RC 44 Hymne voor viool en piano

  • Hymne for violin and piano
  • violin and piano
  • October 4, 1898
  • duration 12:30

In 1898 Diepenbrock composed his first purely instrumental work since his Academische Feestmarsch (Academic Festive March, RC 2) from 1882. His letter to Charles Smulders of 5 October 1898 shows that it was an experiment for him:

Last week I wrote the violin piece I brooded over in the summer. I am still very unsure of its merits. […] You will find the form very academic. I should gradually try to orientate myself a little to this new world. (BD III:65)

The violin sonatas by César Franck and Guillaume Lekeu would have been a source of inspiration for him. Actually, Hymne voor viool en piano (Hymn for violin and piano) can better be characterised as a rondo, as the theme keeps returning, albeit at different pitches, sometimes modified and always with a new accompaniment. Diepenbrock already had an accomplished amateur violinist in mind to play the composition with: Pieter van der Meer de Walcheren, who was a family member and a friend. (BD III:70)

The title of such a work without text took Diepenbrock a lot of thought: I simply called the violin piece ‘Hymn’ for lack of a better name. ‘Romance’ is too romantic and too feeble for this robust piece. (BD III:72) As Diepenbrock wrote to Smulders, he wanted to express celebrating youthfulness in music in a work in which the elegiac elements are drowned out by the triumphant. He feared the occasional “virtuoso aplomb”. In any case, Diepenbrock had learnt that “it is much harder for me to achieve intimacy and distinction without the assistance of the voice”. (BD III:72) Smulders was impressed by the Hymne voor viool en piano. Later, in his book Les feuilles d’or (The Leaves of Gold, 1906), he would give a literary paraphrase of the melody, with which Diepenbrock was very pleased. (BD V:125)

We know from a note in the diary of Elisabeth Diepenbrock, that her husband had originally intended the main theme of the Hymne voor viool en piano for a wedding march for large organ with which he wanted to take part in a music competition of the Schola Cantorum in Paris. (BD IV:353) This explains the character of the piano accompaniment, which is better suited to the idiom of the organ than that of the piano.

Diepenbrock maintained friendly relations with Louis Zimmermann, since 1899 the second concertmaster of the Concertgebouw Orchestra. On 26 April 1904 Zimmermann played the Hymne at the composer’s house (BD IV:209) and soon it became one of his favourite pieces. The edition of the Hymne voor viool en piano published by A.A. Noske on 6 October 1905, is dedicated to Zimmermann. The title page also mentions that a version of the work for solo violin and orchestra (RC 66) is also available in manuscript.

Robert Spannenberg