Anthon van der Horst

photo of Anthon van der Horst Anthon van der Horst (Amsterdam, 20 June 1899 - Hilversum, 7 March 1965) studied organ at the Conservatory of Amsterdam with J.B. Charles de Pauw and composition with Bernhard Zweers. As one of the first in the Netherlands he received the Prix d'Excellence for organ (1919). Barely 20 years old he began his career as conductor. He directed different choirs and oratorio societies, and from 1931 to his death he held the honourable post of conductor of the Nederlandse Bach Vereniging in Naarden. The Naarden Matthäus Passion-tradition came to flourish under his guidance. Furthermore he was the main organ teacher at the Amsterdam Conservatory and instructed a respectable number of organists, among them Albert de Klerk. He obtained an honorary doctorate at the University of Groningen in 1948 for his studies of performance practice of music from the past, which made him well-known. Nevertheless he found composing the most important expression of his musical talent and left behind more than a 100 works, extensive compositions for orchestra, choir and orchestra, songs, organ works and chamber music.

Van der Horst's interest for organ construction and contemporary experiments in the area of acoustics and physics of music made him obviously interested in the ideas of Adriaan Fokker and his 31-tone organ. In May/June 1953 he wrote the Suite voor 31-toonsorgel, opus 60. This somewhat forgotten work is dedicated to Fokker. The 14 page manuscript is published by Donemus. Comparable to Van der Horst's other organ works it has the historic form of a suite, consisting of a Praeludium, Pastorale, Air and a Trio as final. Within this form the work is less complicated in its design, for the sake of playability on the 31-tone keyboard. Also without the fifth tones it is worthwhile to perform this work. The final trio takes advantage from the purer intonation, without intending to get specific chromatic effects. The special tone distances form a new facet in the musical language of Van de Horst, although it remained at this one 31-tone work. In the sketches that preceded it he experimented with consonances with the harmonic seventh. A transition B-flat-A-sharp becomes in this work a real tone step, an 'experience', which was already written in one of the earliest work of Van der Horst, the song De Verlatene (the abandoned) (1915). The study that preceded the 31-tone suite, also played a role in the writing of the Violin Concerto (1953). In the solo passages of the violin unusual intervals present themselves, like F-sharp-B-flat, A-sharp-B-flat or F-doublesharp-B-flat. An enharmonic change is normally only a matter of notation, but in the Violin Concerto the free intonation gives it an extra nuance.

In the musical language of Van der Horst an eight tone scale plays an important role, the Modus conjunctus. It was employed for the first time in the Suite in modo conjuncto, opus 38 (1943). This scale which was also used by Pijper and Badings, consists of two identical tetrachords with a minor third, conjunctive via a diminished fifth. The diminished fifth functions as dominant and is closely related to the tonic, hence the term conjunctus. Apart from that, as it turned out later, the term "conjunct" already existed since Greek antiquity in relation to tetrachords. The tones of the mode are C D E-flat F G-flat A-flat B-doubleflat (=A) B C. The intervals are alternating whole tones and semitones. This scale gives the impression of bitonality, and it has two tonal centres a diminished fifth apart.


  • Gert Oost. Anthon van der Horst (1899-1965). Leven en werken. Canaletto, Alphen aan den Rijn, 1992, 220 pages.