Quite unexpectedly, the Dutch bass baritone Pieter Vis (1949-2017) has died. On Thursday 28 September he succumbed to a cerebral haemorrhage, at the age of 68. Only shortly before he had shared a post on Facebook from the radio programme De ochtend van vier. – under his pen name Pyoter Riba, the Russian translation of his name
Ever since he discovered this social medium, he showed himself a prolific user, tirelessly liking and complimenting the posts of anyone who had anything to say about classical music. In him, Dutch musical life loses an animated musician. His timeline at once filled with shocked reactions about his sudden death.
Pieter Vis was one of the warmest, most cordial and collegial musicians I’ve ever known. Our first contact dates back to 1997, when I was making a programme series on women composers for VARA Radio 4. In those days it was even more difficult to find recordings of composing ladies than today. Looking for music from disregarded composers such as Catharina van Rennes, Hendrika van Tussenbroek and Bertha Tideman-Weyers, I often hit on his name. – As a boy soprano, as bass or baritone, but also as conductor. By telephone he gladly answered all my questions and provided me with valuable tips.
Hereafter I somewhat lost sight of Pieter, because he moved in a different musical circuit. He made his name in the world of church music and began his career as a boy soprano. As a soloist, he regularly performed with the Rotterdam boys‘ choir, but he also sang solo parts with the renowned Wiener Sängerknaben.
As a teenager he studied singing with, among others, the contralto Annie Hermes. In addition he took lessons in song and opera interpretation with stars such as the soprano Marie-Cécile Moerdijk soprano and the bass baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. He won various national and international prizes and performed at the Festivals of Flanders, Salzburg and Berliner Festwochen.
A few years ago, Pieter again crossed my path through Facebook, which he – and I – had just discovered. Seconds after I had posted a message, he had already liked it, as he did with the posts of all his followers. Enthusiastically he shared and or commented on them, posting videos and pictures of his own performances from past and present.
Pieter had a fabulous memory and great knowledge of Dutch musical life, which he shared without interest. How he found the time to actively follow so many people, is a mystery to me. Meanwhile he continued to perform, organize concerts and guide young people on their way to a professional career.
A number of times he said a „final“ farewell to his vocal career. Yet singing was so much in his blood he just could not give it up, and he mounted the stage again and again. After his umpteenth farewell, I heard him in a recital with Dutch opera music in Museum Kröller-Muller. For me, his warm voice and spirited interpretation formed the highlight of the concert. On his website, we read that on December 16, 2018, ‚the curtain will definitely fall for the Dutch concert singer and musicologist Pieter Vis‘. He will not make it to this very last of final performances – henceforth Pieter will sing in heaven. Thea Derks