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RC 56 Den uil (“Den uil die op den peerboom zat”)

text source

G. Antheunis, Leven, lieven, zingen. Nieuwere gedichten (The Hague: Henri J. Stemberg 1880), 97

first performance

1903-06-24 00:00:00.0 Vlissingen, Grand Hôtel

recordings

  • Anniversary Edition 7 Et'cetera KTC 1435 CD7

publications

  • Den Uil (Oud Vlaamsch Volkslied) Bank, Annie 17277100
  • Den uil (“Den uil die op den peerboom zat”) Harmonia 23378268
  • Den Uil. Oud Vlaamsch Volkslied Alsbach & Co, G. (Amsterdam) 16020479
  • Vier Vierstemmige Liederen voor Sopraan, Alt Tenor en Bas Van Looy 31122750

  • Den uil (“Den uil die op den peerboom zat”)
  • Anonymus
  • vocal quartet
  • 1902-06-15 00:00:00.0 - 1902-10-17 00:00:00.0
  • duration 4:30

Diepenbrock called the humoristic vocal quartet Den uil (The Owl), which he composed in the summer of 1902, “a joke”, written especially for Gerard Zalsman’s ensemble of soloists. (BD V:330) It was written almost at the same time as Christus is opgestanden (Christ Has Risen, RC 57), which because of its religious text can be considered its counterpart. Already before completion, Diepenbrock tried to get the Tilburg music dealer M.J.H. Kessels to publish these two compositions together with the Vijftiende-eeuwsch bruyloftslied (Fifteenth-Century Wedding Song, RC 10). The edition never materialised as Kessels rejected the author’s demand of a hundred guilder fee. (BD III:433) Four years later S.L. van Looy published a collection of Vier Vierstemmige Liederen (Four Four-Part Songs), which besides Den uil, Christus is opgestanden and the Bruyloftslied also included the Rey van burchtsaeten (Choral Song of the Burghers, RC 28). In this collection Diepenbrock strived for both variation – as each of the 4 pieces represents a different type of a cappella style – and unity, as the texts are all of a very early date. (BD V:41) …more >

Den uil (incipit)


Diepenbrock called the humoristic vocal quartet Den uil (The Owl), which he composed in the summer of 1902, “a joke”, written especially for Gerard Zalsman’s ensemble of soloists. (BD V:330) It was written almost at the same time as Christus is opgestanden (Christ Has Risen, RC 57), which because of its religious text can be considered its counterpart. Already before completion, Diepenbrock tried to get the Tilburg music dealer M.J.H. Kessels to publish these two compositions together with the Vijftiende-eeuwsch bruyloftslied (Fifteenth-Century Wedding Song, RC 10). The edition never materialised as Kessels rejected the author’s demand of a hundred guilder fee. (BD III:433) Four years later S.L. van Looy published a collection of Vier Vierstemmige Liederen (Four Four-Part Songs), which besides Den uil, Christus is opgestanden and the Bruyloftslied also included the Rey van burchtsaeten (Choral Song of the Burghers, RC 28). In this collection Diepenbrock strived for both variation – as each of the 4 pieces represents a different type of a cappella style – and unity, as the texts are all of a very early date. (BD V:41)

The Flemish folksong Den uil die op den peerboom zat (The Owl Who Sat in the Pear Tree) has been transmitted in various versions. The story goes that an owl drops off on a branch and tumbles down, breaks its paws and is taken to a doctor to undergo a bloodletting. The bird does not survive. It is carried to a cemetery for a solemn funeral. Then the last strophe reports: “De koster met zijn droeve stem, / Die zong van: Domine requiem.” (The verger in a sad voice, / He sang: Domine requiem.) This is again followed by the nonsensical refrain: “Van simmedondijne, / Van farilonla, / Den Uil viva!”

