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Composers and repertoire

Samuel Schuijer

Samuel Schuijer

Samuel Schuijer was born on 9 September 1873 in The Hague, second son of a family of nine. His parents had a jewellery business and were probably very well off. Musically, the family were also prodigious: five of the boys became professional musicians. Simon, the eldest, was born in 1872; his marriage certificate gives his profession as ‘musician by appointment’. Elie (b. 1879) was conductor, solo bassoon and viola player. He also conducted opera in many places abroad and composed various works of his own, including 2 operettas. Aaron, also known as Arie (b. 1881) was a cellist in the Royal Military Band; from 1910 he played solo cello for the opera in Frankfurt on Main and he also composed. The second to last son was Joseph (b. 1883), also recorded as a professional musician.

Samuel Schuijer pursued a variety of studies at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, including violin, bassoon and theory of music. The Jubilee Book for the 100th anniversary of the Hague Conservatory in 1926 records that in 1887 a certain S. Schuyer graduated in trombone with a ‘good’ grade. This probably refers to Samuel’s older brother Salomon, who was twenty that year. His marriage certificate, on the other hand, gives his profession as ‘actor’. Twelve years later the Jubilee Book again mentions an S. Schuyer, this time obtaining a diploma in cello. This might well refer to our Samuel, as years later he performed as cellist in a radio broadcast; however, immediately after his studies he was mainly active as first bassoon in various orchestras in the Netherlands. As solo bassoon he even went on a European tour with the Eduard Strauss orchestra. Then Schuijer conducted rehearsals for the French orchestra in The Hague, from which we can infer that he was also a good pianist. His next post was as orchestral leader of the Ghent opera. He had a brief spell in Paris and finally settled in The Hague, where he made his name as a conductor, composer, violinist and teacher.

On 24 October 1894 Samuel Schuijer married Elisabeth Alter, opera singer and actress. They had three sons: Abraham (b. 1891, pianist), Marinus (b. 1895, died in infancy aged three weeks) and Louis (b. 1901, cellist).

In the early 1900s the young Samuel Schuijer wrote a good number of songs, mostly in the folk idiom. His work was regularly rewarded by the Willemsfonds, a cultural foundation in Flanders. He also wrote musicals and operas that met with some success. His composing activities, however, probably did not earn him enough to support his family.

In the 1920s Schuijer formed his own orchestra and they entertained in various restaurants like the cafe restaurant Hollandais and the hotel restaurant De Twee Steden in The Hague. His orchestra also performed in films and theatre productions, for example in the Odeon and the Douglas Fairbanks film ‘Robin Hood’. Samuel Schuijer formed a string quartet called the Residentie Strijkkwartet which included his son Louis (now a successful cellist), the violinist Eddy Waisvisz and the viola player S.L. Wertheim. They played everything from Schubert and Haydn to Smetana and Debussy. In December 1925 the daily Het Vaderland published the first notice for Sam Schuijer’s Music School, which at that time was located in Oranjeplein in The Hague. The school offered tuition in piano, violin, theory of music and singing. In the spring of 1927 the music school moved to Laan van Meerdervoort and the curriculum was considerably expanded. The school’s mission was 'to provide to beginners as well as more advanced students outstanding instruction in music at a low cost, with lessons given exclusively by first-rate teachers. The teachers included Samuel, his son Louis, Sophie Haase-Pieneman (singing), Anton Witek (violin master classes), Ella Alter (dance) and Richard Heuckeroth (opera singing). Tuition was available in a range of wind and string instruments, as well as in composition, conducting and the history of music.

At the same time Samuel Schuijer was elected representative of the Netherlands section of the French author’s rights association SACEM; and he regularly conducted various orchestras, including the Residentie Orkest. In short, Sam Schuijer was clearly a prominent musician in The Hague in the period before the Second World War.

Whether or not he had a significant role as a composer is less clear. In the early part of the 20th century the demand in the concert halls for Dutch music was anyway limited. Even contemporaries such as Dopper and Wagenaar, who achieve mention in the standard works on Dutch music history, were never played. Schuijer complained about this in the press. He was unable to pursuade the Residentie Orkest to play his prize-winning Prelude and had to perform the premiere in Stuttgart, on 12 January 1930, himself conducting the Philharmonic Orchestra in an entirely Dutch programme including the overture Driekoningenavond (Epiphany) by Johannes Wagenaar. The concert was broadcast on German Radio Muhlack. Even the Lamoureux Orchestra in Paris took the Prelude up in its repertoire and performed it on 28 December 1930 in Paris. The Stuttgart Philharmonic Orchestra played Schuijer’s Muziek voor Orkest (Music for an orchestra) on 12 February 1932, conducted by Emile Kahn. This world premiere was also broadcast on Radio Muhlack. The orchestra asked for the orchestral parts to be transcribed separately, and paid for it themselves.

Born in 1873, Schuijer as a composer was firmly rooted in the traditions of the nineteenth century. After the First World War this school was no longer appreciated. However, Schuijer was certainly not deaf to the musical developments of his time. He regularly went to jazz concerts and listened with a critical ear. In Het Vaderland he wrote: "What we usually hear is a clash of chaotic sounds, not to say an overwhelming cacophony… The Queen’s Melodists have tuned in more agreably. With them, no banalities, no loud tuba noises, no sliding trombone, no moaning saxophone or clarinet, no busting trumpet noises, no fairground drums or pipes. Their music is refined, perfect, vibrant, memorable..." Schuijer was also interested in film music: he composed a Suite for Large Orchestra, to be played by the Rolprent Orchestra, with the idea that it could be used in any film.

As Schuijer spent some time in Paris he must have been familiar with the French school, but unlike his contemporaries he did not in any way come under its influence. The German newspaper Schwabische Merkur wrote that in Schuijer’s Muziek voor orkest (Music for an Orchestra) (1932) the composition did not "get tangled up in all kinds of tonal tricks, but allowed the melody to reach its full beauty." Schuijer included various folk songs in this composition, around the theme of 'motherland and the colonies'. The review in Het Vaderland is not altogether positive. The critic thought that Debussy could reproduce the Javanese sound better than Schuijer ‘with just a few notes' and he describes the work crisply as ‘clever and worthwhile', but says that it 'lacks imagination' and shows ‘no evidence of any kind of character'.

Up until 1939 there were regular articles in Het Vaderland on new music by Schuijer and performances of his works. Then the curtain came down. The last official document in our possession is Samuel Schuijer’s death certificate, which shows that he died in Auschwitz on 11 december 1942.

Carine Alders

Selected works

Sonata in A major (undated, before 1938) violin and piano
Zomernacht Idylle (1930?) symphony orchestra
Zomeravond (1916) tenor and piano

Find out more about Samuel Schuijer, find sheet music and listen to sound samples on www.forbiddenmusicregained.org