Jan Brandts Buys

 

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The name and fame of Jan Brandts Buys will forever be linked with his third opera, Die Schneider von Schönau, which, from 1916 onwards to the end of his life in 1933, propelled him into the front ranks of the German composers of his day. As an effect, a magic-realistic opera as Micarême seems to testify of a reverse opera revolution having taken place in Brandts Buys’ mind, which increasingly started putting the music above the text. It would be difficult today, to imagine a successful staged production of an opera like Micarême, and yet… the work includes mesmerizing melodies. The Waltz of The Young Lady, the song of the Joker, and their subsequent duet are brimming with secret desire and enigma. After a century of forgetfulness, 401DutchOperas shall now perform these excerpts at its first concert on April 26, 2015, in Laag-Keppel (Netherlands). Soprano Jolien De Gendt sings The Young Wife, and tenor Denzil Delaere the joker ‘Prince Carnaval’. Pieter Dhoore accompanies them from the piano in this matinee, which presents excerpts from a plenitude of forgotten Dutch operas. At a later occasion, we hope to also present excerpts of al Brandts Buys’ other works, beginning with the Act II finale from Die Schneider von Schönau in 401Concerts 3 in the Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, on May 29 2016. All our performances will be made available through downloads and we intend to broadcast the first half of the concert live on our home page.

Text: RS naar Jan Ten Bokum: Jan Brandts Buys 1868-1933 Componist. Een Nederlander in Oostenrijk (Walburg Pers, Zutphen, 2003)
Additonal sources: see below the article


Download 401Concerts 1 & 3 with Micarême and Die Schneider von Schönau

The recording of our third 401DutchOperas concert in the Kröller-Müller Museum is downloadable via 401Concerts 3. Apart from highlights of Jan Brandts Buys’ De kleermakers van Marken (Die Schneider von Schönau) it also includes highlights from Cornelis Dopper's De blinde van Casteel Cuillé  Willem Landré's De roos van Dekama, Daniël de Lange's Lioba, Gerard von Brucken Fock's Jozal, Julius Röntgen's Agnete and De lachende Cavalier, Jan van Gilse's Helga von Stavern, and Richard Hageman's Caponsacchi.

401Concerts 1 brought an extensive selection of Jan Brandts BuysMicarême, with tenor Denzil Delaere, soprano Jolien De Gendt and pianist Pieter Dhoore. This concert is available through 401Concerts 1 download. Apart from the Micarême selection it further includes arias and duets from operas by Andries ten Cate, Johannes Bernardus van Bree, Carl Eckert, Baron Knigge (B. Polak-Daniëls), Jan Rijken, Emile von Brucken-Fock, Gustaaf Francies de Pauw, Ignace LilienHarry Mayer and Flemish composer Karel Miry.


 
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Jan Willem Frans Brandts Buys (Zutphen, 12 september 1868 - Salzburg, 7 september 1933) was born into a famous family of composers. He was the eldest son of organ player and composer Marius Ardrianus Brandts Buys senior (1849-1911). His father gave Jan his first organ lessons. His composing uncle, who lived with the family, Ludwig Felix (1847-1947, still known through his song, ‘Mijne moedertaal’) also helped with teaching Jan the beginnings of music. In those formative days, Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Grieg were Jan’s favorite composers. As early as 1882, while still at the gymnasium, Jan Brandts Buys started performing in public, on the organ. As a composer he first presented himself in 1883, with ‘Sechs lyrisch Stückchen und variationen’. From 1884 up until 1889 he was organist in the Fraternity Church of Zutphen, the only official post he ever held. In 1889 a state scholarship then enabled him to complete his studies in Frankfurt at the Raff Conservatory. There he studied with Max Schwarz (piano) and Anton Ursprach (theory). Both were themselves former pupils of Franz Liszt, Schwarz also studied with Hans von Bülow. Ten Bokum believes that the Frankfurt years gave Brandts Buys his special inclination toward Slavic music and Brahms, and affection that is at times noticeable in his compositions. In any case, by 1891 his international training produced ‘Nachtliedjes’ after Frederik van Eeden’snovel Ellen, which made quite an impact in the Dutch musical scene. Upon his return he was also able to establish a succesful concertseries with his own compositions. Early 1892 he conducted The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in his ‘Konzertstück voor Piano en Orkest Op. 3’.

