Pijper, Willem. (1894–1947) [Monteux, Pierre. (1875–1964)]
"The fate of us 'neutrals' (in name, of course) is above all to pay for the stupidity of dictators" - Autograph Letters Signed to Monteux
Pair of ALS from the Dutch composer to the great conductor concerning life during World War II, both written on A4 Maatschappij tot Bevordering der Toonkunst ("Society for the Promotion of Music Arts, Rotterdam") stationary. The first (12 October 1939; 2 pp.) reflects on the importance of the arts even in such troubled times. In part (translated from the French): "I don't believe I will find a way to help with one of those lovely concerts under your baton. Especially since it is forbidden for us to drive a car on Sundays... You know, the fate of us 'neutrals' (in name, of course) is above all to pay for the stupidity of dictators. Without being able to do anything against aggressions and without a way to defend European culture. It rests on us to enter combat, with nothing but our habit of making art which will be of use to our grandsons, to show them that even in 1939 we held onto the need to think of music." The second (16 April 1940; 1 p.), in part: "Life grows more and more difficult. There are those who suffer an incredible amount of uncertainty. As for us, we continue to work and stay standing. The composition of an opera seems ridiculous, against the "reality" of war and with next to Germany in 1940. All the same, I know that my lot is simple: compose music." Expected mailing folds, some unobtrusive damage to left margin of second letter, else fine.
Pijper, one of the most important Dutch composers of the first half of the twentieth century, spent the last six years of his life working on Merlijn, an opera based around Arthurian legend. It was never completed, and he died of cancer at the age of 52.
The great conductor Pierre Monteux was known for conducting the premiere of the Rite of Spring and for his tenures with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Orchestre Symphonique de Paris, and the San Francisco Symphony.