At the end of May 1910, a month after Princess Juliana’s first birthday, she was to be presented to the citizens of Amsterdam. The programme included a festive tour through the capital, whereby the Concertgebouw was to be honoured with a visit by the royal family as well. Willem Mengelberg was the obvious choice to compose a festive cantata for this occasion and perform it in style. However, at the beginning of April it turned out that he would be absent on the planned date, so Diepenbrock was approached. He was requested to write a work with a duration of 20 to 25 minutes within five weeks. This was inconvenient, as he was busy with the preparations for a concert with the Concertgebouw Orchestra on 14 April. Besides the Fourth Symphony by Mahler, he was supposed to conduct four of his own works, including the premieres of Der Abend (The Evening, RC 92) and the Hymne voor viool en orkest (Hymn for Violin and Orchestra, RC 66).
Diepenbrock had a dilemma:
A wretched situation. Very difficult to refuse! On 6 April 1910 he asked Balthazar Verhagen to provide a libretto and, as it was urgent, if possible to collaborate with P.H. van Moerkerken (1877-1951). He already had some suggestions:
I would like the beginning to be dactylic: [here Diepenbrock notated the first two measures of the opening theme of the solo part1 – see the music incipit]
Prologue with historic reminiscences in epic style, hymnic tone for Solo voice (Tenor or Soprano) – Lullaby for Juliana – finally children’s choir. I think it should be something simple, ‘popular’. Do you have the ‘courage’? (BD VI:248)
Both authors provided a text, but as Diepenbrock considered Van Moerkerken’s contribution
dry and literary (BD VI:253), he preferred the libretto by Verhagen, titled Blijde intrede. Ode aan Prinses Juliana bij haar eerste bezoek aan Amsterdam, Mei 1910 (Joyous Entry. Ode to Princess Juliana on Her First Visit to Amsterdam, May 1910).
Despite the many preparations for his guest conductorship, Diepenbrock already wrote down the hymnic solo part for soprano on 12 April. However, the whole venture turned out to be in vein, as two weeks later it became clear that the concert had been cancelled for the following reason:
In the knowledge how much the citizens of the capital are looking forward to seeing the Royal Couple and Princess Juliana in their midst and greeting them, H.M. has announced that She wishes to make many rides through Amsterdam and because of this wishes to pay as few as possible official visits. (Because of this the performance in the Concertgebouw has already been taken off the programme.)2
Based on the newspaper reports, Diepenbrock concluded in a letter to Verhagen of 27 April that nothing would become of the cantata now:
In that case it would be the Concertgebouw giving the Concert and I have not heard anything from them yet. I have spoken about it in passing, but I cannot even remember with whom. It will be too late now. Mrs Noordewier would have loved to perform it, but that is of no consequence. The Concertgebouw has to take the initiative. (BD VI:255)
On 19 May Diepenbrock wrote in jest to Mengelberg, in a letter that gives an impression of the situation concerning his composition:
To your surprise and disappointment you will have heard that the Queen has declined the matinee in the Concertgebouw. I think the prospect of hearing that ‘scholarly’ music by Diepenbrock must have put her off. I had already started, and had asked a former pupil of mine to write a poem, which turned out very nice; [the] introduction, a soprano solo for Noordewier, was already finished. D major, a lot of chiming bells and trumpet fanfares make up a short prologue, then the singing […]. Followed by a solo for the Tenor about the House of Orange-Nassau as a lyrical recitative, then a lullaby for the little princess by the children of Amsterdam and a final chorus as a coda. It might have turned into an acceptable piece of music if only the Queen had desired it. (BD VI:284)
The transmitted manuscripts contain the orchestral introduction (16 measures), the soprano solo (28 measures), a sketch of the extensive tenor solo and the first two measures of the final chorus.
“With regret” Diepenbrock returned the poem to Verhagen on 20 May, together with a neat copy of the piano score of the soprano solo, which can very well be performed in its own right. The instruments that are mentioned here and there, give a glimpse of the orchestration he had envisioned. In the accompanying letter he lamented:
It could have been so nice. (BD VI:287) Verhagen’s comforting answer was:
Thank you very much for the composition, which I think compensates more than enough for the effort that went into that piece of rhyme. How beautiful and festive it would have sounded! The philistines do not know what they are missing. (BD VI:288-289)
In her diary Elisabeth Diepenbrock expressed the consequences of the events as follows:
For Fons it means not only losing a work, but also missing out on 500 guilders, which he could have used to go travelling sometime. (BD VI:289)
1 This is not the first time this theme appears. It can already be found on the back of a sketch of the Carmen saeculare (RC 52) from 1901, and then again in August 1908 as a possible element for Der Abend (RC 90). In May 1909 he used the same theme for the beginning of the unfinished song Liedren als klinkende luiten (Songs as Sounding Lutes, RC 96*) on a text by Willem Kloos. After the cantata for the inauguration of Princess Juliana was cancelled, it was transformed into the opening melody of the Weihnachtslied (Christmas Song, RC 107*) that Diepenbrock composed on 15 June 1910, but also rejected. See BD VI:415-416, note 248-2. Also see E. Reeser, ‘Uit Diepenbrocks schetsboeken’, Mens en melodie 1 (1946), 158-160.
2 From an announcement in the newspaper Utrechtsch Nieuwsblad of 25 April 1910.