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Later in 1892, an accidental trip to Vienna, where he had to report on the International Exhibition for Music and Theatre changed Brandts Buys’ life for good, when he decided to stay there, rather than to return home. In order to finance his staying there, he took jobs with various publishers of music, for whom he corrected scores, and produced arrangements. In 1898 he started work on what was intended to become his first opera, on a libretto after a Spanish subject, which was very fashionable post Carmen and Massenet’s Le Cid. Just as later in Micarême, the action takes place during Carnival, which is also the only point in common with Brandts Buys’ first opera experiment, which revolves around the womanizer Gomes, who faces opposition from Don Quichot and Sancho. Brandts Buys only completed the first act, and the beginning of the second act, before abandoning the project. Brandts Buys’ early interest in opera is further testified by a youth work, of which nothing but a few lines of text remain.

In 1899 Brandts Buys scored his first success as a composer in Vienna, when he won a Second prize at the Bösendorfer Piano Competition for his ‘Concert Op. 15’. This was subsequently performed by the Wiener Philharmoniker. Around this time he started to edit opera’s for Universal Edition, in addition to whcih he helped produce the scores of his friend Ernő Dohnányi there. This resulted in Brandts Buys also writing chamber music. In 1901 he also wrote the incidental music for the play Schluck und Jau. This music included an overture and 12 short pieces (homophonic choirs, folk songs with refrains, and instrumental interludes). In the version with Brandts Buys’ incidental music the play was eventually never performed (Ten Bokum suspects that the playwright objected against the mutilation of his work by theatre director Schlenter, who attempted to turn in into a musical farce in an attempt to draw some public).

1909, Das Veilchenfest

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Directly or indirectly, Brandts Buys connection with Dohnányi resulted in his first completed opera Das Veilchenfest, since their joint acquaintance Victor Heindl gave him the libretto. It was this libretto that made Brandts Buys abandon his initial project on a Spanish subject, since the new text had a similar Don Quichot-like character, only now he performed his tasks in Vienna, which seemed the more commercial option. By 1907, the overture to Das Veilchenfest was played at the Wiener Concert-Verein, under the title of ‘Neidhart Fuchs’. His ‘Illyrische Ballade’ was there singled out, and awarded with a Prize. Previously, the Fitzer Quartet had performed works of Brandts Buys and the world famous soprano Lilli Lehmann had interpreted his songs. Thus, Jan Brandts Buys suddenly found himself back in Vienna as a promising young composer.

Two years were needed to finally mount a production of Das Veilchenfest at the Komische Oper Berlin, 1909. Mahler had previously rejected it in Vienna, presumably because he wasn’t convinced by the libretto. When the work failed to make an impression in Berlin, the critics again pointed to the libretto as the culprit, although Ten Bokum states that the music, even within it’s Wagnerian influences, is at times rather original: ‘Text wise one might link Jan’s opera to Pfitzners Rose vom Liebesgarten (1900), music wise perhaps with Braunfels. The latter’s Prinzessin Brambilla (1909) was, however, not yet completed and therefore cannot have been on influence at Das Veilchenfest.

1912, Das Glockenspiel

In 1910 Brandts Buys settled in Siffian, in South Tirol. Under the spell of its nature, he there composed his 1912 opera Das Glockenspiel, a comical opera in one act, which had its premiere in Dresden, 1913. The influence of Wagner was now completely gone, and the work breathes the atmosphere of the 19th Century Spieloper after Lortzing, but then through-composed. The strong influence of Tirol is further manifest in the original title, Flitterwochen (honeymoon). The folklore-like lyricism and the absence of major arias in favor of an arioso-recitative style with short, overflowing melodic arches sort of announce Die Schneider von Schönau. Both works also share the same librettist, Ignaz Michael Welleminsky (who later produced, among others, Zwei Herzen in Dreivierteltakt). At the word premiere, Das Glockenspiel couldn’t compete with Wolf-Ferrari’s Der Liebhaber als Arzt, for which it served as a curtain raiser, and alter little was heard of Brandts Buys’ second opera. Nonetheless, his progress then resulted in a deal between him and publisher Josef Weinberger, after whcih he could live from composising. The marked his 1914 return to Vienna.

