Johannes Josephus Hermanus Verhulst was born in The Hague on 19 March 1816. His father was a compositor.
While Johannes Verhulst exerted great influence through his key positions in Dutch musical life, his reserved and one-sided programming is increasingly criticized. For example, he refused to perform the music of Hector Berlioz, Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner. In 1886, the 70-year-old Verhulst was dismissed from his position in The Hague, after which he decided to resign from his posts in Amsterdam as well. He spent the last five years of his life in seclusion. Johannes Verhulst died in Bloemendaal on January 17, 1891.
He studied the organ and violin at the Royal Music School. Director Johann Heinrich Lübeck managed to persuade his parents to let their son also take violin lessons and lessons in music theory.
Through the acquaintance of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy in the Netherlands, Verhulst was able to study in Leipzig in 1838.
Johannes was appointed second violinist of the Royal Chapel at the age of fifteen. Mid-1833 he was promoted to first violinist. Lübeck’s protection also provided him, at the age of sixteen, with the position of organist at the church at the Binnenhof in The Hague.
In 1843, Johannes became the director of the Court Chapel of King Willem II.
In 1848, Verhulst was appointed director of the Rotterdam chapter of the “Maatschappij tot Bevordering der Toonkunst”.
In 1860, he became the conductor of the Diligentia concerts in The Hague. Four years later, he also became the director of the Amsterdam chapter of the “Maatschappij tot Bevordering der Toonkunst” and leader of the Felix Meritis orchestra.
His meeting in 1835 with the new conductor of the Théâtre français in The Hague, the Belgian Charles-Louis Hanssens Jr. (1802–1871), was important for his further development. Verhulst learnt the tricks of the trade of instrumentation from him. This resulted in the skilfully orchestrated ‘Overtures‘ op. 2 and 3 for which he was awarded several prizes.
Mendelssohn’s influence can also clearly be found in Verhulst’s compositions from this period, such as the ‘Symphony in e minor‘ op. 46 (1842) and ‘Mass‘. He finished his large ‘Mass‘ for soloists, choir and orchestra in 1843, which received its first complete performance in 1847.
At age 18, he completed his final examination on the violin and was awarded a “Prize for special diligence”.