The Nieuw Ensemble has a unique instrumental structure, using plucked instruments such as mandolin, guitar and harp in combination with wind, string and percussion. The lack of literature for this group makes it as dependent upon composers, as composers have always been upon musicians. The Nieuw Ensemble has thus set out to build its own repertoire, encouraged by continuous contact with composers from different cultures, countries and generations, and long-term workshops for young composers. The ensemble was founded in 1980 in Amsterdam.
In 1998 the Nieuw Ensemble and its artistic director Joël Bons were awarded the Prince Bernhard Fund Music Prize for their ‘markedly lively and adventurous programming which can be described as groundbreaking, both in the literal and figurative senses of the word’. Since 1991, programmes featuring new works written especially for the ensemble by Chinese composers such as Tan Dun, Qu Xiaosong, Xu Shuya, Chen Qigang and Guo Wenjing have attracted wide attention.
The Nieuw Ensemble now enjoys a firm international standing. It has performed in festivals such as the Venice Biennale, Settembre Musica, Ars Musica in Brussels, Donaueschinger Musiktage, Musica Strasbourg, Holland Festival, Warsaw Autumn, Huddersfield Festival, Agora, Stockholm New Music, the Festival d’Automne à Paris, Lincoln Center Festival and Sadler’s Wells in London.