Rudolf George Escher was born on January 8th, 1912 in Amsterdam. He was the son of Emma Brosy and geologist Berend George Escher, who also gave him piano lessons. On March 17th, 1989, Escher died from an incurable liver disease.
Rudolf Escher attended high school in Leiden and took piano lessons with Bé Hartz.
After four years of high school, Escher quit in 1929 to study at the Conservatory in Cologne. In preparation for this transition, he started to study the piano seriously, following the advice of the composer, Peter van Anrooy. He also started to take violin and harmony classes.
In 1931, Escher went to the Rotterdam Conservatory where he studied piano, with an additional course in cello. With the Rotterdam organist J.H. Besselaar jr., he also qualified in counterpoint, which played an important role in his compositions. In 1934, he studied composition with Willem Pijper.
Escher wrote an essay entitled “Toscanini en Debussy, magie der werkelijkheid,” in which he advocates the importance of good listening. It has been published by D. van Sijn & Zonen in Rotterdam. Some of his poems appeared in the magazine “Forum.”
Until 1951, Escher was a board member of the Dutch Opera and in 1947 he was appointed to the Board of the Stichting Nederlandse Muziekbelangen.
In 1961, Escher gave composition lessons at the Amsterdam Conservatory and was a board member of the Dutch Society for Contemporary Music.
From 1964 to 1975, Escher was a senior lecturer at the Institute of Musicology, University of Utrecht. He taught a course called “Aspects of contemporary music.” In carefully prepared lectures, he performed highly detailed shape- and structure analyzes. Escher called serialism “a violent, revolutionary movement.”
In 1935, Escher made his debut as a composer with his first piano sonata.
Most of his student works have been lost due to the bombing of Rotterdam on May 14, 1940. However, some of them remain, and his main war compositions include the orchestral work Musique pour l’esprit en deuil (1943), the Sonata Concertante (1943) for cello and piano, Arcana Musae Dona (1944) for piano, and the first two parts of the Sonata per violoncello solo (1948).
The theme of war and peace resound in some works that Escher composed after 1945, such as the orchestral piece Hymne du Grand Meaulnes (1951) and Le vrai visage de la paix (1953) for eight-part choir. Musicologist Leo Samama says about Songs of Love and Eternity, composed in 1955 on poems by Emily Dickinson, that “it should be considered to be the best written a cappella choral music in our country”.
In 1959, Escher worked in the studios for electronic music in Delft and Utrecht. Commissioned by AVRO Television, he composed electronic music for the television play “The Long Christmas Dinner” (1960).
For Musique pour l’esprit en deuil (1943), Escher received the Music Prize from the City of Amsterdam.
In 1977, he was awarded the Johan Wagenaar Prize for his entire oeuvre.