Diepenbrock derived his version of the text from the collection Leven, lieven, zingen (Live, Love, Sing) by G. Antheunis, who had versified a follow-up to the “Volkslied, uit den mond van het volk” (Folksong Voiced by the People). The transmitted text by Antheunis omits a piquant detail from the original tale. The owl is said to have looked up, where he glimpsed the female parts (violet) of a cat sitting above him. In his sleep, he dreamt about this and fell out of the tree. He had to pay for this vice with his death.1

Musical setting

The seven stanzas have been set as a strophic song with variations. The fourth strophe, “Zij brachten hem naar den doktoor” (They took him to the doctor), starts as a fugue and the strophes 5-7, relating the pitiful end, are in a minor key. The song ends, as it began, in a major key, after which the composer concludes with a virtuoso “amen”, parodying the final formulas of the Credos and Glorias “from a certain type of Mass”. (BD V:330) With the transparent voice-leading of Den uil, the exaggerated madrigalisms and the bombastic finale Diepenbrock satirises the light-footed and light-hearted music from the past.

The musical theme on which the piece is built, is a major key variant of the melody of the opening chorus from Johann Sebastian Bach’s cantata Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis (I Had Much Affliction, BWV 21). Antoon Averkamp already mentioned this resemblance in his review of the Vier Liederen in the weekly news magazine De Amsterdammer of January 1907:

The first, “Den Uil” is a lovely and refreshing sample of humour. It is an old Flemish folksong, which Diepenbrock has set to a melody, which – although it bears a strong resemblance to the main theme of one of the cantatas by Bach – is perfectly suited to express the changing moods of the poem. Indeed, the song has delightful streaks of humour and is highly entertaining thanks to the excellent voice-leading. (BD V:687)

Diepenbrock’s close friend W.G. Hondius van den Broek also mentioned this in a letter of 1 April 1908, after hearing the cantata in question in Utrecht. He wrote that the motive hunter in me noticed that herein B.[ach] had made use of the ‘den Uyl’ theme. (BD V:517)

After the premiere by the Zalsman Quartet in the Grand Hôtel in Flushing on 24 June 1903, Den uil was performed many times during Diepenbrock’s lifetime, even in Belgium (for example in the Antwerp Zoo on 20 March 1912) and generally to great success. However, the reviews show that each time it was a problem to do equal justice to the humoristic and artistic qualities of the work. It was picked up by several publishers, which will certainly have contributed to Den uil being included in the repertory of many amateur choirs.

Robert Spannenberg

1 According to the rendition of the text by A. de Kock in Volkskunde: tijdschrift voor Nederlandsche folklore 10 (Ghent: Hoste 1897), 171.

 



Den uil die op den peerboom zat,
En boven zijn hoofd daar zat er eene kat.
Van simmedondijne,
Van farilonla, den uil viva!

Den uil die schoot in eenen droom,
En viel van boven neer den boom.
Van simmedondijne,
Van farilonla, den uil viva.

Den uil die daar zijn pootjens brak,
Ze stoken hem in een blauwe zak.
Van simmedondijne,
Van farilonla, den uil viva.

Ze brachten hem naar den doktoor.
De juffrouw die kwam zelven voor.
Van simmedondijne,
Van farilonla, den uil viva.

Ze trokken hem vijf oncen bloed.
't Is jammer dat hij sterven moet.
Van simmedondijne,
Van farilonla, den uil viva.

Ze droegen hem naar eenen hof.
Hij werd begraven met een lof.
Van simmedondijne,
Van farilonla, den uil viva.

De koster met zijn droeve stem,
Die zong van Domine requiem.
Van simmedondijne,
Van farilonla, den uil viva.  Amen.


The Owl

The owl up in a pear tree sat,
Above his head there sat a cat,
Sing shimmy-ding-dong, sing fa-la-la la,
Long live the owl.

The owl fell deep into a dream
And fell straight down out of the tree,
Sing shimmy-ding-dong, sing fa-la-la la,
Long live the owl.

He broke his bones with that hard smack.
They stuffed him in a big blue sack,
Sing shimmy-ding-dong, sing fa-la-la la,
Long live the owl.

They brought him to the doctor’s house
The nurse herself was coming out,
Sing shimmy-ding-dong, sing fa-la-la la,
Long live the owl.

