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Radio Philharmonic Orchestra 1948-1950          Print Version/Afdruk Versie

In 1947, the idea to give the radio orchestra of Batavia a professional status arose in The Hague and Jakarta simultaneously. At the instigation of the Colonial Office the conductor Yvon Baarspul was approached to form an up to par symphony orchestra over there, that should be able to play an extensive repertoire. Added to the NIROM-orchestra that was already in existence, this ensemble would ultimately count approximately 63 members. The musicians (most of them were male) were offered a contract for two years, while the Dutch government sponsored the initiative. Because in those days, it was still long before 'the East' could be called a safe place, one might remark that this was a risky business. Anyway, in those turbulent years there was a great need for cultural relaxation 'overseas'.

The result: On 5 June 1948, 27 candidates left Rotterdam on the M.S Garoet to the Dutch East Indies. Another group of 12 musicians followed a little later by plane. The violinist Herman v.d. Vegt was released from his occupation for one year to assist Baarspul in the function of leader of the orchestra.

The members of the orchestra who came from the Netherlands were lodged in Hotel Chaulan, at a walking distance from the radio on King's Square. A year later, the wives and children came over. In those times, a new quarter was being built on the edge of Batavia, and this was where most people were lodged eventually.

The rehearsals started soon in the big studio of the recently renamed 'Radio Broadcasting Organisation of the Transition Period' (ROIO). Vice-president Mohammed Atta became the patron of this new orchestra.

On 30 August 1948 the inaugural concert took place in a sold out hall (the so-called Garden Hall) in the zoo of Batavia. More than 1000 people were in the audience. On the program: Works by Bach, Geraerdts and Brahms with assistance of the oratorium choir.

In the two years that the orchestra existed a number of members formed chamber music ensembles. There were, for instance, two string quartets that came into being. The "Radio Philharmonic Brass quintet" performed with the pianists Frans Szabo and Douda Poliakine and there were numerous recitals and solo-performances. The orchestra went on tour several times:

· September '49 to Semarang, Surabaya and Bali on the M.S. Ophir (the ship served as a hotel as well).
· November '49 to Singapore by plane to do 5 concerts in the 'Victoria memorial Hall' and a youth concert in 'Happy World', a big tent.
· The end of '49, two concerts in Pladjoe, near Palembang.

From the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra a chamber orchestra was also formed, which was under the leadership of conductor Frits Hinze and which mainly played at the local theatre. In the mean time, the Cosmopolitan orchestra, under the guidance of Jos Cléber, provided for the lighter repertoire. At the same time, the interest of the Indonesian and Chinese side increased.

The management of ROIO, that had been able to establish this new symphony orchestra with strong support from the government, supposed that it would serve the cultural purpose of this institution best not by keeping the orchestra conscientiously within the privacy of the walls of the studio, but by taking care that the concerts were broadcast from the concert hall as much as possible. As a rule, the concerts would be recorded to be broadcast later from the various relay stations in the country, amongst others those of Semarang, Surabaya, Bandung and Makassar. Apart from the 'Garden Hall', the concerts also took place in the 'Willemskerk', The Portuguese 'Buitenkerk', the theatre and in 'Concordia' in Batavia.

A series of 7 concerts, dedicated to Dutch composers, took place in the big hall of the Radio Broadcasting Company of Jakarta. The composition and editorship were in the hands of the oboist Victor Swillens. These concerts were also broadcast by the radio stations of Semarang and Surabaya.

The two valedictory concerts of the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra in June 1950 made mention of the performance of the 9th symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven, with assistance of Batavia's mixed choir. On this occasion Yvon Baarspul was knighted as "Ridder in de Orde van Oranje-Nassau". The voyage back was made on the M.S. "Johan van Oldebarnevelt" on 21 July 1950. They arrived in Amsterdam on 17 August. Some of the members of the orchestra returned later to form the "Orchestra Radio Jakarta", under the leadership of Henk te Strake, which remained in existence until 1953. 


Yvon Baarspul
Director of the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra in Batavia / Jakarta
Print Version/Afdruk Versie