1916, Die Schneider von Schönau

JanBrandtsBuysSchneiderBerlinBrandts Buys’ finest hour arrived with the April 1, 1916 world premiere in Dresden of Die Schneider von Schönau. Where Das Glockenspiel had to do with a B-cast, Dresden brought out its finest artists for Die Schneider von Schönau. Minnie Nast, then famous as creatrice of Sophie in Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier, was Veronika. The still unknown Elisabeth Rethberg distinguished herself as Michele. Te ingenious, comical plot and the subtle, often gorgeous music that Brandts Buys composed to the Bruno Hardt-Warden/ Ignaz Michael Welleminsky libretto, met with veritable ovations by the end. In the decades following, the work was given in no less than 70 theatres within the German speaking realms. In The Netherlands, the work was given its premiere on October 2, 1917, in the Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam, under a Dutch title, De kleermakers van Marken (The tailors of Marken). The Dutch translation of critic Nardus Henri Wolf moved the work to a wholly Dutch setting, an attempt of the manager to draw on national sentiments. Jules Moes was Sebastiaan (Florian), Louis van Tulder zong Steketee (Siegele), Annie Ligthart was Veronika, and Willem Harmans conducted. The latter had already conducted the work in Poznán, in January of that year. The tailors of Marken then toured no less than seven Dutch cities, which made it one of the most successful opera productions in The Netherlands of that year. It was also in this Dutch disguise that the Dutch radio produced the work in 1952, with John van Kesteren as Sebastiaan (Florian) and later IVC winner Aukje Karsemeyer-De Jong as Veronika. There is a gorgeous recording of Veronika’s Moon song, ‘En sluipt de liefde in de buurt (Und schleicht die Liebe um das Haus)’. Aukje Karsemeyer-De Jong’s interpretation rises from a deep understanding of the text, resulting in a dream-like, lyrical tone, which is sustained by the silvery playing of the Radio Filharmonisch Orkest, conducted by Paul van Kempen. Thus, the significant poetic qualities of this opera stand out, perhaps not surprising, since Van Kempen had been the concertmaster for the 1917 performances in Poznán. A more recent VARA radio recording of the original German version from Utrecht in 1991 features, among others, Soile Isokoski as Veronika. This recording has its prime merit in finally disclosing the work as a whole, although Brandts Buys masterpiece is drawn into the realms of Korngold and Humperdinck, where it doesn’t belong. The folkloristic Spieloper-element, which is essential to Die Schneider von Schönau, is wholly absent in this interpretation. Some passages also suffer from singers who are audibly sight-reading crucial passages. Jan ten Bokum believes that this may well have prevented a modest Brandts Buys revival. For those who would like to obtain a more balanced idea of the music along with an echo of Richard Tauber’s famous interpretation of Sebastiaan, I refer to a more idiomatic performance from 1951, with a young Rudolf Schock and Lore Hofmann in ‘Ich sehe dort Veronika’.

 
Jan Brandts Buy: Die Schneider von Schönau  ‘Ich sehe dort Veronika!’
Rudolf Schock (Florian), Lore Hofmann (Veronika Schwälble), Nordeutschen Rundfunks DDR & Rias-Berlin, 21 maart, 1951

 
Jan Brandts Buy: De kleermakers van Marken (Die Schneider von Schönau ‘En sluipt de liefde in de buurt’
Aukje Karsemeyer-De Jong (Veronika), Radio Filharmonisch orkest o.l.v. Paul van Kempen, 1952

 
Jan Brandts Buy: Die Schneider von Schönau  ‘Steig auf mein Lied' (Act I)
James Roden (Florian), Radio Filharmonisch orkest o.l.v. David Parry

