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matthijs vermeulen


08-02-1888 - 26-07-1967


classical, componist, contemporary classical music, impressionist music


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Matthijs Vermeulen

Matthijs Vermeulen composes seven symphonies, chamber music and songs. For 'Les oeuvres complètes de J.B. Lully', edited by Henry Prunières, he arranges Lully’s opera 'Cadmus et Hermione'. That Vermeulen has no formal musical education leads – at least, according to some colleagues, critics and other music experts – to ...
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Mentioned in the biography of

1914   Willem Pijper
1918   Cornelis Dopper
1934   Rob du Bois
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Biography Matthijs Vermeulen

Matthijs Vermeulen composes seven symphonies, chamber music and songs. For 'Les oeuvres complètes de J.B. Lully', edited by Henry Prunières, he arranges Lully’s opera 'Cadmus et Hermione'. That Vermeulen has no formal musical education leads – at least, according to some colleagues, critics and other music experts – to his difficult reception with concert-goers. His work remains to this day something for the connoisseur. Music permeated every part of his being, or as he once expressed in an aphorism: “Of all the experiences on this earth, only love can compete with good music. But, fortunately, they do not compete with each other. They enhance each other.” His writing, like his composition, has a uniquely individual style. A portion of his essays have been published under the titles: 'De Twee Muzieken' [The Two Musics, 1918], 'Klankbord' [Soundboard, 1929], 'De Eene Grondtoon' [The One Fundament, 1932] and 'De Muziek Dat Wonder' [Music, That Wonder, 1958]. Posthumously published were: 'De Stem van Levenden' [The Voice of the Living, 1981], 'Het Enige Hart' [The Only Heart, 1991] and 'Mijn Geluk, Mijn Liefde' [My Joy, My Love, 1995].

1888 - 1906

Vermeulen is born as Mattheas Christianus Franciscus van der Meulen in Helmond on February 8. He is expected to one day succeed his father in the forge, but his weak physical condition makes this impossible. The alternative is to study for the priesthood. At the Norbertine gymnasium in Heeswijk, music is as important a part of the curriculum as classical languages, stirring a “secret ambition” as he becomes obsessed with music – so much so, in fact, that he is forced to leave the school. He completes his education at the Latin School in Gemert.

1907 - 1909

Now a “self-conscious artist”, Vermeulen takes up residence in Amsterdam. He soon learns the difficulties of life in the arts: desperate poverty and social isolation. He receives free music lessons once a week from the conservatory director Daniël de Lange.

Daniël de Lange


His brother Christian helps Vermeulen get a job as a music critic for the daily newspaper De Tijd. Because of his fanaticism, he is soon seen as an enfant terrible, but Alphons Diepenbrock is enthusiastic about the young “daring Apollo” and introduces him at the weekly De Groene Amsterdammer.

Alphons Diepenbrock


Vermeulen completes his first symphony, the 'Symphonia Carminum' (Symphony of Songs). The following year he becomes the arts editor at the daily newspaper De Telegraaf, a position he will hold for five years.

1917 - 1920

Matthijs Vermeulen writes the symphonic lied 'La Veille', for mezzo-soprano and orchestra, a work that becomes relatively famous. 'Symphonia Carminum' is premiered by the Arnhem Orchestral Society in March 1919, and in 1920 he completes his best-known and most controversial symphony, the second, 'Prélude à la Nouvelle Journée'.

Het Gelders Orkest

1921 - 1946

Vermeulen lives with his wife and two children in a house that belongs to the poet Jan Greshoff in Hollandsche Rading. With financial assistance from artistic friends, the family move to Louveciennes, near Paris and after live for 25 years in poverty – “a life like Sisyphus’ ”, as Heinz Wallisch writes in NFO Magazine. To earn a living, Vermeulen works as a journalist, for example for the Soerabaiasch Handelsblad for 14 years.


Matthijs Vermeulen completes his third symphony, 'Thrène et Péan'. The conductor Sergey Koussevitzky is enthusiastic about the symphony and promises to perform it in the United States. He later changes his mind without explanation.


Vermeulen completes the 'String Trio'. This work leads to a break with the music publisher Senart, who had previously said he would publish all of Vermeulen’s chamber music. The renowned music teacher Nadia Boulanger springs to his aid, organizing a concert in which his chamber pieces are performed.


Vermeulen completes the incidental music for Martinus Nijhoff’s drama 'De Vliegende Hollander' [The Flying Dutchman]. Radio recordings are made of the piece in Paris, fragments of which have survived. In 1932, a version of 'La Veille' (1917) for mezzo-soprano and piano is published.

1941 - 1944

After nearly two years, Vermeulen finishes his fourth symphony, 'Les Victoires' (1941).The fifth, 'Les Lendemains Chantants', appears in 1944. At the end of the year, his first wife dies and his son Josquin is later killed in the French army.

1946 - 1947

Back in the Netherlands, Matthijs Vermeulen marries Thea Diepenbrock, the daughter of his teacher Alphons Diepenbrock. They lead a modest and isolated life. Vermeulen occasionally writes again for De Groene Amsterdammer. In 1947, he publishes the philosophical book 'Het Avontuur van de Geest' [The Adventure of the Soul], in which he lays out new rational foundations for man and his place in the world.


The fourth symphony, 'Les Victoires' (1941), is performed, conducted by Eduard Flipse, and Eduard van Beinum conducts the fifth symphony, 'Les Lendemains Chantants' (1944). A psycho-analytical music history he wrote is published under the title 'Princiepen der Europese Muziek' [Principles of European Music].

Eduard Flipse Eduard van Beinum

1953 - 1958

The second symphony, 'Prélude à la Nouvelle Journée', receives an award at the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels and is performed during the 1956 Holland Festival. In 1957, a French translation of 'Het Avontuur van de Geest' is published. Vermeulen completes his sixth symphony, which has the sombre title 'Les Minutes Heureuses'.

1961 - 1965

Matthijs Vermeulen writes his first and last 'String Quartet', and in 1965 he writes his seventh and last symphony, 'Dithyrambes pour le temps à venir' [Dithyrambs for a New Time].


Matthijs Vermeulen dies in Laren on July 26.


The first Matthijs Vermeulen Prize is awarded to Jan van Vlijmen for his composition 'Omaggio a Gesualdo' (1971). The Matthijs Vermeulen Prize is the most important Dutch composition prize awarded annually by the Amsterdam Foundation for the Arts until 2004. From 2009 the prize is awarded by the Performing Arts Fund once every two years to a Dutch composer who, according to the jury, has composed an important piece in the field of contemporary music.

Discography Matthijs Vermeulen

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.

Photos Matthijs Vermeulen

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