20 years Leo Smit Foundation
Composers and repertoire

Jan van Gilse

Jan van Gilse

Jan Pieter Hendrik van Gilse was born on 11 May 1881 in Rotterdam. He started piano lessons when he was about six and began to compose when he was still at middle school. When he was fifteen he went to the internationally renowned conservatory at Cologne and from 1902 he studied in Berlin, where his tutors included Engelbert Humperdinck. In 1901 van Gilse was awarded a prize by the Beethoven House in Bonn for his first symphony. Eight years later he won the Michael Beer prize for his symphony “Erhebung”. This allowed him to study in Rome for a year. After that he moved to Munich with his wife Ada Hooijer. In 1916 he returned to the Netherlands.

Van Gilse actively defended the rights and needs of composers. In 1911 he was one of the founders of GeNeCo, the union of Dutch composers, and in 1913 he was involved in the foundation of BUMA, the authors' rights association.

From 1917 to 1922 van Gilse conducted the Utrecht City Orchestra but he left due to a disagreement with the board. The cause was van Gilse’s attempt to exclude Willem Pijper from the concerts because he wrote very negative reviews in the local newspaper, the Utrechts Dagblad. A serious personal conflict between the two composers had developed, including on musicological/musical grounds. Pijper was influenced by French music and accused van Gilse of being too German-oriented. The latter’s late-romantic style was certainly influenced by Humperdinck, Strauss and Mahler.

Van Gilse left Utrecht to live in Germany until Hitler came to power in 1933. During the war he was active in the Resistance; from 1942 he and his wife went into hiding. Both their sons, who were also in the Resistance, were executed by the Germans. Following several months’ illness, Jan van Gilse died on 8 September 1944 in Oegstgeest.

Selected works

Symphony no. 1 1901 orchestra
Eine Lebensmesse 1904 cantata for soprano, alto, tenor, bass, choir and orchestra
Thijl 1940 opera
Trio 1928 flute, violin and viola
Vier Gedichte von C.F. Meyer 1927 voice and piano

Find out more about Jan van Gilse, find sheet music and listen to sound samples on www.forbiddenmusicregained.org