27 May

Dolf van der Linden

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Dolf van der Linden (real name David Gysbert van der Linden) was born in the Dutch fishing village of Vlaardingen on 22 June 1915.

He was the son of a music dealer who owned several musical instrument shops. His first direct contact with music was at the age of seven when his father, himself an excellent player, gave him his first violin lesson, as well as tuition in music theory. Very soon music became the only thing in life that mattered, and this accounts for him leaving school at an early age, to enter his father's business as an aspiring piano tuner.


His father, who wished to see his son's education continued, engaged the services of a private teacher. This attempt was also doomed to failure as the teacher, an amateur pianist, was more interested in making music rather than in giving lessons, and once again the violin replaced the school book.

Dolf went on to study the art of composition at an Academy where he continued to learn violin and piano playing.

Since the very beginning of his career, Dolf was particularly interested in light symphonic music and jazz, and especially in improvisation.

Music dominated his every action, and even holidays were spent travelling through the country as a street musician, It was at this period of his life that he began to compose, and even his first efforts were sufficiently attractive to have aroused the interest of one of the leading musicians at a Dutch radio station.

Dolf van der Linden always longed to conduct his own orchestra and it wasn't long before he had collected a number of musicians together from local bands, forming an orchestra which played at local events.

When Dolf was sixteen he obtained a position as organist at a theatre in his birthplace, where he remained for a number of years before leaving for a more important post. The economic crisis at the beginning of the 1930s, however, was making itself felt, and very soon the young musician was looking around again for a new job. He tried everything from contacting leading orchestras to playing in dance bands and other small orchestral combinations. At one time he was an arranger for a dance band which toured from town to town. Between 1936 and 1939 he became a regular arranger for different radio orchestras.

In 1939 Dolf wrote a lengthy paraphrase on a well known theme, which he submitted to Radio Hilversum. An engagement as arranger-composer followed and everything seemed perfect - at least, until the Second World War came along. During the war he was captured by the Germans and forced to do hard labour in Germany. Eventually he escaped and reached Holland after several months. Helped by friends, he went into hiding until the war ended.

After the liberation, Dolf played with a small ensemble in a club for Canadian officers in a street called 'Parklaan'. This was the origin of his famous signature tune "Parklane Serenade". It has become famous, not only amongst all lovers of light music in the Netherlands, but far beyond his country's frontiers as well.

After the war years, Dolf van der Linden set to work on the realisation of the plans which he had worked out during the intervening years of forced musical inactivity. It wasn't long before he was approached by the local broadcasting authorities Herrijzend Nederland (Rising Netherlands) and asked to form an orchestra of 40 musicians specialising in light music This was just the chance he had been waiting for, and he set to work at once putting his ideas into practice. A careful choice of musicians and vocal artists - and the famous Metropole Orchestra was born! The name 'Metropole' was invented by one of the musicians, and their very first broadcast took place on 25 November 1945.

Under Dolf's leadership, The Metropole Orchestra became one of the finest ensembles of its kind in Europe This was due in no small measure to the fact that Dolf succeeded in happily combining his own enthusiasm and aspirations with the outstanding technical qualities of the Metropole Orchestra and its talented musicians.

With Dolf at the helm, the Metropole Orchestra became an essential part of the music scene, not only in the Netherlands, but in many European countries as well

In addition to his normal radio and recording activities, Dolf also made a number of successful guest appearances with the British Broadcasting Corporation, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Belgian, French and Dutch radios, as well as Israel. Dolf was also regularly invited to England. During the Nord Ring Festival in 1977 Dolf won an award (given once only) for the best conductor. In September 1981 he conducted the BBC Radio Orchestra in Jersey at the Nord Ring Festival where the Dutch team were awarded the first prize and named as Festival winners.

When the British Musicians' Union prevented production music companies from making recordings, they turned to Europe - thus opening up fresh opportunities for Dolf and his orchestra. Under his own name they recorded for Paxton; as 'Nat Nyll' he made many records for Boosey & Hawkes; for Charles Brull Dolf became 'David Johnson', etc. Not only was Dolf's orchestra in demand, but the mood music libraries soon recognised that they had a talented composer at their disposal as well. His unique sounds were welcomed by more than a dozen publishers, and Atmosphere and KPM have gradually making some of his original works available once again on new CDs.

Dolf van der Linden certainly made his mark as a composer. His compositions exceed 200; he also wrote the music for several Dutch films, numerous radio plays, lyrical dramas and operettas. Apart from his signature tune, some of his best-known works include ‘Blow the Horn’, Humoresque for Strings’, ‘Forest Fantasy’, Pennsylvania Dutch’, ‘Jack the Dancer’, ‘Riding into Happiness’, ‘Jamaica Road’ and ‘Factory Town’.

The Metropole Orchestra of the 1950s and 1960s did not make as many commercial albums as their admirers would have wished. Even when they did visit the recording studios, it was often as 'anonymous' ensembles conducted by 'Daniel de Carlo' or 'Van Lynn', but at least they were released in the USA as well as Europe.

Dolf’s own views on the nature of his music are revealed in the sleeve notes for the Capitol album 'Bachelor's Apartment': "I try to find the way to the heart of everyone. My great love is my orchestra -my music - and I envisage music as being a combination of wonderful colours. I like the natural sound of musical instruments - I detest technical tricks - and only music that comes to you healthy and clean can speak directly to your heart. This is language without words."

Dolf married in 1935, and he had two sons and two daughters. He died on 30 January 1999 aged 83.

David Ades

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About Geoff 123
Geoff Leonard was born in Bristol. He spent much of his working career in banking but became an independent record producer in the early nineties, specialising in the works of John Barry and British TV theme compilations.
He also wrote liner notes for many soundtrack albums, including those by John Barry, Roy Budd, Ron Grainer, Maurice Jarre and Johnny Harris. He co-wrote two biographies of John Barry in 1998 and 2008, and is currently working on a biography of singer, actor, producer Adam Faith.
He joined the Internet Movie Data-base (www.imdb.com) as a data-manager in 2001 and looked after biographies, composers and the music-department, amongst other tasks. He retired after nine years loyal service in order to continue writing.