Bernard van Dieren

van Dieren

Bernard van Dieren is one of those composers whose name is better known than his music. During his lifetime he was regarded as a somewhat mysterious figure. His music was praised by Walton and Warlock, by Busoni and Schoenberg, and yet today his works are scarcely ever heard.

Bernard Hélène Joseph van Dieren was born and educated in Rotterdam. In company with a fellow musician from Rotterdam, Frida Kindler (1879-1964) he moved to London in 1909 and they married on New Year’s Day 1910. Frida was a superb pianist, a pupil of Busoni; and the Italian master in turn was to have a profound influence on the young Bernard. His style changed rapidly from the conventional late Romantic to the Atonal, as epitomised by the songs of 1907-8 and the piano Sketches of 1910-1911, the latter being an idiom close to Busoni’s Sonatina Seconda.

In 1912 he began to suffer from a progressive and incurable infection of the kidneys, involving recurrent attacks of renal stone, so painful as to require morphia for their relief. Coincidentally, his musical style became much less radical, and more tonally based, though the writing was still largely polyphonic. Van Dieren’s younger English friends, including Warlock, Cecil Gray, the Sitwells and Epstein helped to promote his music. In the 1920’s and 1930’s many of the smaller pieces were published and some of the larger works were performed in the composer’s last years, and just after his death by the BBC, under the direction of Edward Clark and Constant Lambert. With the onset of World War II and the early deaths of a number of his active disciples (Gray and Lambert in 1951: baritone John Goss in 1953) his music slipped out of the performing repertoire. By the 1960’s his work had sunk into that oblivion from which it is only now emerging.

© 1993 by Alastair Chisholm

Orchestral Music (with and without chorus)

Anjou [Comedy Overture] (1935?) - orchestra*
Belsazar [Heinrich Heine] (1911) - male voice chorus and large orchestra*
Chinese Symphony -
see Symphony No. 1
Choral Symphony based on poems from the Chinese - see Symphony No. 1
Diaphony (1916)
[William Shakespeare] - baritone and chamber orchestra*
Elegy (1908) -
Violoncello and orchestra*
Interlude [Nocturne] from Symphony No. 1 (1916)*
Overture to an imaginary comedy (1916)
- chamber orchestra (16)*
Propos (Propous) des Beauveurs, Le (Les) [after Rabelais]: Orchestral Introit (1921) - orchestra*
Serenade (1925?) - chamber orchestra (9)*
Symphonic Epilogue to “The Cenci” op. 3 (1910) - large orchestra*
Symphony [No. 1] op. 6 (1914) - five solo voice, chorus and orchestra
Symphony [No. 2] in 3 dance movements (Ciaconna; Sarabande (unfinished) and Gaillarde) - orchestra*

Piano Music

Intermezzo Contrappuntistico [from Diaphony] (1916) - two pianos, four hands
Netherlands Melodies
- piano solo [new edition to be published by Bardic Edition in due course]
Piccolo Pralinudettino Fridato (1934)
- piano solo
Six Sketches (1910-1911) op. 4a
- piano solo [new edition to be published by Bardic Edition in due course]
String Quartet No. 5 (1931) - piano solo [transcription by Ronald Stevenson]
Tema con Variazione (1927?)
- piano solo [new edition to be published by Bardic Edition in due course]
Three Studies (1925?)*
- piano solo
Toccata (1912)*
- piano solo

Instrumental Music

Canzonetta (1908) - violin and piano
Estemporales (1931) - harp solo (2)
Fantasiestück - see Impromptu
Impromptu (1909) - violin solo
Sonata (1928?)† op. 5 - violin solo
Sonata (1930) - violoncello solo
Sonatina (?) - violin and violoncello [2 movements only]
Sonatina Tyroica (1927) - violin and piano [3 movements]
String Quartet 1 (1912)
String Quartet 2 (1917) op. 9
String Quartet 3 (1919) op. 15
String Quartet 4 (1923) op. 16
String Quartet 5 (1931?)
String Quartet 6 (1927?)

