The music of Leon Orthel this week. Continuing with some of the lesser well-known Composers from The Netherlands. This performance of Orthel’s Sinfonia Concertante (Symphony No. 4) for Piano and Orchestra features Orthel as pianist in what is most probably the premier recording of the work, accompanied by the Hague Residentie Orkest under Willem van Otterloo shortly after its completion in 1950. My best guess is it’s from 1951 – but there is no detailed information as to dates and broadcasts of this work, even after checking the primary Dutch Music site Donemus, there’s no date for this particular recording.
Léon Orthel was born in Roosendaal, Netherlands in 1905 and lived much of his life in The Hague.
At the age of sixteen (1921) he became a pupil of the Royal Conservatory in The Hague where he studied violin with Spoor, piano with van Beijnum and composition with Johan Wagenaar. After studying for a year (1928-1929) at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik under the direction of Paul Juon and Prof. dr. Dr. Curt Sachs – to whom a grant from the government had given him the opportunity – he returned to his former tutor (1929-1930).
Léon Orthel was a pianist, composer and pedagogue. Early in his career he performed as a pianist, with orchestra and with chamber groups. In the years 1934 and 1938 he made the transition over to composing, while still performing.
After several years of finding his compositional voice, he developed his own style, which doesn’t particularly subscribe to a ‘school’. One of the most successful of his early works was the very much played Second Symphony from 1940 and the songs on poems by Rilke established his reputation as a composer of merit. He also was a well regarded teacher.
Orthel was head teacher for piano at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague from 1942 until the end of 1970. In 1970 he became head teacher for composition at the Amsterdam Conservatory.
Orthel was not only a great pedagogue but also a person with a wide interest in philosophy, poetry and romance culture, which undoubtedly benefited his students.
From 1947 until the end of 1969 he was chairman of the Department of Composers of the Royal Dutch Toonkunstenaars Vereniging and from 1957 to January 1, 1972, he was chairman of the board of the Dr. Johan Wagenaarstichting. In 1973 he became the Joh. Wagenaar prize awarded. Orthel died in 1985.
Here is that, possibly premier performance of the Sinfonia Concertante (dubbed – Symphony No. 4) by Leon Orthel.