Bosmans, Henriëtte

Amsterdam, 6 December 1895
Amsterdam, 2 July 1952

1. Allegro maestoso
2. Un poco allegretto
3. Adagio
4. Allegro molto e con fuoco
duration: about 24′;
publisher: Broekmans & van Poppel, Amsterdam (1919?)*;
first performance: Amsterdam, September 13th 1919, by Marix Loevensohn and Henriette Bosmans;
dedicated to Marix Loevensohn.

Trois Impressions
about 1926
1. Cortège
2. Nuit calme
3. En Espagne
duration: about 14′;
publisher: Alsbach & Co, Amsterdam 1928;
dedicated to Gérard Hekking;
location: Nederlands Muziek Instituut.

Henriëtte Bosmans was the daughter of the pianist Sara Benedicts and the cellist Henri Bosmans. Her mother was also her piano teacher. Her father, who was a co-founder of the Conservatorium van Amsterdam and a notable cellist with a great love for chamber music, died of tuberculosis before Henriëtte was a year old. It is perhaps a salient detail for psychologists that the cello of all instruments became the dominant instrument in Bosmans’s first creative period: the Sonata (1919), a Poème (1920, manuscript; completed in a version with piano, but clearly intended as an orchestral work), a Nocturne for harp and cello (1921), two cello concertos (1922, 1923), a Poème for cello and orchestra (1923) and the Trois Impressions (1926). Incidentally, her father’s cello was given pride of place in the centre of her room.
As soon as Bosmans began turning to Willem Pijper for advice, her musical idiom became more compact, her works began to feature polytonality and polymetric elements and she now opted for the piano, flute and violin in her concertante works. Her fine string quartet was also composed during this ‘second’ period. Bosmans’s œuvre culminates in the songs that she composed for her duo with the French singer Noémie Pérugia.

The cello sonata is still composed entirely in accordance with the romantic tradition; however, this work features – perhaps for the first time in her oeuvre – an individual idiom underlain by a ‘great emotional generosity’ (Lex van Delden Jr, son of the composer Lex van Delden, who was a friend of Bosmans.
The main theme of the first movement, in A minor, unfolds as a long, punctuated yet vocal line played by the cello, above an obsessive ostinato (a) in the piano. In any case the writing for the cello can be typified as being extremely vocal, while containing a wealth of appealing instrumental timbres. The development is relatively short and characterised by a breathless excitement.
The second movement, in F sharp minor, once again presents an extremely vocal theme: a gently nostalgic 10-bar melody, above moving eighth notes in the piano, which can be subdivided as 3+3+4. The uneven bar groupings add a wonderful, suggestive atmosphere to the whole.
The third movement, likewise in F sharp minor, features a short but extremely passionate melody and ultimately turns out to be the prelude to the fourth movement, once again in A minor. The most remarkable feature of this movement is the rousing 5/4 metre and, at the end, the return of the sonata’s opening theme, this time with an intensified melodic arc.

The Trois Impressions are a triptych in the most original sense of the word, in that the middle tableau is the defining focal point. In the first movement we hear an Oriental-sounding procession passing by while the third movement is an uncomplicated evocation of Spain. The second movement is a single, long melody, splendidly proportioned: quintessential Henriëtte Bosmans.

*This edition of the sonata contains a number of obvious errors as well as several less noticeable ones. Please make use of this site’s contact form if you wish to request more information about these.

* Sonata & Trois Impressions: see Discography, Dutch Cello Sonatas, CD volume 4
* Sonata & Nuit calme: Mayke Rademakers and Matthijs Verschoor, cat. no. Quintone Q07002
* Sonata: Iris van Eck and Arielle Vernède, on Works for cello and piano by women composers, cat. no. eroica JDT3302

(August 23rd 2014)

Listen to part of the Sonata:

Listen to part of Nuit Calme: