JOHANNES BERNARDUS VAN BREE
Johannes Bernardus van Bree
Johannes Bernardus van Bree was the dominant figure in Amsterdam musical life, particularly as a conductor, from 1830 to 1855. During his short life, he composed a respectable body of works. His compositions reflect the many sides of his public functions: Masses and other sacred music, cantatas and declamatorios, an ...
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Biography Johannes Bernardus van Bree
Johannes Bernardus van Bree was the dominant figure in Amsterdam musical life, particularly as a conductor, from 1830 to 1855. During his short life, he composed a respectable body of works. His compositions reflect the many sides of his public functions: Masses and other sacred music, cantatas and declamatorios, an opera, an opéra-comique and an operetta, songs, works for men’s choir, two symphonies, overtures, concertos, three string quartets, numerous piano pieces, and other shorter works. His best works (such as the famous 'Allegro for four string quartets') are, in the words of a contemporary, characterized “by simplicity and naturalness ... by polish, clarity and freshness, a certain popularity, without triviality”. (F.C. Kist, 1857) Aside from the often performed 'Allegro', his music has largely been forgotten.
Johannes Bernardus van Bree is born in Amsterdam on January 29, 1801. His father, Frans van Bree, a music teacher, gives him his first violin lessons.
1812 - 1819
The family move to Leeuwarden. Johannes van Bree begins his career accompanying dance lessons and teaching music to the children of the baron of Minnertsga. He also performs several times as a violin soloist in Leeuwarden.
1820 - 1828
After returning to Amsterdam, Van Bree plays for a brief time in the orchestra of the Théâtre Français. His affiliation with the orchestra of the Felix Meritis society, the most prominent orchestra in the capital city, lasts longer. In 1821, he makes his debut as a soloist with this orchestra. He completes his musical education taking music theory lessons from Johan George Bertelman – as a composer, however, he is self-taught.
1829 - 1839
After being promoted to concertmaster of the Felix Meritis orchestra, he is soon appointed conductor. In addition, he conducts the choir of the Moses and Aaron Church (Zelus Pro Domo Dei) and, from 1836, the choir of the Society for the Advancement of Music. He has great success as an opera composer with 'Sapho' (1834) and 'Le bandit' (1835). In 1838, he forms a string quartet, with which he introduces the music of Ludwig van Beethoven and Louis Spohr, among others, to Amsterdam audiences.
1840 - 1845
Van Bree accepts a post as musical leader of the Hollandsche Schouwburg, but he resigns in 1841 because its opera company is dissolved. That year, he becomes the leader of the orchestra, which he co-founded, of the Caecilia Society, a philanthropic organisation. Unlike the Felix Meritis orchestra, with its hastily prepared concerts dominated by performances by soloists, the Caecilia concerts offer two carefully prepared programmes of symphonies and overtures each year. Beethoven’s music is performed most often, but also Mozart, Felix Mendelssohn and Carl Maria von Weber. It is for this orchestra that Van Bree composes his popular 'Allegro for four string quartets in D minor'.
1846 - 1857
Van Bree continues to lead the Felix Meritis, Caecilia and Society for the Advancement of Music ensembles until shortly before his death. From 1853 to 1856, he is also the director of the society’s music school, also teaching music theory, the violin, singing and piano there. But health problems in his last years make it difficult for him to keep up with all these tasks. Johannes van Bree dies on February 14, 1854.
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