The Life of Karl Otto Lies

Research Paper (undergraduate), 2011

9 Pages, Grade: A (entspricht 1)


The Life of Karl Otto Lies

That failure is not always caused by a lack of talent but rather a lack of fortune and false modesty can be seen exemplary in the life of the Dutch-German composer Karl [Carl] Otto Lies. He was born on 26 July 1869 in Hanover as the first of two children of the Roman Catholic bailiff Karl Lies and his wife Margaretha Louisa Brand. Already during his college years in Cologne, he started composing several piano and organ pieces. After college, he entered the conservatoire of Cologne and was taught composition and conducting by prof. Franz Wüllner, a well-known German composer and conductor (Dohr). Furthermore, he had classes in music theory with Gustav Jensen, piano with Otto Klauwell and score reading with conductor Eduard Mertke. In his leaving certificate, Franz Wüllner wrote about him: “He has proven to be highly ambitious and gifted and developed to a splendid musician during his study period.”[1] This statement sounds especially comprehensible if one considers that Lies composed during his studies among others one cantata, various pieces for piano en two symphonies of which he performed parts in his final exam. Apart from that, one can unfortunately not learn much more about his study period because the historical city archive of Cologne which probably contained some material collapsed two years ago.

After he had carried out his military service, he moved to the Dutch town Goes in Zeeland in 1893 where he received a position as chief of the local department of a big choir organisation, the “Maatschappij tot Bevordering der Toonkunst” (society for the promotion of musical art),. He also probably also left Germany because he was disagreeing with its political development. At the end of the year, one can already find the advertisement for a concert of the Toonkunst choir in the local newspaper, the “Goessche Courant.” The second concert followed in March of the following year and received positive feedback by the Middelburgsche Courant. Furthermore, Lies started to offer singing and piano lessons, printed several Lieder and piano pieces and also became director of the symphony orchestra of Goes in 1894 which shows the high ambitions of the young Lies. His approach for the setting of the choir and the orchestra was also highly professional as he carried out a strict selection as Paap notes.

On 29 January 1895, the Middelburgsche Courant wrote enthusiasticly about the first concert of the orchestra which was performed for charity: “The symphony orchestra of Goes under the direction of Mr Otto Lies cooperated, and in what a way !”[2] Both the Toonkunst-choir and the orchestra continued to give concerts in half-year intervals in the following years and in November 1896, his own piece “Missa brevis pro defunctis op. 7” which is a requiem for solo singers, mixed choir and children choir, a small orchestra and organ or piano, premiered in Goes with Marie van Hoek from Arnhem as solo singer. The following two years also proofed to be successful for Lies as his third symphony in F major, his triumph march and his trio in E flat major were premiered in Arnhem. His fourth symphony was performed in Utrecht and Arnhem and his second symphony was performed in Nijmegen as well.

In the same time falls the meeting of Lies and issuer Abraham Anthony Noske who started his career with the publication of Lies' “Missa brevis pro defunctis” and several piano pieces like “Grande Polonaise pour piano” in 1896 and his German dances (“Deutsche Tänze”) for pianoforte in 1898. In 1899, Lies also made an attempt as music reviewer and started to write reviews for the Middelburgsche Courant and later also for “Caecilia”, “Het Weekblad voor Muziek” and the “Goesche Courant” (Van Zoeren 196). However, he did not get the position of director of the “Gemengde Zangvereeniging Bekker“ of Groningen for which he was nominated for election. The same happened one year later again when he was nominated for the position of chief of the local department of Alkmaar of the Maatschappij. Instead, the “Weekblad voor Muziek” published an article on him and his life in 1899. A review on his Lieder from the "Haarlemsche Courant" from 8 July 1900 did not have such a positive outcome and judged his Lieder, which were in his early years still considerably influenced by Johannes Brahms, to be “neither from a melodious nor harmonic point of view very interesting”[3] This writer, it was probably Willem Landré, the brother-in-law of the well-known singer Gerard Zalsman, was not the only one who passed criticism on Lies. The German conductor and composer Carl Johann Cleuver also tried to humble Lies which probably was due to his own jealousy as prof. Clement notes. Furthermore, Lies hoped that his former fellow student Willem Mengelberg to whom he dedicated his piano pieces "“Six intimate pieces for piano forte – in lonely hours" (“S echs intime Stücke für Pianoforte - In einsamen Stunden”) would perform and promote his works. However, this probably only happened once at a festival dedicated to Dutch music on the occasion of the anniversary of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra (Zwart).


[1] as translated by Nora Görne; original reads: “Während seiner Studienzeit hat er sich als höchst strebsam und begabt erwiesen und zu einem trefflichen Musiker herausgebildet.” (van Zoeren)

as translated by Nora Görne; original reads: “Het Goesche symphonie-orkest, onder directie van de heer Otto Lies, verleende zijne medewerking, en op welk eene wijze !” (29 Jan. 1895, Middelburgsche Courant )

[3] as translated by Nora Görne; original reads: “noch melodieus, noch uit harmonisch oogpunt zijn ze zeer interessant.” (Van Zoren, 194)

Excerpt out of 9 pages


The Life of Karl Otto Lies
Utrecht University  (Roosevelt Academy)
Music in Context
A (entspricht 1)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
431 KB
Otto Lies, Zeeland, Komponist, Middelburg, Goes, Niederlande, Holland
Quote paper
Nora Görne (Author), 2011, The Life of Karl Otto Lies, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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