†originally published by the Rostral Press (ca. 1935) - reissued 2003 by Bardic Edition

  Choral Music

Ave Maria (1917?) - SATB a cappella
Ave Maria (1921) - SSATB a cappella
Belsazar (1911) [Heinrich Heine] - chorus and orchestra
Good day, Sir Christemas our King - 2-part a cappella
Psalmus David, cum esset in deserto Idumaeae: Deus, Deus meus, ad te luce vigilo (?) - SATB a cappella*
Wherefore shall I hang up my bow - 2-part a cappella
With margerain gentle - 2-part a cappella

  Songs with piano accompaniment

À Cassandre (1917) [Pierre de Ronsard]
À Cassandre (1924) [Pierre de Ronsard] - different setting to above
Ach, ich sehne mich tachen Thränen (1930) [Heinrich Heine]
Asleep! O sleep a little while (1929) [John Keats]
Asra, Der (1927) [Heinrich Heine]
Balow, my babe, lie still and sleep (1924) [Anonymous XVI century]
Chanson (1919) [Nicholas Boileau-Despréaux]
Come, I will sing you some low sleepy tune (1909) [Percy Bysshe Shelley]
Dawn (1935) [John Ford]
Doch die Kastraten klagten (1930) [Heinrich Heine]
Dream Pedlary (1925) [Thomas Lovell Beddoes]
Epiphanias: Eine spasshafte Weinachtsimprovisation zu Goethe's Gedicht (1914) [Goethe]
Es fällt ein Stern herunter (1911) [Heinrich Heine]
Es geht ein Wind durch (1910) [Otto Julius Bierbaum]
Fairies, The (?) [William Allingham]
Flieder (1908) [Otto Julius Bierbaum] - Drei Lieder 2
Frail the white rose (1930) [James Joyce]
Green (1915) [Paul Verlaine]
Ich wanderte unter den Bäumen (1918) [Heinrich Heine]
Last Days (1927) [Walter Savage Landor]
Leaves are falling; so am I, The (1927) [Walter Savage Landor]
“Liebwohl” du fühlest nicht (1908) [Eduard Mörike] - Drei Lieder op.4/2
Let us drink and be merry (?) [Thomas Jordan]
Liebeslied (1908) [Otto Julius Bierbaum] - Drei Lieder 1
Lieder, Drei (1908) - see separate titles
Lieder, Drei (1908) op. 4 - see separate titles
Long Barrow, The† (1931) [Bruce Blunt] - Hommages 4
Love must be gone (1927) [Walter Savage Landor]
Mädchenlied (1914) [Otto Julius Bierbaum]
Maison de Bonheur, La (1917) [Villiers de L’Isle Adam]
Mild is the parting year (1926) [Walter Savage Landor]
Mir träumpte von einem Königskind (?) [Heinrich Heine]
Mit deinen blauen Augen (1930) [Heinrich Heine]
Mon bras pressait ta taille frèle (1921) [Victor Hugo]
Nachliedje uit “Lioba” (1909) [Frederik van Eeden]
Nightpiece (1930) [James Joyce]*
Oh! quand je dors (1925) [Victor Hugo]
One year ago my path was green (1927) [Walter Savage Landor]
Prayer, A (1930) [James Joyce]
Quaint old song for Christmas Time, A (1926) [Heinrich Heine]
Rondel (1928) [Charles, Duc d’Orléans]
Rote Pantoffeln (?) [Heinrich Heine]
Schön Rohtraut (1925) [Eduard Mörike]
Seraphine (1930) [Henrich Heine]
She I love (alas in vain!) (1927) [Walter Savage Landor]
So we’ll go no more a-roving (?) [Lord Byron]
Spleen (1927) [Paul Verlaine]
Spring Song of the Birds (1925) [James I of Scotland]
Spring, the sweet Spring(1927) [Thomas Nashe]
Stranger ’lighted from his steed, The (1929) [John Keats]
Take, o take those lips away(1925) [William Shakespeare]
Thank heaven, Ianthe (?) [Walter Savage Landor]
These are the Sorrows (1925) [Thomas De Quincey]
Touch of love dispels the gloom, The (1927) [Walter Savage Landor]
Trennung, Die (1912) [Ma-Huang-Tscheng tr. Hans Bethge]
Unt wüssten’s die Blumen, die kleinen (1908) [Heinrich Heine] - Drei Lieder 3
Was will die einsame Thräne (1930) [Heinrich Heine]
Weeping and Kissing (1930) [Sir Edward Sherburne]
Weep you no more sad fountains (1925) [Anonymous XVI century]
Wenn ich auf dem Lager liege (1908) [Heinrich Heine] - Drei Lieder op. 4/3
Wer zum ersten Male liebt (1908) [Heinrich Heine] - Drei Lieder op. 4/1
Who shall have my dear lady? (1926) [Anonymous Old English]
With margerain gentle (1925) [John Skelton]

