In Memoriam, Anner Bijlsma

The cellist Anner Bijlsma passed away in the night from Wednesday to Thursday 25 July.

From 1971 to 1989, Anner was a cello teacher of the classical department of our school, where he studied with Carel van Leeuwen Boomkamp from the age of fourteen.

Anner Bijlsma was born in The Hague in 1934 and initially learned a lot from the lessons with his father, who played the trombone in the Residentie orchestra. Often those lessons were about the "essence" of music.

He was a gifted, creative, versatile and enthusiastic cellist; He was 25 years old when he won the Pablo Casals competition in Mexico. In the fifties and sixties, he was the first cellist of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. He was also a major chamber music player with his ensemble L’Archibudelli and an inspiring teacher at the conservatories of The Hague and Amsterdam.

His interpretations of Beethoven, Boccherini and Bach made him world-famous and very influential in his field. E.g. Anner wrote down his take on Bach in his book The Fencing Master.

Anner Bijlsma attracted students from all over the world and was a teacher and player who effortlessly moved between all music worlds and styles. He always encouraged his students to put that freedom and independence into practice.

I studied with him in The Hague from 1980 to 1986. When we talked about fingerings, it should never be about the easiest, no, the best thing to do was always to look for the finest; in the service of the composer. And when your gut feeling told you this was the best fingering, you had to accept that.

It was always about music, about serving yourself in service to the composer and the composition. As a teacher, he was anti-authoritarian and also required an open but critical attitude from his students.

Once a month, we would meet up with his Amsterdam students and play together. On the occasion of his 80th birthday, his daughter Carine made a documentary in collaboration with the Royal Conservatoire and some students.

Last February we all met again in his house to celebrate his eighty-fifth birthday. He could not resist explaining us the bowings of Bach's solo suites. He was still our teacher and we his students.

Monday, July 8th, I visited Anner for the last time and we listened to music together. We listened, among other things, to a double concerto for violin and cello by Brahms where he played the recording together with Vera Beths (violin). His deep love and full surrender to the music caught my eye again. All other former students and I feel privileged that we could study with him.

We will miss our musical and cello father very much.

Lucia Swarts