Matthijs Vermeulen

Dutch composer and journalist Matthijs Vermeulen was born in Helmond on 8 February 1888, and didn't begin to study music until, whilst studying sixteenth century counterpoint as part of his training for the priesthood, he was tempted away and went to Amsterdam to study music with Daniël de Lange, director of the conservatory.

His first symphony, Symphonia carminum, was written by 1914, but he was already writing music reviews for De Tijd, the Catholic daily newspaper, and was soon also writing for the independent weekly De Amsterdammer and the daily De Telegraaf.

Inevitably his compositions, which employed polymelodicism, were affected by World War I, and his stance against the pro-German direction of Dutch music, including the famous 'Vermeulen Incident', where he shouted 'Long live Sousa!' at the end of a Concertgebouw performance of a new work, caused him trouble, and he had difficulty getting his orchestral music performed.

He gave up journalism to concentrate on composing, and moved to France, hoping for a better reaction there to his music, but this was not to be, and he had to return to journalism. Eventually he got a commission to write incidental music for a play, and had his Symphony No 3 performed by Van Beinum and the Concertgebouw Orchestra.

Vermeulen was active politically, and believed that music and politics were intrinsically interlinked. During World War II much of his music represented his faith in a good outcome from the war, during which he lost his first wife and his son.

He experienced a period of compositional creativity towards the end of his life, after his Symphony No 2 was awarded a prize at the 1953 Queen Elisabeth Music Competition in Brussels and was performed at the 1956 Holland Festival.

Matthijs Vermeulen died in Laren on 26 July 1967, aged seventy-nine.


A selection of articles about Matthijs Vermeulen

Echoes of Oblivion by Robert McCarney - A hundred not out