Cornelis Dopper was born Feb. 17th 1870 in Stadskanaal; he died Sep. 18th 1939 in Amsterdam. He was a composer, conductor and music teacher.
He studied piano and violin at the Conservatoire of Leipzig (1888-1890). His most important teacher was Oscar Paul, who lectured on history of music (especially ancient Greek music) and musical aesthetics.
In 1897, he went to Amsterdam, where he became a violinist and later a choir master and assistant conductor at the Nederlandsche Opera (Dutch Opera Company), until this company dissolved in 1903.
During two seasons, Dopper was one of the conductors of the travelling Henry Savage Opera Company in the United States. He also visited Canada and Mexico with this company and conducted the first performances of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.
He introduced not only Debussy’s La Mer and Ibéria in Amsterdam, but also a lot of other new compositions of composers of his time, i.e. Elgar, Ravel, and the music of many young Dutch composers.
Dopper introduced youth concerts in the Netherlands in 1923. As a composer he was not an innovator, but possessed a great instinct for orchestral colouring. His interest in Ancient Greek music is apparant from works such as the orchestral studies ‘Päân I & II‘. But above all Dopper was a Dutch composer, as shown by the titles of his symphonies.
In 1892, he composed his first opera ‘De blinde van Castel Cuillé’ after a story by J. Jasmin (English translation: H.W. Longfellow) and his ‘First Symphony‘ ‘Diana’ (1896), based on Heinrich Heine’s story Die Götter in exil. In 1904, he finished his ‘Second Symphony‘ (‘Scottish’ symphony). In 1906, Willem Mengelberg performed Dopper’s ‘Third Symphony‘ (‘Rembrandt’, rev. 1904) with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra and Dopper was nominated as second conductor of this famous orchestra under Mengelberg in 1908.
Dopper stayed with the Concertgebouw Orchestra for 23 years. During that time he composed his ‘Fourth Symphony’ (‘Sinfoniëtta’, rev. 1909), his ‘Fifth Symphony’ (‘Sinfonia epica’, 1908) on a text of Homerus Ilias; a ‘Sixth Symphony‘ (‘Amsterdamse’, 1912) and a ‘Seventh Symphony’ (‘Zuiderzee’, 1917).
Besides four opera’s and seven symphonies, Dopper wrote a lot of vocal works: songs, choir music, a ‘Requiem‘ and chamber music (‘Sextet‘, ‘Klankstudie‘, String quartet ‘Pallas Athena’, ‘Sonata‘ for violin or violoncello and piano). His complete works (more than one hundred) are preserved in the Nederlands Muziek Instituut (Dutch Musical Institute), Royal Library, The Hague.
In 1930, Cornelis Dopper received the Silver Medal of Honor for Art and Science from the Dutch queen Wilhelmina.