• Leopold van der Pals
  • Symphony No. 1 in F-sharp minor, Op. 4 (1909)

  • Edition Wilhelm Hansen Copenhagen (World)
  • 3(pic).2.3(bcl).1/
  • 40 min

Programme Note

During the summer of 1907, the twenty-three-year-old Leopold van der Pals had the opportunity to study with Reinhold Glière for a few months in Berlin and Biarritz. The young man felt the urge to try his wings in the principal discipline of the symphonic repertoire:

"I am currently writing a symphony in F sharp minor. Here an enormous amount of concerts are held, and we attend the most interesting of them. Nikisch und Weingartner are here, and so is Panzner with the Mozart Orchestra, and then a countless number of solo concerts are presented. So here we have heard Kreisler, Thibaud, Vecsey. Koussevitzky’s concert is today. Almost everything evening there is something going on" (LvdP, in his journal, 29 October 1907, Berlin).

At the same time, he heard about lectures by the philosopher and theosophist Rudolf Steiner from a friend of his, the pianist Vladimir von Papov. During the spring of 1908, Leopold van der Pals divided his time between reading Rudolf Steiner´s books and working on his symphony. The atmosphere was favorable for van der Pals, and as spring became summer, he learned that his wife Marussja was expecting a child.

The summer was spent at the Paloniemi family estate in Finland, where Leopold van der Pals had his own cabin, built for him by his father so that he could find the peace and quiet he needed to concentrate on composing. It was in the cabin that he composed most of the symphony.

"That was certainly a magnificent summer this year. The weather favored us as only rarely. This summer we could enjoy everything, hot summer weather, bright, warm nights, magnificent sunsets when things were already somewhat darker, with marvelous lights over Lake Horma: when in the evening one then sailed over it, and it lay there like a mirror, and the forested shores were reflected in the water, and mighty cliffs rose up from the water’s surface, and the flaming sky over it, and when things became darker the moonlight that was reflected in the water. And then the warm dark July nights came with bright moonlight. Once we sailed out late in the evening to my island, lay there on the shore on the cliffs, and looked into the starry sky; and now and again a star and then another one fell from the sky, a radiant light glowed and disappeared."And then the time came when the wheat was ripe; it was golden yellow, and from my cabin I could see how it was harvested, all of a sudden very yellow, and then the autumn came" (LvdP, journal, 25 August 1908, Paloniemi).
"The summer in Finland was beautiful. Magnificent, warm weather, and then I always feel so well in the north! In the middle of the countryside, in the beautiful world of nature, without the noise of the big cities. There one finds one’s way to oneself. There inspiration also comes over one. I composed my symphony through to the end there" (LvdP, journal, 4 July 1909, Berlin).

Back in Berlin after his summer in Finland, van der Pals began work on the orchestration. By the end of the year, the symphony was finished, with the place and date "Berlin, 1 January 1909" indicated on the last page of the autograph.

As his work on the symphony progressed, van den Pals’s interest in theosophy deepened, and from September 1908 on he regularly attended the lectures held by Rudolf Steiner. These lectures as well as Steiner’s book made a deep impression on him, with the result that he requested a personal meeting. On 1 January 1909, the same day as the symphony is dated, they met for the first time. Eight days later Leopold and Marussja’s daughter Lea van der Pals was born.

During his Berlin years, 1907–1915, van der Pals was very productive and composed his first thirty opus numbers, focusing on large-format orchestral pieces and lieder. Van der Pals’s Symphony op. 4 was premiered in 1909 by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under the conductor Heinrich Schulz. The symphony was very well received in the press, and this resulted in an extensive series of performances of his pieces in Europe and America.

Tobias van der Pals, 2018




  • The music of Leopold van der Pals
    • The music of Leopold van der Pals
    • Over the next few years Edition Wilhelm Hansen, part of Wise Music Group will be digging through the archives of composer Leopold van der Pals and publishing a large number of his works, bringing them back into the spotlight – some of them for the very first time.


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