04-09-1596 - 28-03-1687
Constantijn Huygens was one of the greatest poets, scientists and diplomats ever in the Netherlands, a homo universalis in the Renaissance tradition. But he was also a composer. Since the release of Pathodia sacra et profana (1647) on LP in the 1970s, his music has become known to a larger ...
componist, gitaar, klavecimbel, luit, viola da gamba, viool
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Biography Constantijn Huygens
Constantijn Huygens was one of the greatest poets, scientists and diplomats ever in the Netherlands, a homo universalis in the Renaissance tradition. But he was also a composer. Since the release of Pathodia sacra et profana (1647) on LP in the 1970s, his music has become known to a larger audience. Huygens' approximately 900 compositions, most of which have been lost, are typical of the single-voiced monodic style imported from Italy. In his hands, however, this modern style of its time lacked the theatricality of his Italian counterparts. Huygens played various instruments: the lute, viola da gamba, harpsichord, and guitar.
Constantijn Huygens is born on September 4 in a house on Nobelstraat in The Hague, the son of a well-to-do family that moved in the highest circles. His father, Christiaan Huygens Sr., is the secretary of the Council of State. His mother, the artistic-minded Suzanna Hoefnagel, comes from Flanders.
Huygens has music lessons together with his brother Maurits. First they learn to sing and read music, and after two years they begin playing the violin and viola da gamba, and, later, the lute. Huygens is particularly adept with the lute.
Huygens plays the violin for Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, astonishing all present with his skill. In his fascination with their attention, he keeps looking up from his music. In his distraction, he loses his place, stops playing, and bursts into tears.
The Huygens family moves to the Voorhout part of The Hague. Constantijn Huygens has lessons on various keyboard instruments from no less a teacher than Pieter de Vooys, the blind harpsichordist/organist who had studied with Sweelinck.
While abroad on a diplomatic mission, Huygens plays the lute for James I of England.
Huygens gets to know the artist and poet Anna Roemers Visscher and the poet and playwright Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft.
He travels to Venice in the retinue of the diplomat and statesman François van Aerssen and there hears the music of Claudio Monteverdi at St. Mark's Basilica.
His father, Christiaan Huygens Sr., dies on February 24.
Huygens becomes the secretary of Frederick Hendrik, prince of Orange.
On April 6 in Amsterdam, Huygens marries his cousin Suzanna van Baerle (no relation to the famous humanist poet Barlaeus), his “Sterre”. They have five children. Just before the marriage, he has his portrait painted with a chitarrone among other things, by Thomas de Keyzer. The painting can be seen in the National Gallery in London.
A double portrait of Huygens and his wife, now in the Mauritshuis in The Hague, is probably painted by Jacob van Kampen.
Huygens' wife dies. He has for a lengthy period what today would be called writer's block. He moves to the Plein, a public square near the Buitenhof parliamentary centre in The Hague.
Huygens begins playing the theorbo.
He writes the pamphlet Ghebruyck of ongebruyck van 't orgel in de kercken der Verenighde Nederlanden [Use or non-use of the organ in the churches of the United Provinces]. The pamphlet becomes a focal point of controversy but ultimately has little effect.
Huygens moves into Hofwijck, a country estate he designed in Voorburg that is now open to the public as a museum.
In Paris, Robert Ballard publishes 'Pathodia sacra et profana', a collection of compositions on psalm texts (Vulgate) and love poems in French (Huygens) and Italian (Giambattista Marino). It is largely music for his own use, for Huygens is not an influential composer.
Huygens dedicates a similarly titled poem to Hofwijck as a sort of epitaph for the loved ones he had lost.
After a politically disastrous year, Huygens dedicates himself more to writing and playing music. He learns at an advanced age to play the guitar.
Constantijn Huygens dies on March 28, 1687. He is buried in the Grote Kerk (St. Jacob's Church) in The Hague.
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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