MADONNAKINDJE, over het leven van CATHARINA VAN RENNES (1858-1940) by Marjan Berk

Uitgeverij Atlas, pp 151, 2015


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This Dutch composer, soprano and conductor is now forgotten except for the remaining diehard collectors and music enthusiasts.

Van Rennes thoough was a remarkable woman. She studied singing and music and stood her way in a man dominated world.  She not only taught singing to the later Queen Juliana but also stood three times in front of the Concertgebouw orchestra. The strong-headed woman was also a prolific composer and some of her songs were recorded by the most famous Dutch singers of her day be it Jo Vincent, Maartje Offers or the legendary Julia Culp. She was close to Johan Wagenaar and the famous bass-baritone Johannes Messchaert.

Click here to listen to Jo Vincent's singing of Maddona's child with van Rennes at the piano

Click here to listen to her Drei Quartette : für Frauenstimmen mit Klavierbegleitung, Op. 24 (1892)

The author is to be praised for this first real book on the composer.  About Van Rennes's personal life not much is known as she kept very private. Yet Marjan Berk tries to get behind the surface and was helped to unearth some interesting documents about her personal life in various archives. Van Rennes remained an old ‘spinster’ on the why Mrs Berk develops an interesting analyses. The result is a very pleasant, easy to read biographical sketch. A discography is not included nor a survey of her compositions. But what one needs to know about the ‘van Rennes’ person everything is there what you need to know.

As a Fleming I was also pleased to read van Rennes had a great sympathy for my country and fellow countrymen which resulted amongst others in song compositions on poems by our great author Guido Gezelle. The ‘Kleengedichtjes” were created in the Concertgebouw in 1904.

Every music loving Dutchman or Fleming should buy this economically priced book.

Click here to order a CD devoted to her work

Rudi van den Bulck, June 2016