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Published on Dec 19, 2012
Bertus van Lier (1906-1972)
Symphonie No. 1 (1928)
Orchestra: Gelders Orkest Conductor: George Octors
Bertus van Lier was a Dutch composer. He took lessons in music theory at the Toonkunst Muziekschool in Utrecht from the age of eight. Later he studied the cello with Max Orobio de Castro and composition with Pijper at the Amsterdam Conservatory (1926--1932), and conducting with Scherchen in Strasbourg (1933). During his school years van Lier had participated in performances of Euripides' Bacchae and the Cyclops and Sophocles' Antigone, and this had two important consequences: his acquaintance with Pijper, who composed the incidental music for these performances, and his lifelong fascination with ancient Greek tragedy. In later years he was also active in the field of musicology: J.S. Bach, Schubert and Mozart were his favourite topics of research. From 1960 on he lectured at Groningen University, which awarded him an honorary degree in 1964. His compositional style was, in the first period, strongly influenced by the polytonal structures of Pijper, though he did go on to employ tonal centres, as in the Third Symphony (1939). Textures built out of the superimposition of a number of melodic lines remain characteristic throughout his output of the later years. However, with his at times dense orchestration, the results can be a little overloaded, for example in the Bassoon Concerto (1950) and the Sinfonia (1954). As a frequent conductor of Bach's St Matthew Passion, van Lier had noted that movement no.30 of the work contains a quotation from the Song of Songs. This led him to undertake extensive research on the text, finally resulting in the composition of his own Het hooglied ('The Holy Song') for soprano, tenor, bass, mixed chorus and chamber orchestra (1949). Along with the ballet music Katharsis (1945), it counts among his most successful and impressive works.