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Paul Seelig (1876 - 1945)          Print Version/Afdruk Versie

Among the musicians in Indonesia there were also a few composers who left behind a voluminous oeuvre. The most important one among them was Paul Seelig, about whom there will be more later on. To just mention a few names: Constant van de Wall, Hector Marinus, Theo Smit Sibenga en Emile Hullebroek. In Europe, there were also a number of composers who were inspired by eastern music and the gamelan: Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Francis Poulenc, Colin McPhee and Peter Schat. 

Paul Johan Seelig


On June 13, 1945 Mr. Cornelis died on Java. He was a talented composer, whose work has remained virtually unknown in the Netherlands until today: Paul John Seelig, born in Breda, 1876. The course of his life is an absorbing story that for the most part takes place in the Far East. He had an all-round musical education in Germany for the most part and studied with prominent teachers. He studied the piano, the cello, orchestration and theory. In 1888, he was 2nd conductor of the Stadttheater in Essen. In the mean time, he was often travelling through countries such as Japan, Palestine, Turkey, Romania, Hungary and the Netherlands.

In 1900, Seelig comes back to the Dutch East Indies and becomes the conductor of the court orchestra of the Susuhunan of Surakarta. During the following 8 years in Solo, a penetrating study is made of eastern music. After the death of his father, he settles in Bandung, to take on the leadership of the publishing business (Matatani) and music- and instrument shop his father had founded. However, the wanderings have not yet finished. In 1911 he leaves for Siam (Thailand). There he becomes conductor and musical advisor of the Royal Orchestra of Bangkok. At that time, he noted down a large number of Siamese folk-melodies and he also composed the national anthem of Siam. A large collection of songs, recorded from native singers of Central Java, would also appear in print afterwards.

The compositions of Seelig display an intriguing combination of eastern and western elements, the structure always betraying the craftsman. Much of his voluminous, practically undated oeuvre has, apart from the Indies themselves, also been performed in Germany, France, Austria, America and Japan, but strangely enough hardly ever in our country. After about 1930 he has composed little more, because he was preoccupied with the publishing- and music business in Surabaya, Bandung (Bragaweg), Batavia and Semarang. Most of his work has been indexed by his grandson and can also partly be found in the music libraries in this country.

Seelig has become famous mainly because of the so-called Pantun, a Malaysian variant of the Portuguese Moresco, which was accompanied by the plucked instrument, the krontjong. At the time, his piano concerto has been performed in the Indies several times with an orchestra by the pianist K├Ąthe Haasse, the mother of writer Hella Haasse. The musical score of this work that, like so many of his compositions, had been fancied lost because of the war, has been recovered recently. People are trying to put new life into it, among other things, by way of the computer. The orchestral score must still be worked out with the help of very concise notes.

Music and dramatic society "Braga" in 1910 with, amongst others, Paul Seelig on cello.

Publication Seelig / Matatani

Muziek en toneelvereniging "Braga" in 1910 met o.a. Paul Seelig cello

Print Version/Afdruk Versie