Henk Badings was born on January 17, 1907 and died on June 28, 1987. Born in Bandung, Java, Dutch East Indies, as the son of Herman Louis Johan Badings, an officer in the Dutch East Indies army, Hendrik Herman Badings became an orphan at an early age.
Having returned to the Netherlands, his family tried to dissuade him from studying music, and he enrolled at the Delft Polytechnical Institute (later the Technical University). He worked as a mining engineer and palaeontologist at Delft until 1937, after which he dedicated his life entirely to music. Though largely self-taught, he did receive some advice from Willem Pijper, the doyen of Dutch composers at the time, but their musical views differed widely and after Pijper had attempted to discourage Badings from continuing as a composer, Badings broke off contact.
In addition to composing, Badings taught and lectured (in the Netherlands and abroad), was a jury member in competitions, and published several books. He held numerous teaching positions; e.g., at the Musikhochschule Stuttgart and the University of Utrecht.
Henk Badings is one of the great composers of the twentieth century, according to the musicologist Leo Samama. Samama describes him as “a versatile artist who apparently could effortlessly go from serious concert music to the style of the large American ‘wind bands’, from electronic music to educational collections, from lengthy and dramatic choral pieces to music for amateur orchestras. His musical style, lyrical and sombre, heroic and exuberant, dramatic and effective, is everywhere evident and marks each score as his. The music Badings wrote between 1930 and 1960 is of international allure. But also his later works are loved, especially in the United States, and bear witness to unbridled energy and spiritual power.” (Leo Samama, 1986)
Though he was an innovator, his style is characterized by a penchant for classical traits: melody, harmony and rhythm remain recognizable and guiding forces. In addition, he often used germ cell technique. Badings used unusual musical scales and harmonies (e.g., the octatonic scale).
In 1930, Badings had his initial big musical success when his first cello concerto (he eventually wrote a second) was performed at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. Champions of his work included such eminent conductors as Eduard van Beinum and Willem Mengelberg. Accused after the Second World War of collaboration with the Nazi occupation forces, he was briefly banned from professional musical activity, but by 1947 he had been reinstated.
Badings oeuvre ranges from opera to electronic music and from film music to 14 symphonies, pieces for wind orchestra and for chamber ensembles. He received prestigious commissions, including those for the hundredth anniversary of the Vienna Philharmonic and the sixtieth of the Concertgebouw Orchestra. At the time of his death, he had produced over a thousand pieces.
Recently, interest in Badings’ music has grown; the German label CPO have committed themselves to recording Badings’ entire orchestral œuvre, and a Badings Festival was held in Rotterdam in October 2007.
Many of his compositions won awards in the Netherlands and abroad, including the Sweelinck Prize, awarded by the Dutch government, for his entire oeuvre in 1972.