Yet I had the feeling that for a good education a good study-environment was necessary. Therefore, I went to Amsterdam and studied with Daan Manneke. That was the right choice: he was a craftsman who really built the ‘metier’. This new approach, ‘constructing’ a composition was a struggle for me. The turning point came in the third year: a couple of my compositions were performed and suddenly everything became tangible: sound, but most important was the experience of time. It was also the moment that other teachers like Theo Verbey and Martijn Padding mingled into my study-process, and ones perception is enriched by different points of view.’

In May 2007, Max graduated in composition at the Conservatory of Amsterdam. At the same conservatory he continued in the Master, having Wim Henderickx and Willem Jeths as his teachers. He finished his studies in 2010. ‘It was logical to continue with Wim Henderickx, I admired the colour and power in his music. Willem Jeths also focuses on colour, and is always in search of new sounds. Their approach has fundamentally changed my work.

Alongside composition, Max studied viola at the conservatories of Amsterdam and The Hague, with Marjolein Dispa and Liesbeth Steffens. Max: ‘The majority of the repertoire for the viola is in ensemble playing. And as a composer I learned a lot from playing: the viola in the centre of the string section brings an insight into the music, and what incredible compositions the masters wrote! In there lies an important source of inspiration for me: the music of the past. In my music, I am in search for the dialogue with the past, I study the masterpieces and try to make those techniques my own and use them. As an instrumentalist I am very close to the music. The notes of the composition are almost tangible. It is a sheer joy to play with a sound ensemble and perform a composition as well as possible.'

Also considered of great importance for his studies were the lessons instrumentation given by Theo Verbey, and a four-years course in contemporary South Indian music by Rafael Reina. Max combined his studies with an extra education in Theory of Music and the Ricciotti Arrangers Prize marked the start of his activities as arranger.

website and photography (c) 2011 by maarten storm