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Surprisingly, the light hearted comedy around thee tailors who compete with each other for the hand of an attractive young widow, after which a passing young lad runs off with her, only failed in Brandts Buys’city of residence, Vienna. Even a star studded cast with Lotte Lehmann as Veronika and the bass Richard Mayr as burgomaster Folz, couldn’t save Die Schneider von Schönau there. The high brow Viennese musical world could never take Brandts Buys serious, since he was a self-declared traditionalist, who was very outspoken in his negative opinion regarding contemporary musical tendencies. His only pupil, the progressive Alois Haba, was dismissed after just a few lessons. Brandts Buys remained a life-long fan of Beethoven, Brahms and Grieg, a limitation that in fact diminished the output of all Dutch composers between, say, Van Bree in the 1840’s until halfway the 1930s (it isn’t until 1955 that the Dutch musical world is fully in line with the international avant garde).

The ultimate disappearance of Die Schneider von Schönau from the repertoire seems to have been a direct result from the Nazi policies in the late 1930s. Librettist Welleminsky was Jewish. Because of that, a planned 1938 Salzburger Festspiele performance was canceled and the work was forbidden. Post World War II there have only been incidental revivals. The first one was in Dresden, 1951, with Rudolf Schock, of which we provided a sample here. Then in 1952 the mentioned Dutch AVRO Radio recording, in 1963 a staged performance in Würzburg, and in 1991 the mentioned VARA Matinee performance from Utrecht. Die Schneider von Schönau remains not only by far the most successful opera of any Dutch composer in history, but it also contains some of the most beautiful pages among Dutch operas.

1917, Der Eroberer

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  • Elisa Stünzner in DER EROBERER, 1917
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Ten Bokum describes Der Erober as ‘a serious number opera with comical elements.’ It was a case of ‘almost’ right, and therefore wrong. The culprit here was once again the libretto. The title was valid enough at the end of World War I, yet the plot didn’t fill this in with relevant content. Instead it was against set in an irrelevant, naive, pre-industrial Biedermeier environment. It did not have an effect on stage; yet it should be noted that this opera contains Brandts Buys’ most progressive music in all. It also reveals a self-chosen limitation that will more often limit the success of his works onwards, where Brandts Buys proved defiant in his anti-dramatic ideas about libretti. In his opinion the audience came to hear the music and the more simple the plot, and the less complicated the action on stage, the less it distracted from the music. Most peculiarly, it is precisely here that Ten Bokum cannot find a single tune that one can remember, although he upholds that a great performance will produce exciting dramatic effect. Regardless, we are very curious after Erika’s Act I aria, and to the great love duet between her and the Conqueror, in their night of bliss and abandon. Then, Ten Bokums description of the enormous orchestral powers required, equal to those in Elektra, also makes one curious. The plot revolves around an anonymous military leader (the Conqueror) who is about to march into a small town. The beloved of the local and very boring pharmacist, fancies the reckless conqueror, and dreams to be seduced by him. Till so far al seems normal, but onwards the Conqueror emerges as a supernatural creature in between Wotan and The Flying Dutchman. This results in some magical-realistic scenes, culminating into him visiting her bedroom in the night before her wedding to the pharmacist. When she wakes up, she is hallucinating, and dances away with Totenhans. When the pharmacist enters her bedroom, he sees that she empties the entire bottle of sleeping potion that he gave her. Erika drops dead.

1918, Der Mann im Mond

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With Der Mann im Mond Brandts Buys presented the concept Der Erober in reverse, as part of a genuine comedy, a genre which he was experienced in. Apparently he was convinced that, despite the failure of Der Erober, he was on the right track where it concerned the underlying ideas. Thus, he maintained the magical-realistic atmosphere in a fairy-tale like comedy around the evil Princess Zizipe. In a Turandot-like attempt to avoid having to marry a mortal man, she falls in love with the man in the Moon, who then answers her love and turns out to be her Prince Charming. Thus, the opera arrives to an ending where they live happily ever after. An added point of interest in the role of Zizipe is seen in her being a coloratura soprano, which was new to brandts Buys operas. This followed from his orientation at 18th and 19th Century opera traditions as models for Der Mann im Mond. Ten Bokum dubs it a veritable fairy-tale opera, simple, romantic, and colorful both in instrumentation as in staging.

