Zweers' music has two distinctive traits: its affinity with Dutch folklore, and a Wagnerian style (especially in his second period). For his songs – most written for his wife and former student, the soprano Dora de Leeuw – he used texts of his contemporaries, including Nicolaas Beets (1814-1903) and Jan ...
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Biography Bernard Zweers
Zweers' music has two distinctive traits: its affinity with Dutch folklore, and a Wagnerian style (especially in his second period). For his songs – most written for his wife and former student, the soprano Dora de Leeuw – he used texts of his contemporaries, including Nicolaas Beets (1814-1903) and Jan Jacob Lodewijk ten Cate (1809-1889). In order to succeed in an personal Dutch compositional style, Zweers thought it necessary to use texts written in his own language. In practice, most of the texts he used, were chosen from Dutch literary works. The poetry of Jacques Perk (1859-1881), Hélène Swarth (1859-1941), and later Cornelis Boutens (1870-1943) were a valuable resource for him. For the Wijzangen he used Dutch translations of poems by Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941). Since Zweers' death, only the three symphonies have remained somewhat known; the rest of his music was soon more or less forgotten.
Bernardus Josephus Wilhelmus Zweers is born on May 18 in Amsterdam, the son of a music and book merchant.
Because his father considers composition a waste of time and paper, Zweers studies music theory secretly. He completes his first chamber music piece.
'Wals' for choir appears as Opus 1.
A composition by Zweers is publicly performed for the first time.
Zweers' father drops his opposition to his son composing after Zweers conducts a performance of his 'First Symphony'. Zweers becomes a dedicated Wagnerian after attending a performance of 'Der Ring des Nibelungen' in Berlin. Nevertheless, he wants to compose his own, specifically Dutch music that is free of foreign influences, particularly German.
Zweers studies music theory for eight months in Leipzig with the internationally renowned composer and theorist Salomon Jadassohn (1831-1902) – though he remains selft-taught as a composer. Once back in the Netherlands, he works as a conductor with several choirs, including that of the Moses and Aaron Church in Amsterdam.
He completes the cantata 'De kosmos' [The Cosmos].
1887 - 1889
The 'Third Symphony' in B-flat major remains his best-known work. At more than an hour long, this work has the dimensions of a Bruckner symphony. The title “To my homeland” gives an indication of the atmosphere in this work borne that is by a single musical theme. The (Dutch) titles of the four movements further underscore the sincerity of Zweers's ode to the Netherlands: In Dutch Forests; In the Countryside; At the Beach and at Seaside; In the Capital.
Like various other music masters, Zweers composes a 'Sint Nicolaasfeest' [Saint Nicholas Feast] cantata for soloists, children's choir and orchestra.
1892 - 1894
Incidental music for Joost van den Vondel's 'Gysbrecht van Aemstel' is commissioned for the reopening of the Amsterdam Stadsschouwburg [City Theatre].
Zweers is appointed harmony and composition teacher at the Amsterdam Conservatory.
Zweers is named director of the Amsterdam Conservatory.
1897 - 1898
With “Wilhelmus” as a middle name [the Dutch national anthem, the 'Wilhelmus', is named after the royal family's first member], Zweers seems preordained to write coronation cantatas if the occasion arises: Princess Wilhelmina's ascension to the throne.
Zweers finishes the 'Saskia Overture' (named after Rembrandt's wife) for the Rembrandt tercentenary.
He writes the ode 'Aan de Schoonheid' [To Beauty], for soloists and orchestra, to a text by P.C. Boutens.
1914 - 1915
Rabindranath Tagore (Nobel Prize for Literature, 1913), an Indian poet and author of many texts, provides the inspiration for Zweers' 'Wijzangen' [Songs of Consecration], for soprano and wind quintet. Zweers uses Frederik van Eeden's Dutch translation of the text.
With his hearing increasingly deteriorating, Zweers ends his longtime work with choirs and resigns as director of the Amsterdam Conservatory.
He completes the song for soprano and piano 'Harte en Land' [Heart and Country], to a text by P.C. Boutens. Bernard Zweers dies on December 9 in Amsterdam.
In the discography you will find all recordings that have been released listed chronologically. We restrict ourselves to the title, the type of audio, year of publication or recording, label, list of guest musicians, plus any comments on the issue.
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