Hans Henkemans was born on December 23, 1913, in The Hague and died on December 29, 1995.
From 1926 to 1931 he was a pupil of Bernard van den Sigtenhorst Meyer, both for piano and composition, and from 1933 to 1938 he studied with Willem Pijper.
Additionally, Henkemans studied medicine from 1931.
Henkemans’ debut as a pianist took place in 1945 in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. After this first concert he remained active as a pianist for 23 years, performing 59 times as a soloist in the Concertgebouw, often in performances of his own compositions such as his ‘Passacaglia and Gigue‘ (1942), giving concerts in The Netherlands and abroad, and with no less than 20 gramophone recordings. As a pianist he has been famous for his Mozart and Debussy interpretations.
Though he was not trained at a conservatory, in the 1960s he began teaching composition and orchestration at the Groningen Conservatory and the Amsterdam Muzieklyceum.
During this period, he was also a psychiatric consultant at a hospital in Amsterdam.
Henkemans published in e.g. the Netherlands Medical Review, Mens en Melodie and Algemeen Dagblad. In 1961, the booklet “Daar zit je dan” (“And there you are sitting”) was published with his “interim memoirs”.
He played a significant role in the fierce musicological debate of that time. He regarded serial music, electronic music and other experiments in which the creating musician distances himself from emotional communication with the listener as a separate art form. In 1967, he added to these thoughts with a psychological analysis of “actual” music. At age 80, in De Gids, Henkemans made a final attempt to demonstrate a real distinction on psychological grounds between “experimental music” and what he called “simply music”.
Declining health forced Henkemans to end his piano career in 1969, from which time he concentrated fully on composing and psychiatric practice.
As a composer Henkemans was influenced by Debussy, Ravel, and Pijper. He characterized his style as “tending toward the extreme of pluritonal expression, but at its core, a monotonal way of writing”. He orchestrated the two Livres of Debussy’s 24 Préludes.
In 1932, he wrote his first ‘Piano concerto‘ (with string orchestra). He dedicated his ‘Concerto per violino ed orchestra‘ (1950) to Theo Olof and his ‘Concert voor Harp en Orkest‘ (1955) to Phia Berghout and the Concertgebouw Orchestra.
‘Bericht aan de levenden‘ (1965), a work for narrator, choir and orchestra based on the similarly named text by H.M. van Randwijk, was written on a commission from the Artists 1942-1945 Resistance Foundation. It has been performed annually since its premiere on May 4, 1965.
In 1977, Henkemans concluded the opera ‘Winter Cruise‘, based on one of the short stories by Somerset Maugham, for which he himself wrote the libretto. This opera was given a dozen performances by the Netherlands Opera.
‘Cello concerto‘ (1988‑89) was premièred in December 1990 by Dmitri Ferschtmann and the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, Lucas Vis conducting.
The University of Amsterdam awarded Henkemans a doctorate, at age 67, on the thesis ‘Sublimatie-stoornissen bĳ kunstenaars’ (Sublimation disorders in artists) – published by Van Loghum Slaterus, 1981.