The première was again planned for Dresden, but had to be postponed when in October 1918 the German revolution erupted, affecting also the structure of the opera houses in Germany. Therefore, the work was not premiered until June 18, 1922, with Richard Tauber and Elisabeth Rethberg in the principal roles. Brandts Buys’ hunch that the underlying dramatic concept of Die Erober could prove a success in a comical, fairy-tale setting proved right. Der Mann im Mond was a resounding success, and quickly made its way to other German theatres. Especially the impressionistic Moon Night-melody in Act II was singled out as one of the absolute highlights.

1919, Micarême

JanBrandtsBuysMicaremeMicarême was not composed for the main opera stage but rather for the revue and operetta audience. Ten Bokum believes that the disastrous economic context of those post war days made Brandts Buys believe he had better chances there. The entire work hardly lasts 40 minutes and is wholly oriented on the waltz, after the conventions of this genre. Within the waltz dynamics, there is also a very seductive Hungarian gypsy-like perfume. Although Brandts Buys may not have been an avant-garde composer, he distinguished himself increasingly as revolutionary of the stage. Micarême, for example, is through-composed, which is wholly unusual for a comic opera. New to the composers’ music was a strong accent on rhythmic and melodic expansion. After playing through but a few fragments this made us decide to include the highlights of Micarême in our first 401NederlandseOperas concert on April 26, 2015, in Laag-Keppel (The Netherlands). Whereas it may be difficult to imagine a successful staging of this opera, the music of Micarême is irresistible in terms of rhythm, schwung, melody and atmosphere. The story is set in the night of Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, the exact border of Carnival and the following time of fasting. That moment was once known as ‘Micarême.'

Despite the gorgeous music and the efforts of theatre director Egon Dorn of the Viennese Künstlerbuhne Ronacher, Micarême did not meet with the hoped for success at the November 14, 1919 premiere. Perhaps this is hardly surprising for a work that lasts but 37 minutes and therefore cannot be programmed separately (a problem that Puccini brilliantly solved in Il Trittico by composing complementary pieces to perform along with it). Micarême made it to Zürich in Switzerland, which of course was not the success Brandts Buys had hoped for. It was not until after his death, that it was perfomed again. This was in 1937 in the Maria Theresienstraße, Vienna, June 1937. A year onwards, on October 26, it was given in the Stadsschouwburg Arnhem (The Netherlands). Micarême was paired there with Johan Wagenaar's De doge van Venetië (The Doge of Venice). Perhaps these performances induced Reeser in his book ‘A Century of Dutch Music’ to dub Micarême Brandts Buys most successful opera after Die Schneider von Schönau.

On April 26, 2015, 401DutchOperas.com will perform the Waltz, the Song of the Joker, and possibly also the duet, at our first 401NederlandseOperas concert in Laag-Keppel (Netherlands). Soprano Jolien De Gendt sings The Young Wife, and tenor Denzil Delaere the Joker ‘Prince Carnaval’. Pieter Dhoore accompanies them from the piano on this truly unique matinee, which presents excerpts from a plenitude of forgotten Dutch operas.

1927, Traumland

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y 1920, Brandts Buys settled in Loznica near Dubrovnik. In hindsight this was not a very convenient move, given the distance to various stagings of Die Schneider and newly to be produced operas. His inspiration also dried-up for a while, and it wasn’t until 1927 that he presented a new opera, Traumland, a fairy-tale opera. With Traumland Brandts Buys partedfrom his regular librettsts Warden and Welleminsky. He thought himself better suitedforthe challenge to realize his artistic ideal to make the action so irrelevant as possible in order to let the music tell the story. Regardless, we can of course still describe a ‘plot’, even though this is again a plot in a plot which involves a dream as the central piece of the opera. In the prologue, a teacher has invited a fair lady to his class, in order to tell the children a story about an evil Sphinx. If she were a man, she tells the children, she would teach that Sphinx a lesson or two! The teacher alls under her spell but is too shy with his modest position to ask for her hand in marriage. He falls asleep, which is the beginning of his dream, the central part of the opera. In this dream he is a prince who defeats the Sphinx in a joint effort with his school children. Following, he marries the beautiful fair lady. Hen he awakes from his dream, still behind the harmonium in his class, he tells the fair lady his dream and thus asks her to marry him.

