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Article from the Leeuwarden Courant, 12 December 2014

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Hageman Aquaduct honours ‘sons’ of Leeuwarden

Leeuwarden motorists will soon be able to pass under the Richard Hageman Aquaduct at Ritsumasyl. The city’s only Oscar winner is commemorated by naming the new aquaduct after him.

‘May this aquaduct be the first of many projects aimed at honouring this son of Leeuwarden’, said the South African pianist Nico de Villiers last night solemnly. He performed with a London cellist [Corinne Morris] and singer [Marie Vassiliou] in a marque placed in the middle of the motorway, a number of compositions by Richard Hageman (1881- 1966), who was born in Leeuwarden.

At a short distance, amidst a cold, stormy night, the final touches were completed on the aquaduct in the Harinxma Canal, by the workmen of Boskalis. An aquaduct that was called after the famous, though humble and according to De Villiers, very charming musician. The pianist piloted his freezing audience around landmarks in the life and work of Hageman, the topic of his doctorate studies in London. The composer, born in the family home in St. Jacob’s Street, spent his first three years in Leeuwarden. Later he became famous in the film world of Hollywood. In 1939 he was rewarded with an Oscar for the music he composed for the Western, Stage Coach, with John Ford.

The music of Hageman appeals to young musicians, as it appeared last night. Not only De Villiers is fascinated by it, but also pianist Frans Douwe Slot and tenor Rutmer De Vries fared well with it, as well as jazz pianist Wiebe Kaspers, who let Hageman’s songs swing with his band. A special compliment goes to drummer Florian den Hollander – what an energy he brought to the music.

Artistic director Jacqueline Schrijver of the Noordelijk Film Festival was in the audience, and not incidentally. Next year she wants to do ‘something’ with Hageman, in co-operation with the enthusiastic De Villiers. A programme and an exhibition – for sure.

During the 1950s Richard Hageman mentioned that he would like to return to Leeuwarden to work together with the Fries Orkest, though it never happened. But now he is back.

Article by Kirsten van Santen
Leeuwarder Courant
12 December 2014
Translated and adapted by Alice Hendriks-Boshoff


Article about my Richard Hageman research that appeared in the South African newspaper “Die Volksblad”.  12 August 2014


De Villiers ontruk nog ’n komponis aan vergetelheid

Neem liedere op, skryf doktorale skripsie

NICO DE VILLIERS, die oud-Bloemfonteinse pianis wat in Londen woon, is nou besig om ’n tweede vergete Europese komponis ’n regmatige plek in die geskiedenis-annale te besorg.

Verlede jaar was De Villiers die eerste om komposisies van André Tsjaikofski (1935 – 1982) van Pole op te neem.

Met Richard Hageman, ’n Nederlands gebore Amerikaanse komponis, dirigent en pianis, delf De Villiers dieper. Hy doen sy doktorsgraad oor die lewe van dié musikus wat in sy leeftyd net as ’n komponis van rolprentmusiek bekend was.

Dit was Hageman inderdaad ook. Hy het musiek geskryf vir John Ford se Westerns met die akteur John Wayne, onder meer vir Stagecoach waarvoor hy in 1939 ’n Oscar ontvang het. Die musiek in She wore a yellow Ribbon en Fort Apache is ook Hageman se werk.

Benewens sy musiektalente het die Nederlander ook toneel gespeel. Hy was die dirigent en stemafrigter in The Great Caruso, ’n fliek oor Mario Lanza, liefling-tenoor van weleer.

De Villiers en die sopraan Marie Vassiliou het reeds van Hageman se kunsmusiek ontgin toe hulle 24 liedere opgeneem het. Dié musiek sal vroeg volgende jaar onder die Toccata Classics-etiket uitgereik word.

“Dit is ’n eerste. Die meeste van Hageman se liedere is nooit opgeneem nie,” sê De Villiers en voeg by dat sy bekendste liedere, Do not go my Love, At the Well en Miranda, ook op die CD ingesluit is.

Ander konsertwerke van Hageman sluit in die oratoria I hear America calling en The Crucible, die opera Caponsacchi en kamermusiek.

Om eerstehands vas te stel waar alles vir Hageman begin het, het De Villiers onlangs besoek gebring aan sy geboorteplek in Leeuwarden, Friesland. ’n Onderhoud wat ’n plaaslike joernalis daar met De Villiers gevoer het, het op die komponis se 133ste verjaardag in die Leeuwarder Courant verskyn.

Die sopraan Marie Vassiliou.

