Johann Joseph Hermann Verhulst (1816 – 1891)

Johann Joseph Hermann Verhulst
Johann Joseph Hermann Verhulst (1816-1891), Steel engraving, about 1870 StadtMuseum Bonn

The Dutchman Johann Verhulst, also known under the name Johannes Josephus Hermanus Verhulst, studied music theory and violin at the Royal School of Music in The Hague. In 1832 he took over the activities as organist and was a member of the court orchestra and of the French theater. Thanks to a grant Verhulst studied in Leipzig in 1838 with Mendelssohn, whom he had met already in 1836. During this time he established friendly relations with Schumann, Hiller and Gade. After a stay for four years, Verhulst returned to the Netherlands, where he was appointed court music director at King Willem II. and where he strongly lobbied the music of Schumann.

During the years in the Leipzig, a close friendship between Verhulst and Schumann developed, which was reflected in many meetings and joint musical evenings. After exchanging the informal addressing in October 1842 and the Verhulst’s departure from Leipzig, the contact remained very close cordial letters, with circuit lines like: "I greet and kiss you in your sincere friendship Your R. Schumann" (quoted in Wolfgang Seibold, Familie, Freunde, Zeitgenossen, 2008, p. 308). As a result, Verhulst dedicated to his friend in August 1843 his String Quartet in E flat major op. 21. Schumann in return dedicated his Opus 52, premiered on 4 December1845 to his friend Verhulst. Schumann appreciated the quartets of Verhulst, which were frequently performed at the "quartet entertainments", the private concerts in Schumann's apartment with the ensemble of the violinist Ferdinand David.
Verhulst also spent some time in Düsseldorf, what brought him closer to the Schumann family, but also resulted in artistic partnership. Schumann especially formed compositionally the song writing of Verhulst, whereupon he linked Schumann's free form design with a very characteristic expressivity.

The close friendship with Schumann - in 1853, Schumann became even godfather of Verhulst’s son Robert - not only had a positive effect on Verhulst. A constant feeling of compositional inferiority to Schumann, caused depressions in Verhulst and which also resulted in an almost complete abandonment of his compositional activity. In his conductor work, he later also suffered a setback when he was released in 1886 from the conduction of the Diligentia concerts in The Hague, of which he was head of conduction since 1860, due to his fundamental rejection of music by Berlioz, Liszt and Wagner.

(Philip Förster)

[Translated by Katharina Ma]

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