Albert Verwey wrote his elegy Rouw om het jaar (Lament for the Year) on New Year’s Eve of 18841. It is largely inspired by Autumn: a Dirge by Percy Bysshe Shelley and The Death of the Old Year by Alfred Lord Tennyson.2 The idea behind the last 11 lines is entirely original. In these lines Verwey summons one particular month to herald the new year:
This section is supposed to have been the inspiration for the famous poem Mei (May) by Herman Gorter.3
Diepenbrock composed Rouw om het jaar between 9 and 12 September 1886 for the choral classes of alto and singing teacher Cateau Esser (1858-1923). When she was 21 she had gone to Frankfurt and studied with Julius Stockhausen for three years. She then went to Paris to complete her singing and acting education. After returning to Amsterdam in 1883, she established herself as a singing teacher. Diepenbrock’s sister Marie was one of her pupils. Esser was a family friend. In July 1886, a month before going to Bayreuth (16-21 August) to attend performances of Parsifal and Tristan and Isolde, Diepenbrock gave her a copy of the two-part Richard Wagner’s Leben und Wirken. Festgabe zur Eröffnung der Bühnenweihfestspiele zu Bayreuth (1882) by Carl Fr. Glasenapp.
There is evidence in the transmitted manuscripts that Cateau Esser used Rouw om het jaar in her ensemble singing classes. However, as far as we know the work was not performed in public during Diepenbrock’s lifetime.
The work consists of four parts. The first two (both a cappella) are predominantly in e minor, though the music does not exude the melancholy depicted in the text. Then there is an eight-measure interlude (quasi marcia) to introduce the piano that accompanies the 4-part female choir in part III and IV. The optimistic final movement is mainly in E major, ending in G.
Attempt at publication
At the end of 1895, when Diepenbrock was busy preparing the printed edition of the choral songs from Vondel’s Gijsbrecht van Aemstel that was to be produced by De Erven F. Bohn in Haarlem, he asked director J.K. Tadema to publish Rouw om het jaar as well, as he believed there was a need of repertory for female choirs. (BD II:383) Already the next day Tadema, who had never published any music before this prestigious Vondel edition, asked Bernard Zweers for his advise and by return post he received the answer:
“It is absolutely true that there is a shortage of [music for] female choirs; but… is it your business to set about publishing such things; do you intend to become a music publisher? I do not know the choir in question; I might have seen it, but, in any case, I do not remember it anymore.” (ibid.)
Hereupon Tadema decided not to publish Rouw om het jaar. (BD II:384)
In 1948 Donemus published a collotype edition of a handwritten copy of Rouw om het jaar.
1 Anthonie Donker (pseudonym of N.A. Donkersloot), De episode van de vernieuwing onzer poëzie (1880-1894) (Utrecht: De Gemeenschap 1929), 130.
2 Gerben Colmjon, De Beweging van Tachtig. Een cultuurhistorische verkenning in de negentiende eeuw (Utrecht: Het Spectrum 1963), 267.
3 Titia Johanna Langeveld-Bakker, Herman Gorter’s dichterlijke ontwikkeling in Mei, verzen en eerste sonnetten (Groningen: Wolters 1934), 110.