De Villiers sê hy het in Hageman begin belang stel toe hy Do not go, my Love die eerste keer gehoor het. “Ek het gedink iemand wat so ’n mooi lied kon skryf, het seker meer goeie musiek gekomponeer. Dit was ’n paar jaar gelede toe ek nog ’n student in Ann Arbor in Michigan, Amerika, was.”

Volgens De Villiers is Hageman se musiek besonder toeganklik; “glad nie avant garde nie”. Dit is goeie komposisies en die klavierbegeleiding soms verraderik moeilik. Hageman was ’n hoogs begaafde pianis.

“Sy rolprentmusiek is tipies Amerikaans, maar sy liedere het ’n Europese inslag en is ’n kruising tussen Angelsaksiese en Duitse kunsliedere.”

Hageman, wat as ’n wonderkind bestempel is, was 24 toe hy na Amerika verhuis het waar hy onder meer die dirigent van die Metropolitan Opera in New York was.

De Villiers het reeds aan Hageman se biografie begin skryf en sal dit as ’n doktorale skripsie indien. Hy begin in September formeel met dié graad.


De Villiers has cut off a composer to oblivion

Record songs to write doctoral dissertation

Pianist NICO DE VILLIERS, living in London and formerly from Bloemfontein, is striving to give a second neglected European composer a rightful place in history.

In 2013, in Poland, De Villiers pioneered the recording of compositions by André Tchaikowsky (1935 – 1982).

In the case of Dutch born American composer, conductor and pianist Richard Hageman, De Villiers is delving deeper. He is doing a doctorate study on the life of this musician who, in his life and time, was known only as a composer of film music.

This, Hageman was indeed. He composed the music for John Ford’s Westerns, with the actor John Wayne, amongs others for Stagecoach for which in 1939 he received an Oscar. He also composed the music for She wore a yellow Ribbon and Fort Apace.

Besides his music talents, the Dutchman was also an actor. He was the conductor and voice coach in the film The Great Caruso, with Mario Lanza, celebrated tenor of days gone by.

De Villiers and soprano Marie Vassiliou already exploited Hageman’s classical music, by recording 24 songs. Early 2015 these will be released, by Toccata Classics.

‘This is a first. The majority of Hageman’s songs were never recorded,’ says De Villiers and adds that his best known songs, ‘Do not go my Love’, ‘At the Well’ and ‘Miranda’ are also included on the CD.

Other concert works by Hageman include the oratoria ‘I Hear America Call’ and ‘The Crucible’, the opera ‘Caponsacchi’ and chamber music.

To determine first hand where everything started for Hageman, De Villiers recently visited his birthplace in Leeuwarden , Friesland. An interview with De Villiers by a local reporter, appeared in the local paper, Leeuwarder Courant, on the 133 commemoration of the composer’s birthday.

De Villiers says his interest in Hageman was kindled by his first experience of Do not go my Love. ‘I thought, somebody who could create such a striking song, must have composed other outstanding music. It was a number of years ago, while I was still a student in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.’

According to De Villiers, Hageman’s music is quite accessible, ‘not in the least avant garde.’ The compositions are good and the accompaniments treacherously difficult. Hageman was a highly talented pianist.

‘His film music is typically American, but his songs has a European disposition and is a cross between Anglo-Saxon and German art songs.

Hageman, who was considered a wunderkind, was 24 when he relocated to America, where amongst other things, he was the conductor of the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

De Villiers already started writing Hageman’s biography and will submit it as a thesis to obtain a Ph.D. His formal study will commence in September 2014.

Translation Alice Hendriks-Boshoff


Article from the Leeuwarden Courant, 9 July 2014

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Hageman deserves to be rediscovered

