Music that gentler on the spirit lies

Than tired eyelids upon tired eyes

(Alfred Tennyson)

Stephen Westra
, a Dutch composer and writer on music, lives in Utrecht, The Netherlands. He was born in 1967 at Voorburg, near The Hague, and lived in Leiden, Basel and Freiburg (Germany). He completed studies in composition at Utrecht Conservatory with Ed de Boer and Henk Alkema as well as history at Utrecht University.

C o m p o s e r 

Among his compositions are songs on German, Spanish, yiddish and ladino texts like Berliner Nachrichten, Drei Inseln and Canciones del éxtasis; orchestral works (Pumps & Circumstances, Variations for strings and Picasso Polka - the last of which was performed May 2010 at the Berliner Philharmonie); music for the piano (Sonata, 24 Preludes (three times), two Suites in neo-baroque style), chamber music (e.g. Oktett mit Singstimme) and theatre music. In the winter of 2005/06 he finished a cycle of 24 preludes through all keys for the piano which was premiered in October 2006 (arranged 2009 for violin/piano duet as well). It was followed 2008 and 2014 by a second and third series.

September 2006 his Variations for string orchestra were performed by the Hafnia Chamber Orchestra in Copenhagen (DK). January 2011 in Amsterdam a theatreprogram, 'Geleidelijk verliest de mens zijn gedaante...' (Gradually a man looses his shape), was premiered with music by among others Westra on texts by Russian absurdist Daniil Charms, followed in 2013 by Onsje (We) en Varenka en de oorlog (Varenka and the War) on texts by German/Dutch writer and performer Bernhard Christiansen. More recently premiered were his Duo and Quartet for 2 and 4 celli resp., his Duo for Viola & Cello, and his Suite nr 1 for piano 'The Invention of Innocence as well as an ensemble piece of the last piece (summer 2019). In 2019 he finished his Garcia Lorca songs (El llanto por las cosas lejanas), in '21 his third and fourth suite for the piano and in '22 the orchestral piece Notte di festa. 

Westra's music has been performed in some great halls in The Netherlands (Muziekcentrum Vredenburg Utrecht, Congresgebouw Den Haag, Muziekcentrum Frits Philips Eindhoven) and outside his native country (e.g. Japan, Ireland, Denmark, Germany and the United States). Names of the musicians and ensembles who performed his music are Vincent Kusters, Irene Maessen, Machteld van de Putte, Fanny de Ruiter, Josefien and Charlotte Stoppelenburg (singers); Sasha Mashina, Rossitza Ovtcharova, Lisanne Soeterbroek (violin); René Berman, Jan Insinger, Marike Tuin, Frank Wakelkamp (cello); Stephen Alltop, Helena Basilova, Karolinka de Bree, Jaap Brackman, Isabelle van Dooren, Jan Paul Grijpink, Wijnand van Klaveren, Jan van Maanen, Charlie Bo Meijering, Bobby Mitchell, Irina Osetskaya, Willem Stoppelenburg, Naomi Tamura,  Daan Treur, Ariadne Verstegen, Caspar Vos en Marcel Worms (pianists); Rolf Buijs, Simon Casali-Krzentowsky, Herman Draaisma, Bruno de Greeve, Jussi Jaatinen, Alexandru Lascae, Jan van Maanen, Bas Pollard, Otto Tausk and Mikhail Zemtsov (conductors); the Apeldoorns Symfonie Orkest, Arion Ensemble, Camerata Delft, Consonanti kamerorkest, Hafnia Chamber Orchestra, Heemsteeds Kamerorkest, Pulcinella Chamber Orchestra, Koninklijke Marinierskapel, Ricciotti Ensemble and the Utrechtsch Studenten Concert. 

W r i t e r   o n   m u s i c   e t c.

As a freelance writer on music Westra publishes articles, interviews, program notes and CD-reviews in a diversity of periodicals and made contributions to some books. He writes on (classical) music as diverse as Bach and Britten, Zemlinsky and Johannes Verhulst, Mendelssohn and Chick Corea. He wrote for e.g. Het Brabants Orkest, Amsterdam Sinfonietta, concerthall De Doelen, the Gelderse Muziek Zomer, Het Gelders Orkest, MuziekGroep Nederland, TivoliVredenburg, the Nijmeegse Stichting voor Kamermuziek, Storioni Festival, Klassieke Zaken, De nieuwe muze and Carnegie Hall. He contributed to 'XYZ van de Klassieke Muziek' (Katja Reichenfeld, ed.). 

He had a column in 'deKlank. Tijdschrift van Philharmonie Zuidnederland' on subjects related - sometimes quite remote - to classical music as Gosh! it's got talent..., FXW (about Mozart's son), Filmmusic and its tragic, Never become a member of the jury, Missiaen and In der Beschränkung zeigt sich kein Wagner. In 2009 he also wrote columns for De Doelen/Red Sofa, Rotterdam. Since 2018 he delivers columns for De nieuwe muze. Apart from publishing on music, he at times wrote about literature as well and made some translations from the German. In 2017 his book Brahms op de snelweg (Brahms on the Highway) was published.

Westra worked as an editor at Music Center Eindhoven (NL).