German-born Dutch violinist Theo Olof had his first violin lessons from his mother in Germany. The family fled to Holland in 1933 where Olof studied with Oskar Back until Back’s death in 1963. Olof developed a close friendship with Herman Krebbers, a classmate in Amsterdam. They shared the leadership of first the Hague Philharmonic and later the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam. Their Duo Olof performed frequently over several decades.
Probably Olof’s most significant recording historically is that of Britten’s Violin Concerto in its original version. Recorded in Manchester under Barbirolli in 1948 it was not released for almost fifty years and it is thought that Britten suppressed the recording. He revised the work in 1950 and may not have wanted the original version to be available on record; other rumours suggest that he was unhappy with the choice of Olof as soloist, preferring Spaniard Antonio Brosa, who assisted with the work’s scoring. Olof’s performance is not found wanting. Like Krebbers, he has a tight vibrato but arguably a richer and rather darker tone, appropriate to this intensely brooding work. The second movement opens with a percussive yet full and sweet tone, amply supported by fine orchestral playing from the Hallé Orchestra and its charismatic conductor.
Olof recorded other twentieth-century compositions, including the Violin Concerto by Hans Henkemans, a Dutchman who combined a career as a psychiatrist with that of a composer of tonal music. The Concerto for Two Violins by Henk Badings (recorded c.1955) demonstrates well the Olof-Krebbers collaboration for whom it was written: remarkably, the two players are almost indistinguishable from each other, with tight and fast vibrato in the first movement amply transmitting Badings’s nightmarish soundscape.
In more established repertoire there is a fine 1951 Beethoven Romance in G (which should be compared with Krebbers’s Romance in F) and Mozart’s ‘Turkish’ Concerto in a strong-willed and colourful 1953 reading interesting to violin historians for its apparent use of Joachim’s edition and cadenzas.
Olof’s name is associated with the luthéal, a bizarre adaptation of the pianoforte in which the timbre can be modified to resemble a harpsichord, lute or cimbalom. Olof researched the instrument after discovering that Ravel intended his Tzigane for luthéal accompaniment: his 1980 recording, using the ‘correct’ instrumentation, is a genuine curiosity.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Milsom (A–Z of String Players, Naxos 8.558081-84)
Role: Classical Artist