Willem Pijper

Willem Pijper (1894 – 1947) was the leading Dutch composer of the era after the end of the First World War. Pijper grew up in Utrecht, where he also trained. When his Symphony No. 1 was performed by Willem Mengelberg and the Concertgebouworkest in April 1918, this amounted to an artistic accolade for the young composer. Subsequently, he grew into an important voice in public musical life. He wrote numerous reviews over decades, published the magazine “De Muziek”, which he turned into the most important musical publication of his country, and finally became head of the Conservatory in Rotterdam. In 1923, Pijper was among the founding members of the International Association for New Music (Internationale Gesellschaft für Neue Musik, IGNM). In the following years, and once more in 1947, his works were featured in the programmes of the association’s chamber music festivals. National Socialist Germany subjected Rotterdam to a devastating bombing in May 1940 and the composer’s house was destroyed, which was a catastrophe for him. After the war, Pijper was committed to reconstructing the musical life of the Netherlands, but he died of cancer in 1947.

On the stylistic spectrum of 1920s modernism, Pijper was a proponent of a moderate, rather conservative position and his harmonically colourful, often bi-tonal works moved within a traditional realm of forms. What makes many of his pieces particularly interesting and vibrant is their rhythmic character, which reveals influences from dances of various origins, including jazz.

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