  Songs with instrumental accompaniment

Ballade (1917) [Francois Villon] - Two Recitations 1
Belsazar (1911)
[Heinrich Heine] - baritone and orchestra
Diaphony (1916) [William Shakespeare] - baritone and two pianos, four hands
Have pity, grief, I cannot pay (?) [Peter Hausted] - viola and contrabasso
Heracleites (1931) [Callimachus tr. William Cory] - Hommages 1
Hommages [In memoriam Philip Heseltine] (1931) - voice and 7 instruments (see separate titles)
Long Barrow, The (1931) [Bruce Blunt] - Hommages 4
Recueillemmment (1917) [Charles Baudelaire] - Two Recitations 2
Sonetto VII (1925) [Edmund Spenser] - tenor and 11 instruments
Two Recitations (1917?) - voice and string quartet (see separate titles)

Stage Works

Tailor, The (1917-1930) - Opera buffa in 3 Acts [Robert Nichols] - voices and chamber orchestra (22)

Lost Works

Cesare Borgia (?) [François Rabelais] - opera
Levana [These are the sorrows] (1917) [Thomas De Quincey] - voice and string quartet
Lyric Scene (?) [Villiers de L’isle Adam] - ?
Marginalia in Musica (?) [Thomas De Quincey] - baritone solo, male voice quartet and piano (chamber group)
Praeludium (?) - piano solo
Propos (Propous) des Beauveurs, Le (Les) [François Rabelais] - chorus and orchestra
Song from “The Cenci” [Come, I will sing you some low sleepy tune] (1921) [Percy Bysshe Shelley] - voice and string quartet
String Quartet 5 [1st version] (1925)
Three Etudes (?) - violin solo
Three Fughetti (?) - piano solo
Zenobia [Extract] (?) [Pietro Metastasio] - baritone and 8 instruments

Arrangements of works by other composers

Ariettas (1931?) [Scarlatti, Alessandro (1660-1725)] - unknown number realised from the figured bass - surviving numbers I, VIII, XV, 21, XXIII and ?
En Automne [Ladmirault, Paul Émile 91877-1944)] - voice and piano
Eriskay Love Lilt, An (?) - voice and orchestra
Fox, The (1931) [Warlock, Peter (1894-1930)] (Bruce Blunt) -voice, flute and string quartet
Ha’nacker Mill (1931) [Warlock, Peter] (Hillaire Belloc) - voice, flute and string quartet
Into your hands I give my heart (1929)* [Lassus (or Lasso), Roland de (or Orlando di) - voice and piano [English words by Stewart Wilson] - see Mon coeur se recommande a vous
Mon coeur se recommande a vous (1927) [Lassus (or Lasso), Roland de (or Orlandi di) (1530-1594)] - voice and piano
Mon coeur se recommande a vous (1927) [Lassus (or Lasso), Roland de (or Orlandi di) (1530-1594)] - voice and orchestra
Nuits d’été (Les) op. 7 [Berlioz, (Louis) Hector (1803-1869)] - new piano accompaniments (3 sets of MSS)
When I am laid in earth [Purcell, Henry (1659-1695)] - (?)


