Music in the Netherlands

The Dutch music history is characterized by the country having experienced major political upheavals over the last 500 years and been part of France, Burgundy, the German-Roman Empire and Spain.

Folk music

The earliest known folk singers were French troupes of the 11th and 11th centuries and Dutch memory singers. Wanderers played wind and string instruments for singing and dancing. Calvinism contributed to a decline in folk music in the 16th and 16th centuries, but some traditions have lived on. Among older instruments that are still known, the distinctive rumble pot (friction drum) and drone, or noordsche balk, is a seat similar to long game. More recently, accordion and wind instruments dominate.

Art music

Since the Dutch Cultural Center until the end of the Netherlands split in the late 16th century, in the southern part of the country, that is to say in present-day Belgium, most of the composers of the great period of Dutch music in the 1400s and 1500s belong here. The only major polyphonist who came from the present Netherlands was Jacob Obrecht from Bergen op Zoom.

Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck had roots in the last phase of Dutch polyphony, but gained new impetus through studies in Venice and was also influenced by the English virginalists. With his organ compositions he played a significant role in the development of 16th century German organ art.

Known and treasured by the recorder of our time is the blind Utrecht musician Jacob van Eyck. Willem de Fesch has also received renewed attention.

In the 18th century, the importance of church and court music diminished, and a bourgeois music scene with public concerts and amateur-based music companies grew. In the 19th century the music gained new impetus and inspiration from the German romance. Around 1900, Bernard Zweers, Johan Wagenaar and, in particular, Alphons Diepenbrock united German and French styles in a personal way. The same direction followed Willem Pijper, the most prominent composer after Diepenbrock. Pijper’s influence continues through his students Guillaume Landré, Kees van Baaren and Henk Badings, who are also interested in electronic music, as well as Hans Henkemans, the most faithful Pijper student. Composers such as Marius Flothuis, Lex van Delden, Jurrian Andriessen and Ton de Leeuw have made their mark on Dutch music of recent decades.


The Concertgebouw Orchestra, founded in 1888 and linked to Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, became, under Willem Mengelberg’s leadership, one of the world’s leading orchestras, and has since been led by others by Eduard van Beinum and Bernard Haitink. The Residential Orchestra in The Hague, under Willem van Otterloo, who also stands out as a composer, gained international reputation in the post-World War II period.

Over the past decades, the Netherlands has had a number of internationally renowned musicians such as pianists Cor de Groot and Hans Henkemans, singers Elly Ameling and Aafje Heynis (b. 1924), flutist Frans Brüggen and harpsichordist Gustav Leonhardt with the famous Leonhardt Consort.


In 1903 the Nederlandsche Opera was founded in Amsterdam, but only after the Second World War was the company De Nederlandse Opera established, which gave regular performances in Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam. In the 1960s, this company was replaced by the De Nederlandse Operastichting. Amsterdam’s Muziektheater, opened in 1986, is a modern center for opera and ballet.

There are 16 music conservatories and other higher music schools, and there are chairs in musicology at the universities of Leiden, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Groningen and Nijmegen. The Philips group had a phonogram company in Baarn and an electronic music studio in Eindhoven. In Amersfoort, there is a school for chimes (chimes) after the old Dutch chimes had its renaissance based on the Flemish city of Mechelen. Permanent staff chimes in many cities regularly give concerts on the partially very old chimes in church and town hall towers.


Since 1947, annual festival games, the Holland Festival, are organized mainly in the big cities in the provinces of North and South Holland and in Utrecht, with permanent entries such as the big Bach performances in Naarden, the bell competition in Hilversum and competition in organ improvisation in Haarlem.


The Netherlands was in a rich jazz environment with a number of outstanding performers such as pianist and composer Misha Mengelberg, saxophonist and composer Willem Breuker and drummer Han Bennink.

Han Bennink