Alphons Diepenbrock


Born: September 2, 1862; Amsterdam, The Netherlands   Died: April 5, 1921; Amsterdam, The Netherlands  
Alphons Diepenbrock was the leading Dutch composer of his era, an extraordinary achievement for a man whose formal training was in classical languages and Greek and Roman literature. His official musical education ended with the lessons he received as a boy, from which he demonstrated prodigious skills at the keyboard and on the violin. While studying classics, he learned music theory on his own and led a choir. He was drawn to the work of Read more Palestrina and Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, and also to the music of Wagner. He began composing music in his teens, which included songs and choral works as well as the Academische feestmarsch for winds. He spent the 1880s working on his doctorate and later became an instructor in classics, keeping his hand in composition with such choral works as Les Elfes (1887).

In the 1890s Diepenbrock taught Greek and Latin and wrote articles on a multitude of philosophical, literary, and musical subjects. It was in the course of these activities that Diepenbrock began writing the choral works for which he became best known, including the Missa in die festo. His two Hymnen an die Nacht received their first performances under Willem Mengelberg and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra, which marked his breakthrough to mainstream acceptance in Holland. Two years later, his Te Deum was premiered in similarly august circumstances. Diepenbrock found himself the most popular serious composer in Holland during the first decade of the twentieth century. He was championed by such figures as Mengelberg and Gustav Mahler. Diepenbrock and Mahler also became friends and the two men conducted each other's works, Diepenbrock using his occasions as a guest conductor at the Concertgebouw to lead performances of Mahler's symphonies, as well as the works of Debussy.

From 1905 until the outbreak of World War I, Diepenbrock was a prolific composer, principally of symphonic songs and ambitious choral works, among them Die Nacht (1911) (from Holderlin) for mezzo-soprano and orchestra, Im grossen Schweigen (1906) (from Nietzsche) for baritone and orchestra, and Marsayas or The Enchanted Well (1910), the latter a "mythical comedy" derived from classical literature. Diepenbrock took his patriotic role as a composer during the war very seriously, authoring topical songs expressing opposition to Germany. His final years saw Diepenbrock turn his musical activities back toward classical literature, including incidental music for Aristophanes' The Birds (1917) and Sophocles' Elektra (1920), as well as music for Goethe's Faust (1918). Read less

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