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Jan van Gilse

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Jan Pieter Hendrik van Gilse (Rotterdam, May 11, 1881 Oegstgeest, September 8, 1944) was a Dutch composer and conductor. Among his works are five symphonies and the Dutch-language opera Thijl.

Coming from a family of theologians, Jan van Gilse showed an early aptitude for piano playing and composing. From 1897 onwards, Van Gilse would study at the Cologne conservatory. After his teacher, Franz Wüllner, died in 1902, he continued his studies with Engelbert Humperdinck in Berlin. From 1909 to 1911, he studied in Italy. In 1901, Van Gilse received the Beethoven-Haus Prize in Bonn for his (First) Symphony in F major; In 1906, the Michael Beer Prize was awarded to him for his Third Symphony, ‘Erhebung’ (‘Resurrection’; for soprano solo and orchestra).

In addition to composing, Van Gilse soon developed an interest in conducting. He started out with the Bremen opera, a post which was followed by appointments in Munich and Amsterdam. After the breakout of the First World War made travel difficult, he moved back to the Netherlands. From 1917 until 1922, he was the conductor of the Utrecht Municipal Orchestra (Utrechtsch Stedelijk Orkest).

In 1921, Van Gilse resigned the post after a conflict with the orchestra board of directors. Van Gilse had been attacked for some time by the composer and music critic Willem Pijper in the daily Utrechts Dagblad, attacks that grew in viciousness as time progressed. Van Gilse’s request that Pijper be denied access to concerts was stalled for such a time that he lost faith and resigned. The board subsequently refused him a farewell concert.

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