Death of leading Dutch composer, 60

Death of leading Dutch composer, 60


norman lebrecht

October 27, 2019

The inventive composer Theo Verbey died on October 13 after a long illness.

Having made his name with a widely performed orchestration of Alban Berg’s first piano sonata, he went on to focus on intricate instrumentation in concert works that often proclaimed an historical perspective.

His orchestral work, After the Great War, was premiered in the Hague three days before his death.



  • Thank you Norman for posting this. His orchestration of the Berg Piano Sonata is sublime.

  • Erwin says:

    That’s quite shocking to read…I remember well his theory lessons that I had at the Conservatory in the 1980s, they were very useful. May his work live on for a long time.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Sad news. A very gifted, but also troubled spirit, as can be heard in his piano concerto (which at places sounds a bit like Thierry Escaich:

    The scoring of Berg’s sonata, an amorph piece and rather dull and blurred in its original version, gets depth and rich colour in its orchestral form and shows the symphonic nature of the music – Berg was not a composer for the piano. It is incredible how deep Verbey has probed into that sound world and caught the inner essence of the music. He saved the piece from its flaws.

    These intimate RIlke Lieder show a romantic, sensitive composer understanding the dynamics of traditional tonality and expression. That pf concerto is full of concessions to the ‘approved of contemporary style’. My suspicion is that Verbey longed to write à la 1900, but in Holland, where a composer’s livelihood is dependent upon the national subsidy system, that would have been social suicide. So, Berg and Rilke could function as excuses.

    I don’t know how it was later in Verbey’s career, but I know that in his earlier years, when his music took a more tonal turn, he was criticized by the politbureau and threatened with reduction of his stipend. When he defended his work with a complex rationalistic composing system of fractal relationships, his use of tonalities was considered acceptable and he was again embraced by the system. So much for state support of new music.