Ben van Oosten
The Dutch organist, professor and author Ben van Oosten gave his first organ recital in 1970 at the age of 15. He was accepted at the prestigious Sweelinck Conservatory in Amsterdam and studied the organ with Albert de Klerk and piano with Berthe Davelaar. He graduated cum laude in 1979 with a diploma in organ solo. He completed advanced studies in Paris, France, with organist/composer André Isoir and with organ virtuoso Daniel Roth.
While his Paris student years may have bolstered his interest in the French Romantic organ school, Ben van Oosten had visited the French capital as early as 1971 and confessed to being immediately captivated by the music of Vierne. Since 1970 his numerous highly successful concert tours have taken him to the foremost international organ venues, where he has emerged as one of the most remarkable organ virtuosos of our time. In any event, throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s he toured Europe and the USA, developing a large following and regularly garnering rave reviews.
Whether by geographical influence or artistic choice, Ben van Oosten gravitated toward the French Romantic Organ school of the 19th century that had its origins in the new symphonic organs of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. Despite his nationality, he has become recognized as one of the world’s leading interpreters and authorities on music from the French Romantic organ school. He has especially been associated with the repertoire of Charles-Marie Widor, Louis Vierne, Alexandre Guilmant, and Marcel Dupré.
Besides maintaining a heavy recital schedule and an active private teaching practice, Ben van Oosten serves as Titular Organist of the Grote Kerk in The Hague and Artistic Director of the international organ festival that takes place annually in that church. He is Professor of Organ at the Rotterdam Conservatoire and gives organ master-classes in many countries. He has also written the comprehensive Widor biography Charles-Marie Widor - Vater der Orgelsymphonie (Charles-Marie Widor - Father of The Organ Symphony), dedicated to the life and work of the composer.
Ben van Oosten has made numerous recordings, mostly for the German label MD&G. He has recorded the complete organ works of Charles-Marie Widor (1993-1998) and Louis Vierne (1997-2001), Marcel Dupré (2000-2007), and Camille Saint-Saëns (2012), the complete organ sonatas of Alexandre Guilmant (2007), as well as organ works of J.S. Bach (1983), Jacques-Nicolas Lemmens (2000), Louis James Alfred Lefébure-Wély (2005), and ‘A Festival of French Organ Music’ (2011). His recordings have been awarded many international prizes and awards, among them the Echo Klassik, the Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik, the Choc du Monde de la Musique and the Diapason d’Or.
In the new century Ben van Oosten has remained active in all phases of his career, even extending his teaching pursuits to include master-classes: his October 2004 master classes in Waldsassen, Germany, were reportedly invaluable experiences for those in attendance and culminated in a memorable van Oosten concert that included works by Widor and Vierne. Since many years he directs masterclasses in the Haarlem Summer Academy.
Among the honors and awards Ben van Oosten has received are the Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik and the Diapason d’Or. Three times in the 1990’s he was cited by the Paris-based Société Académique Arts, Sciences, Lettres for his services to French organ culture. In 1998, the French government awarded him the honorary rank of Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres for his efforts in reviving the French Romantic tradition, and in 2011 and Officier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In 2010 he was made a Knight of the Order of the Dutch Lion by the Queen of The Netherlands.