Oscar van Hemel was born on August 3, 1892 in Antwerpen (Belgium). He died on July 9, 1981 in Hilversum.
In 1907, Oscar started his studies at the Royal Flemish Conservatoire (nowadays Artesis Plantijn University College). Three days after his graduation (majoring in violin) on July 31, 1914, the First World War began (on his birthday).
As a soldier in the First World War, he was wounded at the battle of Halen. During the bombardment of Antwerp, he fled the city and arrived in Roosendaal, with the help of the “Rode Kruis” (“Red Cross”).
He stayed in Roosendaal in May 1915, where he earned his livelihood by teaching violin. In 1918, Van Hemel settled in Bergen op Zoom, where he worked as a teacher in piano, violin and theory courses at the town music school. In 1948, Oscar van Hemel got an appointment as a lecturer for theory courses at the Music Conservatory of the Roman Catholic College in Tilburg (present-day Fontys Conservatory Tilburg).
Oscar van Hemel also performed regularly with Adrianus de Groot and Michael Busch.
In addition, he organized subscription concerts, which he reviewed for the newspaper “De Zoom”.
His compositions initially showed the influence of French impressionists, but later the influence of Willem Pijper is heard, with whom he studied composition from 1931 to 1933 in Rotterdam. He dedicated his first ‘Sonate‘ for violin and piano, composed near the end of his lessons with Pijper, to his teacher.
Van Hemel’s patriotism finds expression in a.o. his choral pieces ‘Ballade van Brabant‘ on texts by Anton van Duinkerken and ‘Hart van Nederland’ on a text by Bertus Aafjes.
In 1949, Oscar moved to Hilversum, where he occupied himself with composing in addition to teaching. During the following years, many of his compositions are commissioned by the Dutch government and the broadcasting organisations in Hilversum.
– 1938: The Société Royale d’ Harmonie of Antwerp awards Oscar van Hemel third prize for the ‘Trio‘ for violin, viola and piano;
– 1939: He wins third prize at the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels for his ‘Pianokwartet’;
– 1946: Van Hemel wins the Music Prize of the City of Amsterdam for his ‘Violin Concerto’ (1944) and an award from the Dutch government for ‘Ballade‘ (1942), for large orchestra;
– 1953: With the ‘4me Quatuor à cordes’, Oscar van Hemel wins second prize at the International Competition for String Quartet Compositions in Liège.
– 1958: His ‘Herdenkings hymne 1940-1945‘ (1955) wins the Music Prize of the City of Amsterdam and the sacred cantata ‘Maria Magdalena‘ is awarded the Visser Neerlandia Prize;
– 1962: Van Hemel is awarded the Professor van der Leeuw Prize for the ‘4me Quatuor à cordes’ and the Visser Neerlandia Prize for the ‘Quartettto di strumenti ad arco no. 6‘ (1961). Moreover, he is made a Knight in the Order of Orange Nassau.
– 1964: Oscar van Hemel is awarded the Culture Prize by the City of Hilversum.
– 1971: Van Hemel receives the Culture Prize of the Province of North Brabant.