Even though Traumland was due to be again premiered in Dresden, Brandts Buys encountered great difficulties to find a publisher for this story about a bunch of schoolchildren and their teacher. It wasn’t until he shortened the original title, Das Schulfest, oder das Traumland (The school celebration or the Land of Dreams) into Traumland, that he found Weinberger prepared to publish hit, on the condition that he would add an epilogue to the work. In this epilogue, the pair thanks the dream for his help, with the motto – some dreams come true! On November 24, 1927 the opera was premiered in Dresden. This fairly unique work, which employs a very individual musical idiom if compared with the best known works in this genre (Humperdinck’s) or within the realm of the Spieloper, unexpectedly proved Brandts Buys greatest success since Die Schneider von Schönau. This regardless the fact that is had fierce competition, even within Dresden, from Krenek’s Jonny Spielt Auf and by Richard Strauss who conducted some of his own operas there. Traumland received four repetitions that season, and would receive several revivals in the years to come.

1929, Hero und Leander

The penultimate result of Brandts Buys journey in search for a more formal libretto led him to research both the 18th Century concept and the Spieloper concept from various angles, which he then transported to his own operatic langue. His choice for Grillparzer’s Hero und Leander, which touches upon the conventions of 18th Century opera seria, perfectly fits the composer’s ongoing journey. For one, the music was clearly more important in opera seria than the actual plot, which ultimately wasn’t very much more than a sequence of arias and duets, expressing individual emotions, while being only loosely embedded in a plot that was mostly limited to linking recitatives. Van Bokum states hat his, on first sight perhaps surprising choice for a classical Greek subject, is a logical outcome of this research, since mythological subject were the topic of opera seria. The work has five acts and the Greek element is basically limited to the props on stage, while the scenes at the foot of the lighthouse, where the waves rage, were designed after romantic paintings. Grillparzer’s version is well known: Hero is about to become a priestess in the service of Aphrodite, when Leander spots her and falls in love. Once she is on watch in the lighthouse, he visits her there, pleading to lay with him in the bushes at the peninsula below the lighthouse. After a while, she gives in. Leander will go ahead, to make sure the path is safe, but is spotted by some priests. These inform the high priest, who implores the Gods to punish Leander. He then missteps on the dark, while descending to the sea on the small path that leads downwards. He falls over and drowns in the raging waves. When, in the morning, Leander discovers what happened, she requests permission to die, in order to be buries with Leander. When this request is denied, she throws herself into the waves. For the first time since Das Veilchenfest, Brandts Buys uses here Wagnerian techniques, although these are limited to structural matters rather than implementing his Gesammtkunstwerk theory, which of course didn’t interest the composer. The first three acts work as closed scenes, all ending with a crescendo ensemble finale. The tragic fourth and fifth act are through-composed and flow over into each other, although no one has ever been able to hear this. The reason is simple: to date, Hero und Leander was never performed. The stock market crash on Wallstreet and the subsequent depression resulted in a theatre practice where all risks were banned and this title was judged very difficult. Presumable fort hat reasons, discussions of a 1931 Munich performance eventually had no result. A complicating factor was also the fact that the fame of Brandts Buys rested on comic operas alone. Mounting a serious opera by this composer was thought an added risk. It is, however, our plan to include excerpts of this opera in future 401DutchOperas concerts.

