The music of Johan Wagenaar this week. From the Radio Nederland transcription service, a broadcast performance featuring the Utrecht municipal Orchestra, conducted by Paul Hupperts of the Suite from The Doge Of Venice, recorded around 1951.
Although not a household name, Wagenaar isn’t unknown. He was a very prolific composer, born in 1862 and composing all the way until his death in 1941.
From The Netherlands Muziek Institut biography of Wagenaar:
At age thirteen he entered the Utrecht music school, where Richard Hol was his composition and organ teacher. After his graduation in 1885 he got an appointment as piano teacher at the same institution, continuing his organ studies with Samuel de Lange. In 1892 he perfected his skills in counterpoint with Heinrich von Herzogenberg in Berlin.
For much of his career Wagenaar followed in the footsteps of Richard Hol: in 1888 he succeeded him as organist of Utrecht cathedral, in 1896 as director of the music school, and after Hol’s death in 1904 as conductor the the Utrecht Toonkunst Choir. His Utrecht Toonkunst concerts included concertante performances of operas such as Moussorgski’s Boris Godunov. For his contributions to Utrecht’s cultural life an honorary doctorate was granted by Utrecht University in 1916.
In 1919 Wagenaar transferred most of his activities to The Hague, where he accepted the directorship of the conservatory. His ties with his native city have however always been very strong. A local artistic society, called Shelfishclub, was the platform for some of his musical jests, especially the cantata De schipbreuk (‘Shipwreck’, 1889), and the operas De doge van Venetië (1908) and De Cid (1916). The main body of his oeuvre are choral and orchestral works. Most of the orchestral compositions are programmatic or theatrical, like the overtures Cyrano de Bergerac (1905) and De getemde feeks (‘The taming of the shrew’, 1909), and the symphonic poems Saul en David (1906) and Elverhöi (1940). With great skill in orchestration and a gift for lively themes Wagenaar was a conservative representative of the romantic orchestra tradition.
Wagenaar was a dedicated teacher, who has educated a large number of pupils. Some of his Utrecht composition students are Peter van Anrooy, Emile Enthoven, Bernard Wagenaar, Alexander Voormolen, Leon Orthel and Willem Pijper.
As way of introduction, if you aren’t already familiar, the music of Johan Wagenaar as performed by the Utrecht Municipal Orchestra, conducted by Paul Hupperts.