Though relatively little known in the United States, except among brass players, Dutch-born composer, conductor and professor Jan Koetsier is well- regarded throughout Europe, and especially in Munich, where he served as professor of conducting at the Hochschule fur Musik in Germany, for many years. As a composer, he devoted much of his efforts to brass and wind instruments, and seemed especially interested in developing the repertoire for unusual or under-utilized combinations of instruments. His music is often virtuosic, as in his Scherzo Brillante and Variations, but also lyrical, as in his Romanza and the second movement of his Sonata for Horn and Harp. In all cases, whether serious or humorous (sometimes both within the same work), Koetsier's compositions are all well-crafted, enjoyable to perform and engaging to hear. I have chosen to record this unjustly neglected music to encourage other performers to program it, thereby bringing it to a wider audience.
Jan Koetsier was born in 1911 in Amsterdam, the son of the singer Jeanne Koetsier and the teacher Jan Koetsier-Muller. From an early age, he received musical encouragement and support through piano instruction. Koetsier decided to study music early on, entering college straight after leaving school. He moved to Berlin in 1913 with his family, and aged 16, was the youngest student of his day to pass the entrance audition in piano to the Berlin Hochschule fur Musik. There, as well as studying piano, he studied score-reading and music theory with Walther Gmeindl, and conducting with Julius Prüwer from 1932. Also encouraged by Artur Schnabel, signs of his future direction in music began to emerge composing and conducting. In 1933, Koetsier took up a position as a repetiteur at the Stadttheater in Lubeck. But after just one concert season, he returned to Berlin and began working as a conductor touring with theatre ensembles such as the Deutsche Musikbuhne and the Deutsche Landesbuhne; his repertoire expanded to include music theatre works.
From 1936/37 he had the opportunity of working as a freelance conductor for the short-wave broadcasting station in Berlin, directing broadcasts of his own folk music arrangements, including arrangements of South American and African songs. Because of the political situation, Koetsier gave up his position at the Berlin radio station in 1940 and took up an offer of working as piano accompanist to the dancer Ilse Meudtner on a year-long tour. Following on from this, he worked as conductor of the newly-founded Kammeropera in The Hague, during which he travelled to numerous Dutch towns and cities (1941/42). He then became second conductor of the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam (1942-48), a central point in his artistic development, which brought with it valuable stimuli and experience, including collaborating with the orchestra's chief conductor, Willem Mengelberg. He then spent a short period as conductor of the Residentie Orkest and as conducting teacher at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague before being invited by Bavarian Radio to become principal conductor of its newly-founded Symphony Orchestra in 1950. Koetsier held this position for sixteen years, working intensively on studio productions of all periods and styles which were required for daily broadcasting. He also conducted public concerts, including some in the Bavarian Radio Musica Viva series. In 1966 he became professor of conducting at the Hochschule fur Musik in Munich, in which position he was involved in reforming the teaching schedule. After his retirement, Koetsier concentrated mainly on composing at his home in Rattenkirchen, Upper Bavaria. In these years, he founded the International Jan Koetsier Competition for the encouragement of young brass ensembles.