1932, Ulysses

The last opera of Brandts Buys was Ulysses, which, contrary to what the title suggests, is not another heroic opera seria, but a comedy in seven scenes. Ten Bokum: “His sister in law, Wera Solander, reworked some episodes from Homer, and organized them in a sequence of loosely linked adventure epics with a comical undertone. Thus she enabled Jan to draw back on his earlier successes in this genre, within the Spieloper formula with separate scenes that work as a picture postcard book, to be staged as tableaux vivants. In this way he was able to demonstrate his believe that stage action doesn’t have to be linear [..] The result is an opera with much humor, big ensembles, and scenes dansante. In short, a very lively and diverse work that comes close to Viennese operetta in atmosphere. Here and there the music is utterly sweet.”

Brandts Buys completed Ulysses on June 10, 1932, but did not live to see it performed. He passed away on December 7, 1933, in Salzburg. It wasn’t until March 1937 that the work received a concert performance in the context of a radio broadcast on unknown operas, of which the master tapes unfortunately were not preserved. Thus, we have again to rely on Ten Bokum, when he writes that Ulysses lives at the grace of a sequence of very special highlights, who are unfortunately sided with mere academic writing.

Brandts Buys in retrospect


The perspective of time allows us to look differently at Brandts Buys today, than his contemporaries were able to do. For one thing, we have now Ten Bokum’s wonderful biography, which brings the composer’s artictic credo to the foreground. Brandts Buys was quite a unique composer in upholding very principal (anti-)dramatic and unconventional ideas of ho wan opera should be constructed, principles which he followed throughout, at times against the odds. At the same time he considered opera mere amusement, and demanded of his works that they should provide an entertaining evening. All his operas are thus chains in his life-long search for the optimal form of his musical theatre avant le lettre. The little that we know of his operas today is mainly limited to Die Schneider von Schönau and a few excerpts of Micarême. This is a meager harvest, thinking of the successes of Der Mann im Mond and Traumland. In addition, his last two works, Hero und Leander and Ulysse testify of his ongoing search which lead him to develop yet another operatic world, which makes one curious after the music. This is also the reason that we decided to attempt to eventually perform and record excerpts of all his operas, from the first experiment up until Ulysse.


Jan Ten Bokum: Jan Brandts Buys 1868-1933 Componist. Een Nederlander in Oostenrijk (Walburg Pers, Zutphen, 2003)

JanBrabdtsBuysTenBokumI fell under the spell of Brandts Buys after hearing the mentioned excerpt of Micarême, “Gott sei gedankt … Madonna sag.” His most famous opera, Die Schneider von Schönau, initially didn’t have much effect on me when I heard it on the radio in the 1991 performance. It wasn’t until I heard the earlier 1952 Dutch radio performance with Aukje Karsemeyer-De Jong that I became mesmerized with the poetic atmosphere of Veronika’s Moon song and the silvery instrumentation that emerged from Paul van Kempen’s conducting. At the time I did not yet know that he had participated in the 1917 performances in Poznán, and that he was therefore an authority with respect to the proper style. I only learned these things from Jan ten Bokums’ biography of Brandts Buys, which was published in 2003. Upon reading this magnificent volume I also realized that it was useless to very much research in terms of sources other than what I had already accomplished, since Ten Bokum had done this already to perfection. Even with notorious opera composers as Julius Röntgen, biographers usually tend to pass over the operas, whereas Ten Bokum made a deep study of each and everyone of them. My text above is therefore not a text after all the mentioned sources, but mainly a text after Ten Bokum’s Brandts Buys biography, which I recommend to anyone who would like to know more about this composer (and who is able to read Dutch, since I’m afraid the book has not yet been translated). The book basically left only one question open, and that was how the music of his other 8 operas sounded? This question then resulted in the decision to make it our quest to include music from all Brandts Buys’ operas in out subsequent 401DutchOperas concerts, which will therefore also include various world premieres!


