The organist son of a prominent organist father, Hendrik Andriessen exhibited in his compositions the improvisational freedom associated with his instrument. The brother of Willem Andriessen, the leading Dutch pianist of his day, Hendrik took his calling seriously, often railing at the lack of preparation evident in certain areas of Dutch music performance, especially in the execution of church music. Traces of the styles arrived at by two other organist/composers and accomplished improvisers, Anton Bruckner and César Franck, were found in Andriessen's scores; his musical grammar, though conservative, was of his own time.
Andriessen's initial training came from his father, though later he worked with his brother Willem, older by five years. Private lessons with Louis Robert were also part of the background he brought to his student days at the Amsterdam Conservatory, where his professors included J.B.C. de Pasuw and Bernard Zweers. Upon completing his schooling, Andriessen was appointed to succeed his father at a church in Haarlem, remaining in that post for two decades. In 1936, he was called to Utrecht where he was given the position of director of the Royal Conservatory and organist at the city's Roman Catholic cathedral. Among his other positions, a professorship at Nijmegen University afforded him considerable influence over the musical life of his country. As church organist and director, Andriessen achieved a reputation for producing choirs of distinction and well-blended, precise, and rhythmically alert choral ensembles. Perhaps due to his outspokenness, Andriessen was forbidden by the Nazis to perform or compose during the occupation; he was even held in prison for a considerable period. Following WWII, he continued with his twofold career, resuming his composing and once again instructing university students in composition. Among Andriessen's works are numerous sacred pieces including chorales, meditations, and a Passacaglia and Sonata da chiesa, four symphonies, an organ concerto, several variations on works by other composers, a symphonic study and other studies for organ, a sonatina for viola and piano, and a remarkable Ricercare for orchestra (1949), written to honor the 200th anniversary of J.S. Bach's death.