The review that was published in De Tijd with respect to the Benelux Vocal Competition gala Concert of Winners perfectly summarized what this and all flowing concerts in the years to come was and were about: the festive atmosphere of an evening out that was closer to a celebration than to a formal concert. That the program was haphazardly composed, rather long, and inevitably slightly uneven given the various specializations of the singer didn’t really matter much in this celebration of young talent that had grown dear to the local audience in the Casino Theater Den Bosch. Just how fond the inhabitants of Den Bosch were of their winners was shown by the fact that the Gala Concert was sold out. Wrote the reporter:

‘The informal atmosphere culminated into the point where Henriëtte Willems started answering the ongoing ovations with blowing kisses back to the audience, while spontaneously embracing the slightly surprised conductor Hein Jordans.’ (‘Concert met Prijswinnaars,’ De Tijd, September 27, 1954)

With Willems' charms evident, the critic embarked on an evaluation of her singing, which balanced her strong points with her weaker ones:

‘Hers is an interesting timbre, although it sometimes fails her. Her dramatic impact is evident, but not very subtle. In terms of allure she easily outclassed all her competitors. ’ (‘Concert met Prijswinnaars,’ De Tijd, September 27, 1954)

Another winner proved Annette de la Beije from Heemstede, who conquered the hearts of the audience with ‘Un bel dì vedremo’ from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, which we can present here because she gave her IVC concert arias to us shortly before she passed away, on March 17, 2014. One critic wrote of her appearance the following words:

'We have delighted in the crystal clear, very melodious and musical soprano Annette de la Bije, who who doubtlessly will become one of our greatest sopranos. She sang the ‘Incarnates est’ from Mzart’s ‘Mass in C’ and an aria from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.’ (‘Slotconcert van het Benelux-Vocalistenconcours,’ Unidentified Newspaper cutting, September 27, 1954)

Duly noted were also the beauty of the voices of Hans Wilbrink and Aukje Karsemeyer-de Jong. The latter was thought to be at an advantage, since she had elaborate stage experience and was wholly at ease on stage, where the others were clearly nervous, and searching for the right pose and attitude. De Tijd further thought that Frans Meulemans had a fine technique, although he still had a thing or two to learn in terms of interpretation, given his hurried rendition of Figaro’s aria from Il barbiere di Siviglia. Most peculiarly, another critic thought he scored a public triumph with the same aria.

  • Frans Meulemans
  • Hans Wilbrink
  • Aukje Karsemeyer IVC 1954
  • Annette de la Bije  Mayor Loeff 1954
  • IVC 1954 Concert reviews
  • Frans Meulemans
  • Hans Wilbrink
  • Aukje Karsemeyer IVC 1954
  • Annette de la Bije & Mayor Loeff 1954
  • IVC 1954 Concert reviews

The Brabant Orchestra appeared gracious and detailed in its solo pieces by Bach and Beethoven, which confirmed the standing that the orchestra had acquired under the tenure of Chief Conductor Hein Jordans. The latter also sustained the nervous young soloists by his clear beat, said Piet Pijnenborg. Naturally, the program was improvised at last minute and brought to the light of day by inexperienced singers, some of who sang here for the first time ever before an audience of sorts, except perhaps Dutch radio staple Aukje Karsemeyer-de Jong and concerting artist since some years Annette de la Bije. An unidentified critic summarized the general atmosphere nicely in the following conclusion to his article:

‘Snobs may say that so many styles and excerpts can never be artistically sound. There against are those for whom music is first and foremost beauty of sound long before it can become a problem of any sort. These people shall tell you that this evening was one of precious memories, an evening so full of joy to the eye, the ear and the heart that one would wish for it to be repeated very soon. Art loving Den Bosch has proven yesterday that it is drawn to beauty by a magnetic field.’ (‘Sterren straalden in het Casino,’ Unidentified Newpaper cutting, September 27, 1954)

Benelux Competition Concluding Gala Concert *
Casino Den Bosch, September 26, 1954
Brabant Orchestra – Hein Jordans (conductor)

1   J.S. Bach 'Sinfonia'
2 Frans Meulemans J.S. Bach Der zufriedengestellte Aeolus 
3 Annette de la Bije Mozart Mass in C-minor 'Incarnatus est'
4 Henriëtte Willems Gluck Ifigenia in Tauride 'O malheureuse Iphigénie'
Elias 'Es ist genug'
Der Freischütz 'Agathes aria'
Egmond ‘Overture’
Henriëtte Willems
Lohengrin 'Einsam in trüben Tagen'
Requiem 'Confutatis maledictus
10  Annette de la Bije Puccini
Madama Butterfly 'Un bel dì vedremo'
Il barbiere di Siviglia 'Largo al factotum'
12 Aukje Karsemeyer
Prince Igor 'Yaroslavna's aria'