Five ounces blood they drained him dry,
‘T was such a shame, the owl must die,
Sing shimmy-ding-dong, sing fa-la-la la,
Long live the owl.

They buried him in yonder grave,
A eulogy the sexton gave,
Sing shimmy-ding-dong, sing fa-la-la la,
Long live the owl.

The sexton with his mournful voice
Sang ‘Lord now let him rest in peace,’
Sing shimmy-ding-dong, sing fa-la-la la,
Long live the owl.  Amen.

(transl. Ruth van Baak Griffioen)


  • A-48(6) Den uil (“Den uil die op den peerboom zat”)

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    A-48(6) dated on the last page 25 Juni [-] 17 Octob 1902

    • location: Diepenbrock Archief Laren
    • pages: 8
  • A-90(3) Den uil (“Den uil die op den peerboom zat”)

    copy A-90(3)

    • location: Diepenbrock Archief Laren
    • pages: unknown

  • click to enlarge

    Anniversary Edition 7

    cd Et'cetera KTC 1435 CD7
    Nederlands Kamerkoor ♦ Stok, Klaas ♦ Gronostay, Uwe ♦ Vocaal Ensemble Markant ♦ Haenchen, Hartmut ♦ Netherlands Radio Choir ♦ Antunes, Celso ♦ Quink Vocaal Ensemble

    Tracks: #1 = RC 7; #2 = RC 36; #3 = RC 85; #4 = RC 86; #5 = RC 87; #6 = RC 38; #7 = RC 56; #8 = RC 63; #9 = RC 28; #10 = RC 5; #11 = RC 34; #12 = RC 35; #13 = RC 119; #14 = RC 57

  • Den Uil (Oud Vlaamsch Volkslied)

    1984 Bank, Annie
  • Den uil (“Den uil die op den peerboom zat”)

    Harmonia
  • Den Uil. Oud Vlaamsch Volkslied

    1931 Alsbach & Co, G. (Amsterdam)
  • Vier Vierstemmige Liederen voor Sopraan, Alt Tenor en Bas

    1906 Van Looy

24 juni 1903: Eerste uitvoering van Den uil in het Grand Hotel te Vlissingen door het Zalsman-Kwartet. Ook het Vijftiende-eeuwsch bruyloftslied (RC 10) staat op het programma.

Met machtige waardeering hoorde ik van onzen componist Diepenbrock het Vijftiende-eeuwsch bruyloftslied en den verrukkelijken humor in Den uil.

Vlissingsche Courant (niet gesigneerd), 24 juni 1903

 

10 nov 1904: Uitvoering van de Rey van burchtsaeten en Den uil door het Zalsman-Kwartet in het Gebouw voor Kunsten en Wetenschappen te Utrecht tijdens een concert van de Utrechtsche Muziekvereeniging. Voorts worden uitgevoerd koorwerken van Bortniansky, Loots en Schumann; Julius en Engelbert Röntgen spelen cellosonates van Corelli en Beethoven.

Zelfs voor de musici was het een interessante avond, alleen reeds door de uitvoering van een werk van Diepenbrock Rey der burchtsaeten uit Vondel's Gijsbrecht, waarmede het concert geopend werd, op een wijze die evenzeer eerbied af moet dwingen voor het kunstige weefsel der compositie, als voor het technische achevé waarmede het kwartet dit overmoeilijke werk ten gehoore bracht. Ik vermoed dat het publiek echter nog meer zal genoten hebben van de drie zangnummers, die nog voor de pauze volgden: Du Hirte Israëls van Bortniansky, dat bijzonder mooi gezongen werd, Wiegenlied van Loots en het Vlaamsche volkslied Den uil van Diepenbrock, want Diepenbrock's kunst stelt aan den toehoorder hoogere eischen, dan waaraan door een publiek van leeken, vooral bij een eerste aanhooren, kan voldaan worden.

Utrechtsch Nieuwsblad (E.C. [= Emile Coenders]), 12 november 1904

pdf All reviews for RC 56 Den uil (“Den uil die op den peerboom zat”)