Literary Works

Down among the dead men: and other essays - Oxford University Press; London: Humphrey Milford 1935 (reissued 1967/1990 in the Essay Index Reprint Series, NY, USA available through
Epstein: illustrated with 50 reproductions in collotype - London: John Lane, The Bodley Head 1920

  Arrangements of van Dieren works by others

Chanson “Voici les lieuxs charmants” (1919) - Nicholas Boileau-Despréaux [arranged for voice and chamber orchestra by Denis ApIvor (1984)]
Rapsodia “These are the sorrows”(1921)
- Thomas De Quincey [realised for voice and string quartet by Denis ApIvor (1980)]
Song from “The Cenci” [Come, I will sing you some low sleepy tune] (1921) - Percy Bysshe Shelley [realised for voice and string quartet by Denis ApIvor (1980)]
Spleen “Les rosés étaient toutes rouges” (1927)
- Paul Verlaine [arranged for voice and chamber orchestra by Denis ApIvor (1984)]
Spring Song of the Birds (1925)
[transcription for piano by Ronald Stevenson]
String Quartet No. 5 (1931?) -
Adagio [arranged for orchestra by Humphrey Searle] - incomplete set of parts in British Library
Weep you no more sad fountains (1925) [transcribed as a consolation for small orchestra by Ronald Stevenson]
Weep you no more sad fountains (1925) [transcribed as a consolation for piano by Ronald Stevenson]

+ numerous editions by Denis ApIvor and Alastair Chisholm click here

Published by Bardic Edition (Works marked with an asterisk [*] are currently being processed)
Published by The Cecilian Press (score only)
- no longer available
Published by Curwen - availability unknown
Published by Donemus
Published by W. F. Lichtenauer, Rotterdam (1908)
- no longer available
Published by Oxford University Press (OUP)
*Published in an Anthology of Song [edited John Goss] (OUP)
Published by Universal Edition (UE)

Acknowledgements are due to Fred Tomlinson for his book: Warlock and van Dieren: with a van Dieren catalogue (Thames Publishing, London 1978) and Alastair Chisholm for his book: Bernard van Dieren: an introduction (Thames Publishing, London 1984) and for his potted biographical note accompanying the CD album: Bernard van Dieren Collection (British Music Label CD BML001] (see below)

Numerous references to van Dieren’s work have appeared in newspapers (reviews of concerts, recordings etc. mostly in Dutch) and an extended article by Wilma Roest appears in ‘The Essential Guide to Dutch Music’ published by the MuziekGroep Nederland who also have a short downloadable biographical note on van Dieren.


The Bernard van Dieren Collection
The piano music of van Dieren - 2 cassettes (BMS402 & BMS 405) [see details on page from the link above]
Songs: Last Days; Dream Pedlary; Springsong of the Birds; Take, o take those lips away; Rhapsodia; Weep you no more sad fountains; A prayer; Frail white rose; Spring, the sweet Spring; Mon bras pressait ta taille frèle; A Cassandra; Der Asra; Mire träumte von einem Königskind; Ich wanderte unter den bäumen (Sofie van Lier, soprano and Paul Prenen, piano) - [BVHaast LP Record 051 - now unavailable]
String Quartet No. 6 - String Quartets from the twenties (Utrecht String Quartet) [NM Classics CD]
Two Songs: Dream Pedlary; Take, o take those lips away (Peter Pears, tenor; Viola Tunnard, piano) [Belart CD 4615502]

cd    cd    

There are also private recordings as well as BBC recordings of the Symphony No. 1 (Soloists, BBC Northern Singers, BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra, Myer Fredman 14/1/1973) and the Elegy (Christopher Bunting, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Myer Fredman 18/1/1976)

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