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Portret Aaltje Noordewier-Reddingius


1868 - 1949


classical, sopraan

Aaltje Noordewier-Reddingius

Aaltje Noordewier was the Netherlands' most famous soprano of the early 20th century. She was celebrated for her 'serene singing, in which scarcely a vibration is noticeable.' (Mens en Melodie, 1968, p. 261) For Noordewier, the purpose of singing ('music-making with the voice') was to serve the composer and his ...
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Mentioned in the biography of

1881   Jan Brandts Buys
1925   Erna Spoorenberg

Biography Aaltje Noordewier-Reddingius

Aaltje Noordewier was the Netherlands' most famous soprano of the early 20th century. She was celebrated for her 'serene singing, in which scarcely a vibration is noticeable.' (Mens en Melodie, 1968, p. 261) For Noordewier, the purpose of singing ('music-making with the voice') was to serve the composer and his music. Noordewier, whose repertoire embraced most oratorios, was celebrated as a singer of sacred music and the greatest Bach interpreter of her time. She was also a skilled pianist and remained active as a teacher of young singers until she turned 80.

1868 - 1885

Aaltje Reddingius is born – the elder child in her family – on September 1 in Deurne, where her father is the preacher. Her brother Joannes, who would become a well-known poet, is born three years later. When she is 8, her father dies and she is forced to live with her grandmother in Helmond. There she receives piano lessons from Kühne. She later moves with her mother to Arnhem and attends secondary school. She continues her music studies with the versatile musician Meyroos.


During a vacation in Groningen, Aaltje meets the singing teacher Oppenheim, who recognizes her talent. On Oppenheim's advice, Noordewier auditions to study at the Amsterdam Conservatory, however without immediately convincing the examiners of her potential: Frans Coenen, the director, and the singing teacher Messchaert are indeed surprised by her pure voice and unique timbre, but they find her voice too small. She is conditionally admitted with a three-month trial period. Her piano playing is already sufficiently advanced for her to immediately begin lessons with De Pauw.


Aaltje Reddingius' voice quickly develops once she overcomes her fear of volume and high notes, and Messchaert leaves no stone unturned in trying to advance her career. A place opens for her in Daniël de Lange's a cappella choir, where she develops a passion for ensemble-singing. Messchaert also lets her perform in Hoorn, where she sings among other things an aria from Haydn's The Creation. A short time later she sings the soprano part of an oratorio for the first time. This performance in Mendelssohn's St. Paul is a huge success and marks the beginning of her long career.


Aaltje Reddingius passes her final examination at the conservatory.

1891 - 1892

With De Lange's a cappella choir, she tours in the Netherlands and beyond, acquiring considerable experience in ensemble singing.


She marries Michiel Noordewier, a painter and doctor of classical languages. They live in Putten, then The Hague and later in Delft, where their first son is born. From this year on, Noordewier triumphs in concert halls as an oratorio singer. She performs for nearly 40 years in the Netherlands as well as elsewhere in Europe and the United States. Through her husband, she meets Alphons Diepenbrock, from whom she learns to add depth to her initially taut singing style by taking expressive rhythmic liberties. She describes this as “the suppleness of rhythm, which must go unnoticed”. (Mens en Melodie, 1968, p. 262) She becomes familiar with more contemporary music through singing and studying Diepenbrock's works.


Noordewier performs for the first time under conductor Willem Mengelberg in Bach's 'St Matthew Passion', a work that she will ultimately sing as a soloist 160 times. Mengelberg, with whom she develops a close friendship, greatly influences her performance. Through Mengelberg, she comes into contact Gustav Mahler, who invites her to be the soprano soloist at the first performance of his 'Fourth Symphony' in Paris. Mahler's death puts an end to the plan.

1903 - 1907

Noordewier is the chief singing teacher at the Amsterdam Conservatory. Her performing career is repeatedly interrupted by illness. After the birth of her second son, Michiel, in 1903, she stops performing for a lengthy period.


Noordewier, Pauline de Haan-Manifarges and Anton Verhey form an ensemble. For years, they open each season with a series of performances in churches throughout the Netherlands.

1910 - 1912

Newspapers and periodicals publish enthusiastic reviews of Noordewier. A selection of reviews from this period is compiled in a modest book bearing witness to “the very high position as an oratorio singer that Aaltje occupies in Germany, Switzerland, and Belgium.” (Schouwman, 1958, p. 23)


The conductor Arthur Nikisch invites Noordewier and her duet partner Pauline de Haan-Manifarges to perform at a music festival in Leeds. They sing together in Verdi's 'Requiem', and the Daily Telegraph writes: “It was for all the world as if they were one [...] They were one in spirit and in note, their voices blended very beautifully, as did their style.” (Schouwman, 1958, p. 24) Noordewier celebrates her 25th anniversary as a performer.

1923 - 1937

In the 1920s, Noordewier expands her teaching activity. She teaches at the Amsterdam Muzieklyceum. She leads the soloist course at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, and receives students at her home in Hilversum (“Kleine Deurne”). She also holds “voice clinics.”


After the sudden death of her son, the flutist Michiel Noordewier, she retires from performing and devotes herself to teaching.


For her 80th birthday, a concert is organised in her honour. At the concert, she is presented the Silver Medal of the Concertgebouw in recognition of the prominent role she has played in Dutch musical life.


Aaltje Noordewier-Reddingius dies on April 6.

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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