Rob Leemhuis

LEEUWARDEN Today, 133 years ago, Richard Hageman was born in Leeuwarden. Pianist Nico de Villiers wants to save the once celebrated American composer from oblivion.
Who knows how long ago it was that music of Richard Hageman resounded in his city of birth? While the photographer was taking his picture at a grand piano in Leeuwarden’s Bagijnen Street, the South Afican pianist Nico de Villiers just started playing the introductory bars of ‘Do not go my love’, Hageman’s best known song. In the USA it belongs to the fixed repertoire of singing students. Kiri te Kanawa, the world renowned soprano, once recorded it.
This song by Hageman, composed in 1917, is lyrical and solemn. ‘His music is very accessible, not particularly avantgarde’, says De Villiers, ‘but so finely composed. The piano accompaniment is quite tricky, sometimes. Hageman was also an agile pianist.’
Together with soprano Marie Vassiliou, De Villiers recently completed recordings for a CD with 24 of Hageman’s songs, to be released next year. It is the very first time that a CD is dedicated exclusively to compositions by Hageman. The Leeuwarden born Hageman was looked upon as a wunderkind. At the age of 24, he took off to the USA, where he became conductor of, amongst others, the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Later on he became famous as composer of film music, particularly for the westerns of John Ford. For the music of ‘Stagecoach’, John Wayne’s break through in the film world, Hageman was rewarded with an Oscar in 1939.
De Villiers is particularly interested in the opera, the oratoria and the 70 songs composed by Hageman. ‘I became interested while I was studying in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where for the first time, I heard ‘Do not go, my love’. Someone who could have written this song, must have created other beautiful works, I thought to myself.’ Besides the CD recording, his interest lead to research for a PhD, that brought him from London where he is situated to Leeuwarden. There aren’t that many traces of Hageman to be found in Leeuwarden. ‘Richard left when he was three, after his father went bankrupt. But, when you are working on an authoritative biography, you have to have as clear a picture as possible of him. I found standing in front of his birth house in Sint Jacob Street overwhelming.’
De Villiers’ hopes the importance of the biography will be acknowledged on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. ‘There didn’t exist a strong own musical identity at the beginning of the 20th century, but they were seriously looking for it.’ Composers like Charles Ives and Aaron Copland were still on their way, while Gershwin already triumphed. De Villiers: ‘Hageman’s film music is typically American, but in his songs Europe lives on. He represents a hybrid of Anglo-Saxon art songs and German Lieder. He deserves honestly to be rediscovered.’
Translation: Alice-Hendriks Boshoff


Article Newspaper Clipping from Volksblad, 25 November 2013

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Pianist of the Free State plays “Other” Tchaikovsky’s works


Première performance was sound recorded.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s namesake (last name), is a Polish composer called André with newfound prominence on the classical music scene.

Pianist Nico de Villiers’ involvement is interesting. Formerly living in Bloemfontein, he is now based in London, UK. As part of a recent symposium at the Leeds College of Music, Nico rendered the premiére recital of André Tchaikowsky’s Sonata for Piano.

This Sonata was recorded simultaneously, to be included on an album containing the composers Piano Concerto Op.4 and Inventions Op.2. According to De Villiers the CD should be on sale by next month.
The compositions of the ‘other’ Tchaikowskywho emerged a century after his Russian namesake, show influences by Alban Berg, Igor Stravinski and Béla Bartók.

His melodical expression is vastly different from that of the Russian Tchaikovsky.In 1935 in Warsaw, Poland André Tchaikowsky was born as Robert Andrzej Krauthammer. During WWII he and his family, together with a vast number of Polish Jews lived in a ghetto, until his grandmother smuggled him out in 1942. She obtained a false identity document for her grandson in the name of Andrzej Czajkovski and remained in hiding with him until the end of the war.

After the war, aged nine, Tchaikowsky continued his piano lessons and showed so much talent that in 1948 he was accepted at the Conservatoire de Paris. In the same year, aged thirteen, he gave his first public recital of compositions by Chopin and also performed some of his own.
In 1950 he returned to Poland to further his studies at the State Academy for Music. In 1960 he left for London where he continued his career as a concert pianist until his death.

Tchaikowsky’s income from recitals enabled him to ‘buy time’ in order to compose freely. The months during which he didn’t give recitals, he also spent time in the Shakespeare Theatre and played bridge with his friends.Tchaikowsky was infatuated with Shakespeare’s dramas and he cherished a lifelong dream of becoming an actor.

Seventeen years after his death he ‘made his debut in the theatre’, when an actor held aloft on stage Chaikowsky’s skull, bequeathed to the Royal Shakespeare Company, during a production of Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’.

On 26 June 1982  André Tchaikowsky died of cancer of the colon. He was 46 years old.

According to De Villiers, the ‘other’ Tchaikowsky’s compositions are unlocked only now, because earlier biographies concentrated on his prolific career as a concert pianist. The most recent biography focuses on his compositions to the interest of contemporary musicians.

At the symposium in Leeds, De Villiers not only performed the piano sonata; he also accompanied Tchaikowsky’s Seven Shakespeare Sonnets and partook in the performance of his Piano Trio. He intends to record all Tchaikowsky’s vocal compositions under the label of Toccata Classics.

Original Afrikaans by Elretha Brits

Translated and edited by Dr. Alice Hendriks-Boshoff