The Belgian composer Wim Mertens (born 1953) is an international recording and performing artist who has given countless concerts as a soloist and with his ensemble, all over Europe, North and Central America, Japan, Thailand and in Russia. He initially studied at the Conservatory of Brussels and graduated in political and social sciences at the K.U. Leuven and Musicology at the R.U. Gent.
His early landmark albums are Vergessen and Struggle for Pleasure (1982), including Close Cover, still one of his classics. In 1998, Mertens became the Cultural Ambassador of Flanders.
Since 1980, Mertens has composed pieces in different formats, from short, accessible songs or Lieder to magnanimous and complex three- and four-part cycles, and for different settings: from solo piano to chamber music ensembles and symphony orchestra. He often writes for unusual instrumentations: twelve piccolos, ten bass trombones, thirteen clarinets. Since his recording debut in 1980, titled For Amusement Only, an electronic composition for pinball machines, Wim Mertens has released more than 65 albums.
Vocals, ensembles and cycles
The 1985 album Maximizing the Audience, saw the introduction of vocals in Mertens’ music, an element that has grown on later albums. Mertens sings in a high-pitched voice, using a language of his own invention. Over the years, Mertens has released albums for various ensembles, including the Brussels Philharmonic and a group of 17 musicians, all women.
Over the years, he has composed several song cycles, the most ambitious of which is the 37-CD cycle Qua that includes the trilogy Alle dinghe, the tetralogy Gave van niets, the trilogy Kere Weerom and the tetralogy Aren lezen.
Movies, theatre and scores
Wim Mertens also works for the theatre and movies. Scores have included Jan Fabre’s performances The Power of Theatrical Madness (1984), Peter Greenaway’s film The Belly of an Architect (1987), Je pense à vous by the Dardenne brothers (1992), Marion Hänsel’s film Li – Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (1992) and Paul Cox’s Father Damien (1999), plus music for piano and voice for the silent movies La femme de nulle part by Louis Delluc and The Land Beyond the Sunset by Harold Shaw. He also composed and performed for the Christian Dior men’s collection during the Paris fashion show in 2008. The box set Music and Film covers a large selection of Mertens’ film music.
Other special projects include A Starry Wisdom for the Festival van Vlaanderen in Ghent, which included two sold-out concerts, and live recordings with the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra (OST) in de Sala Sinfonica del Auditorio de Tenerife Adan Martin in Spain in June 2008. Mertens has also written and performed for the K.U. Leuven and the city of Guimarães, Portugal, Capital of Culture 2012. In 2014, Voice of the Living was commissioned by the Chancellery of the Belgian Prime Minister to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the First World War.
More recent projects include the triptych Cran aux Oeufs (2015-2016), That Which Is Not (2018) and Inescapable, a 4CD Box set released on the 15th November 2019. This career-spanning compilation will include 10 unreleased tracks and 2 new compositions: Under Erasure and European Grasses. A tour of major venues in various countries is also foreseen in 2020.
Wim Mertens continues to perform and record in different formats: solo piano, duo (violin or clarinet, piano), trio (violin or clarinet, cello, piano) with different ensembles and also with a symphony orchestra.