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Elly Ameling


08-02-1933 - current


classical, sopraan

Elly Ameling

Of the great Dutch singers of the post-war era, Elly Ameling is the only one to have made a successful international career with songs. “According to experts on the repertoire, Ameling represents the nec plus ultra of the song genre”. (Trouw, January 29, 1996) Ameling herself says: “I have always ...
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Mentioned in the biography of

1907   Felix de Nobel
1976   Thijs van Leer
2002   Lenneke Ruiten

Biography Elly Ameling

Of the great Dutch singers of the post-war era, Elly Ameling is the only one to have made a successful international career with songs. “According to experts on the repertoire, Ameling represents the nec plus ultra of the song genre”. (Trouw, January 29, 1996) Ameling herself says: “I have always experienced the greatest joy from poetry, so it was natural that I would settle upon songs”. (Trouw, August 30, 1994) In addition to the song repertoire, Ameling also sings oratorios, for example by Mozart, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Wolf, Poulenc, Fauré, Debussy, Bach and Mahler. With recordings, she has won four Edisons (in 1965, 1970, 1979, and 1980), the Grand Prix du Disque three times, and a Preis der Deutsche Schallplattenkritik once.

1933 - 1955

Elly Ameling is born in Rotterdam, the daughter of a jeweller. Her first experience with singing comes at an early age when her mother, a mezzo-soprano, sings to her in the cradle. At age 6, Ameling begins piano lessons with Finette Jupijn. After winning a KRO talent contest, she can be heard in the early 1950s singing Dutch folk-songs on the radio. To save time, she obtains her singing diploma through a national examination in The Hague rather than conservatory study. Jacoba Dresden-Dhont, the wife of the musicologist and composer Sem Dresden, is a member of the examination jury. She becomes Ameling's teacher, and Sem Dresden teaches her about musical analysis and interpreting lyrics. Later she also studies with Bodi Rapp and Pierre Bernac.


Ameling enters the competition for vocalists in 's-Hertogenbosch and becomes the first to be awarded first prize “cum laude.” This sets her career in motion. At first, she sings mostly in oratorios, scoring successes in the Netherlands as well as Germany and Austria.


Ameling wants to perform lieder but finds little chance to do so in the Netherlands. To broaden her prospects, she enters the Concours Internationale d'Exécution Musicale Genève and wins. After this her career takes off. Newspaper headlines trumpet her skill: “Elly Ameling, great talent for art of songs” or “Elly Ameling, sublime singer.” (De Jong, p. 27) Ameling gradually begins to find the publicity and praise oppressive. She steps out of public life and takes a job in a bookstore for nine months. During this period she realizes that singing is an integral part of her being: “I thought, there is just one thing for me and that is singing. I had to get back to it and then I would see how things went.” (De Jong, p. 28) She returns to the concert hall with a glistening performance of Hugo Wolf's Italienisches Liederbuch. Of the many offers she receives after this, she accepts only those she likes best, the song recitals. Felix de Nobel is her regular accompanist for a time. With his extensive knowledge and experience, he greatly aids her development. It is during this period that she meets Arnold Belder, her future husband.

Felix de Nobel

1964 - 1968

Ameling works for four years with the West Deutsche Rundfunk. She makes various recordings with Jörg Demus on pianoforte. Her international breakthrough comes with her recording of Bach's St Matthew Passion conducted by Karl Münchinger, for which she receives her first Edison award. During the award ceremony she is invited to sing in 1966 at the Grand Gala du Disque Classique. Accompanied by the Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Bernard Haitink, she gives a breathtaking performance of arias from Charles Gounod's Faust and Gerorges Bizet's Carmen. After this she performs in the United States, all of Europe, the Middle East, Japan, Australia, South Africa, and South America. Her recording career accelerates.


Ameling is made a Knight of the Order of Oranje Nassau.


She performs an opera role onstage for the only time in her life, singing Ilia in Mozart's Idomeneo. “It thought it was wonderful […], but I knew that it simply wasn't for me.” (Trouw, August 30, 1994)


Ameling stops performing for a year.


Thirty-eight years after winning the third International Vocal Competition, Ameling is a juror in the fortieth competition.


Ameling gives her farewell performance in the Main Hall of Amsterdam's Concertgebouw. She is accompanied by such renowned musicians as Ed Spanjaard (with Nieuw Sinfonietta Amsterdam), Louis van Dijk, Dalton Baldwin, Pepe Romero and Rudolf Jansen. The pianist Van Dijk calls Ameling “one of the greatest Dutch vocalists ever.” He also says: “Elly is one of the few sopranos that I always recognize. She has her own sound. I know few people who can colour the French song as she does. And she has unbelievable respect for other types of music.” (Algemeen Dagblad, December 19, 1995) The bass Robert Holl comments: “Elly stands out for her absolute intelligibility, her natural presentation, great imagination and a text feeling that is increasingly rare nowadays.” (Volkskrant, January 26, 1996) At the farewell concert, she is awarded a prize by the Concertgebouw, the Elly Ameling Ring. After her farewell, Ameling devotes herself to giving master classes.

Rudolf Jansen


The Elly Ameling Prize is established by the Prince Bernhard Cultural Fund, South Holland. The prize is available to musicians from the Rijnmond area and is awarded every three years.


Her Knight of Oranje Nassau is transformed into the higher distinction of Knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion.

Discography Elly Ameling

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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