Willem Pijper is one of the most important Dutch composers of the first part of the 20th century, who gained international recognition and has educated and influenced many prominent composers as teacher at the Amsterdam Conservatory. He also worked as a music critic and wrote essays for the periodical De Muziek, which he established together with Paul F. Sanders. As a critic he was partly responsible for the departure of the conductor of the Utrechts Stedelijk Orkest, Jan van Gilse.
As a composer Pijper was initially influenced by German late-Romantic composers, especially Mahler, but addressed himself soon to the impressionism of Debussy and Ravel. In the 1920’s he developed his own compositional method, the “germ cell technique”, in which a small melodic motive that is constantly transformed forms the foundation of a complete work. In this period he also made use of polyrhythmic and polytonality.
From the 1930’s onwards Pijper composed in a moderate style. His music from this period was described by Leo Samama as “the music of a disappointed man” who was not satisfied with the society in which he lived and his career. In these years he composed two operas, Halewijn and Merlijn, of which the last one remained unfinished.