Hymne for violin and orchestra
(b. Amsterdam, 2. September 1862 – d. Amsterdam, 5. April 1921)
Hymne for violin and orchestra.
Alphonsus Johannes Maria Diepenbrock was born in Amsterdam into a prosperous upper class family, where the arts, especially music and literature, played an important role. He displayed a talent and affinity towards music at an early age, making rapid progress taking lessons on piano, organ and violin. To the dismay of his parents (perhaps the eternal parental concern on how will you make a living?), during his teenage years he considered a possible career as a conductor and composer. Equally gifted in classical languages, he decided against attending a conservatory to study music, instead enrolling at the University of Amsterdam majoring in classics. He eventually graduated with a PhD (cum laude) in 1888 with a dissertation in Latin on the life of Seneca, the ancient Roman philosopher, statesman, and dramatist. After graduation he taught classics at a gymnasium, a position he held until 1894.
His love of music persisted and eventually he decided to devote his life to that discipline. Resigning his teaching position, he supported himself by giving private tuition in Latin and Greek and by writing articles on music, painting, literature, philology, cultural history, religion and politics. Throughout his life, Diepenbrock continued his interests in the wider cultural sphere. Completely self-taught as a composer he began an intensive study of music theory, including 16th century counterpoint. While still a student, he conducted choral works by Palestrina and Sweelinck, his favorite masters of polyphony. He also made a systematic and intensive study of Wagner’s music and later Debussy. Diepenbrock was very much a respected figure within musical circles. However his first major breakthrough on the international stage did not occur until 1900 with the first performance, by Willem Mengelberg and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra, of Hymnen an die Nacht for voice and orchestra. Two years later, with the performance of his Te Deum, Diepenbrock came to be recognized as the leading Dutch composer of his time. His music was highly regarded by Mahler, who became friends with him during his sojourn in 1903 as guest conductor in Amsterdam. This admiration was mutual: when the Concertgebouw Orchestra invited Diepenbrock to conduct a few concerts of his own compositions, he also took the opportunity to perform the music of Mahler as well as other contemporary works by Faure and Debussy. He also counted amongst his friends Richard Strauss and Arnold Schönberg.
The genesis of Hymne was a competition in a French magazine to write a wedding song. Despite that initial impetus, Hymne is not a programmatic work. Originally composed in 1898 for violin and piano, it was published as such in 1905. It was later orchestrated and revised twice before being published in 1917 in the composer’s final orchestral version. The great Dutch violinist Louis Zimmerman was closely identified with Hymne, having performed the violin/piano version at the composer’s home in 1904. After that performance Diepenbrock promised Zimmermann that he would orchestrate the work. The violin/ piano publication carries an official dedication to Zimmermann, who was one of the great violinists of the day, professor at the Royal Academy of Music in Amsterdam, Concertmaster of the Concertgebouw and a regular soloist with the orchestra. Zimmermann also performed Hymne at the concert in celebration of Diepenbrock’s fiftieth birthday in September 1912..
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