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CONSTANTIJN HUYGENS

Summary | Biography | Discography | Photos | Audio/Video

Constantijn Huygens met kinderen

Period

04-09-1596 - 28-03-1687

Genre

classical, componist, gitaar, klavecimbel, luit, viola da gamba, viool

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 ...
Full biography

Instruments

componist, gitaar, klavecimbel, luit, viola da gamba, viool

Mentioned in the biography of

1595   Emmanuel Adriaenssen
1679   Carolus Hacquart
2004   Mike Fentross
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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.

1596

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.

1601

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.

1604

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.

1614

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.

1618

While abroad on a diplomatic mission, Huygens plays the lute for James I of England.

1619

Huygens gets to know the artist and poet Anna Roemers Visscher and the poet and playwright Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft.

1620

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.

1624

His father, Christiaan Huygens Sr., dies on February 24.

1625

Huygens becomes the secretary of Frederick Hendrik, prince of Orange.

1627

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.

1635

A double portrait of Huygens and his wife, now in the Mauritshuis in The Hague, is probably painted by Jacob van Kampen.

1637

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.

1640

Huygens begins playing the theorbo.

1641

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.

1642

Huygens moves into Hofwijck, a country estate he designed in Voorburg that is now open to the public as a museum.

1647

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.

1650

Huygens dedicates a similarly titled poem to Hofwijck as a sort of epitaph for the loved ones he had lost.

1672

After a politically disastrous year, Huygens dedicates himself more to writing and playing music. He learns at an advanced age to play the guitar.

1687

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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