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Willem Brons, piano
Musical versatility has always been – and remains to this day – the credo of Willem Brons. Thus he studied the piano under Karel Hilsum at the Amsterdam Muzieklyceum, while at the same time studying the organ under Piet Kee. Later, he spent a period of intensive study in Geneva with the eminent pedagogue Louis Hiltbrand, friend and assistant of the legendary Dinu Lipatti.
In 1969, Willem Brons made his début in the Kleine Zaal of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, which was warmly acclaimed by the Dutch daily newspapers. However, back in 1966 he had already come to the attention of the celebrated critic of the day, J. Reichenfelt. After a recital dedicated in its entirety to compositions by Bach, the critic wrote the following: “…an unusual, liberating evening of Bach…” and later on added: “…Willem Brons does not indulge himself in the music, but rather experiences Bach with the greatest of naturalness”.
Shortly afterwards, this critic remarked on Brons’ great commitment to and affinity with the late compositions of Beethoven, such as the Hammerklavier Sonata and the Diabelli Variations. Thus Reichenfelt wrote as follows after hearing these compositions during recital: “…There are many who play the oeuvre of the late Beethoven, but only few have the true calling for these works. Willem Brons belongs to this rare group of artists: he is mentally welded to Beethoven’s style”.
From 1971 onwards, Schubert’s sonatas also became a regular component of Brons’ repertoire. Not only in his own country, but also – and especially – in Japan and Russia, he is considered one of the most prominent Schubert interpreters of our times. Naturally, his repertoire is not limited to Bach, Beethoven and Schubert. For instance, in April 2001 he gave the first performance in the Netherlands of the piano version of Haydn’s Die sieben letzten Worte unseres Erlösers am Kreuz. Virtually unknown works by Schumann also attract his attention. Thus he is an indefatigable champion of the composer’s highly moving Gesänge der Frühe.
And of course, we must not forget Mozart: after all, he has performed a great many piano concertos by this composer with the Concertgebouw Orchestra (following invitations from Marius Flothuis), the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, the Nederlands Kamerorkest (Netherlands Chamber Orchestra) and many others, not just in the Netherlands, but also in England, Belgium, Germany and Japan. Willem Brons also gives regular recitals dedicated to Mozart’s repertoire for piano solo.
Typical for the above-mentioned versatility of Willem Brons is his commitment to historical instruments, particularly the early 19th-century Viennese piano, with which instrument he regularly performs and records. In this respect, he has given recitals at the Antwerpiano in Antwerp, the Festival Oude Muziek (Festival of Old Music) in Utrecht, in Berlin and in Hamburg.
In addition to his impressive career as a concert pianist, Willem Brons has also gained a significant reputation as a teacher and lecturer. As such, he lectures on highly diverse subjects, such as the specific style of César Franck, aspects of Brahms as a progressive composer, and Bach’s Wohltemperierte Klavier. He includes the Wohltemperierte Klavier in his regular recital repertoire, and has already performed this music in the Netherlands, Austria, Russia and Japan. He also writes numerous articles for magazines on all kinds of musically interesting subjects. Furthermore, Willem Brons has been associated with the Amsterdam Conservatoire since 1968, where he not only teaches piano, but also chamber music and Lied accompaniment. In addition, he forms a duo with the well-known singer, Udo Reinemann. In 2001, he performed Schubert’s three great Lieder cycles with Udo Reinemann, as well as Wolf’s Mörike Lieder together with Christianne Stotijn.
H.J.M. Muller once wrote the following about both past and present performances by Willem Brons: “…Here, we are not so much listening to a pianist, but to a creative musician, who uses his instrument only in order to enable the composer to speak: this confers a highly individual and personal accent to the art of Brons, to which one listens in fascination”. Or as Rutger Schoute summarized: “…It turned into a musical experience … an experiencing of a strength of mind, for which one would gladly exchange 10 recitals containing simply the playing of the piano”. Since his critically acclaimed début at the Concertgebouw in 1969, Willem Brons has performed regularly with almost all Dutch orchestras, such as the Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Residentie Orchestra and the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, with conductors such as Bernard Haitink, Willem van Otterloo, Hans Vonk, Edo de Waart, Charles Mackerras and Lamberto Gardelli. Abroad, he has performed with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Bernard Haitink and the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, to mention a few, as well as with many prominent orchestras in Japan, where he has received regular invitations to perform since 1982. Apart from recitals and concerts, he also lectures and gives masterclasses in that country. He has given numerous recitals in major music centres such as London, Paris, Rome, Tokio, Moscow, Berlin, Hamburg, Antwerp, Brussels and Prague.
Every year, Willem Brons gives an International Masterclass Piano at Cristofori in Amsterdam in August. During recent years, this masterclass has become highly prestigious. Since 2001, he has also received annual invitations to give masterclasses during the International Summer Academy for Young Artists at the Bavarian Musikakademie in Marktoberdorf, as well as at the reputed Gnessin institute in Moscow.
In 2006 a Mozart SACD on label Eusebius (EUS61391) was released which received an enthusiastic resonance in the national press. Further recording projects are the last three Schubert sonatas, the last three Beethoven sonatas and the complete Wohltemperirte Clavier of Bach.
Since 2006 Willem Brons is member of the jury of the Sendai Competition.