Gerard Verhey en G. Schlimme van Brunswijk: Jan Brandts Buys, een Zutphens laat-romanticus in het internationale muziekleven (1980, Van Someren & Ten Bosch, Zutphen)

JanBrandtsBystSchlimmeBefore Jan ten Bokum’s complete biography and analysis of his works appeared, Gerard Verhey and G. Schlimme van Brunswijk published a compact biography, apparently commissioned by or in cooperation with the Jan Brandts Buys Foundation. The stapled 32 booklet may be brief, yet it provides a good introduction to the composer’s life and art. Apart from that it also features a handful of interesting photographs from the family archives, among them Brandts Buys’ ancestors, Jan on mamma’s lap, concert programs in facsimile, photos of his wife Alma, and so on. Occasionally, the booklet is offered for sale on antiquarian book dealers’ websites.

Bronnen voor dit artikel: Jan Brandts Buys: Die Schneider von Schönau (1917 partituur); Jan Brandts Buys/ Bruno Hardt-Warden en Ignaz Michael Welleminsky/Nardus Henri Wolf: De kleermakers van Marken (1917, programmaboek); Micarême (1919, partituur klavier & zang); Sem Dresden: Het muziekleven in Nederland sinds 1880 I. De componisten (1923, Elsevier, Amsterdam); Keller en Kruseman: Geïllustreerde Muzieklexicon (1932/1949); S.A.M. Bottenheim: De Opera in Nederland (1932, Van Kampen & Zoon, Amsterdam); Keller en Kruseman: Geïllustreerde Muzieklexicon (1932/1949); Algemene Muziek Encyclopedie (1957/1980, Unieboek, Bussum); Marius Monnikendam: Nederlandse Componisten van Heden en Verleden (1968, Strengholt, Amsterdam); Gerard Verhey en G. Schlimme van Brunswijk: Jan Brandts Buys, een Zutphens laat-romanticus in het internationale muziekleven (1980, Van Someren & Ten Bosch, Zutphen); Eduard Reeser: Een Eeuw Nederlandse muziek 1815-1915 (1986, Querido, Amsterdam); Jan Brandts Buys: Die Schneider von Schönau (1991, opname Radio Filharmonisch Orkest o.l.v. David Parry); Jan ten Bokum: Het Honderd Componistenboek (1997 Gottmer, Haarlem); Mark Duynstee: Jan Brandts Buys – ‘Die Schneider von Schönau’ (2011, Operanederland.nl); Archieven Nederlands Muziek Instituut, Muziekcentrum van de Omroepen, 401DutchOperas / 401DutchDivas


Download 401Concerts 1 & 3 with Micarême and Die Schneider von Schönau

401COnc3Logo150The recording of our third 401DutchOperas concert in the Kröller-Müller Museum is downloadable via 401Concerts 3. Apart from highlights of Jan Brandts Buys’ De kleermakers van Marken (Die Schneider von Schönau) it also includes highlights from Cornelis Dopper's De blinde van Casteel Cuillé  Willem Landré's De roos van Dekama, Daniël de Lange's Lioba, Gerard von Brucken Fock's Jozal, Julius Röntgen's Agnete and De lachende Cavalier, Jan van Gilse's Helga von Stavern, and Richard Hageman's Caponsacchi.

401Concerts 1 brought an extensive selection of Jan Brandts BuysMicarême, with tenor Denzil Delaere, soprano Jolien De Gendt and pianist Pieter Dhoore. This concert is available through 401Concerts 1 download. Apart from the Micarême selection it further includes arias and duets from operas by Andries ten Cate, Johannes Bernardus van Bree, Carl Eckert, Baron Knigge (B. Polak-Daniëls), Jan Rijken, Emile von Brucken-Fock, Gustaaf Francies de Pauw, Ignace LilienHarry Mayer and Flemish composer Karel Miry.

Tickets for 401Concerts 3 in the Kröller-Müller Museum

Through the website of the Kröller-Müller Museum tickets for the May 29 2016 concert are available through www.krollermuller.nl/401nederlandseoperas. The concert is part of a special presentation. The price includes catering and a meet & greet with the artists. By attending you support the project of salvaging Dutch operatic history by means of a series of unique live recordings of its highlights. By nature our concerts are singular events, each time with entirely new repertoire, which has to be constructed for handwritten manuscript scores. Ths makes these concerts far more expensive to organize than average concerts that can be taken on tour.