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Orchestras in the Dutch East Indies

For a long time music-lovers depended on ad hoc ensembles that were expanded to form an orchestra if the need arose. Foreign opera companies touring the region often brought their own orchestras, sometimes these were supplemented with local musicians or good amateurs. When conductor Nico Gerharz took up residence in Batavia he created a fully-fledged symphony orchestra made up of about 20 strings and a wind group, forces with which the standard orchestral repertoire could be performed. The orchestra flourished in particular in the years 1904-1916. They even went on tour, performing in the major venues on Java. At the time the young K├Ąthe Haasse, mother of the well-known Dutch novelist Hella Haasse, gave concerts with works by Beethoven, Grieg and Paul Seelig. A talented pianist, Haasse also composed songs for mixed choir. No sooner had the Japanese occupation ended or concert life was resumed, albeit on a modest scale. Concerts took place in the Schouwburg, featuring the so-called Station Orchestra (AFRIB) and broadcast by the Allied Forces Radio in Batavia.

On the initiative of Theo van der Bijl and the Pickler Trio an orchestra was formed by combining several smaller groups. This orchestra would later become the Radio NIROM Orchestra and captured listeners all over the archipelago. Broadcasts took place through various relay stations. Their first conductor of merit was Frits Hinze.

Smaller regional amateur orchestras were founded in places like Surabaya (Loo Vincent), Malang, Makassar, Bandung and Medan. Artist Walter Spies and musician Paul Seelig were invited by the sultan in Yokgyakarta to form a court orchestra.

Last but not least, the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra was created by local musicians and Dutch and Hungarian players. After 1950 a small formation remained in Djakarta conducted by Henk te Strake.

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