Hubert du Plessis was born on a farm in the Malmesbury district, Cape Province, on 7 June 1922. After passing Matric at Porterville High School, he studied at Stellenbosch University (1940-1943) where he obtained a BA, with Music and English as main subjects. His first composition teacher was William Henry Bell, with whom he studied from 1942 to 1944. Bell was the retired Head of the South African College of Music in Cape Town. From 1944 du Plessis was a senior demonstrator at Rhodes University College in Grahamstown. Here he completed his BMus and received instruction in composition from Friedrich Hartmann. In 1951 du Plessis went to London to study at the Royal Academy of Music, where his composition teachers were Alan Bush and Howard Ferguson. On his return to South Africa in 1954, du Plessis taught at the Universities of Cape Town and Stellenbosch, and in 1958 he was appointed to a full-time post at Stellenbosch. Here he remained until his retirement in 1982. He received an honorary doctorate from the University of Stellenbosch in 1989.


Du Plessis is a versatile musician who appeared in public as a pianist, harpsichord player and accompanist. As a lecturer he has influenced many of his students. His books are on Bach, the correspondence between W.H. Bell and himself, and the genesis of his choral work Die dans van die reën. As a composer du Plessis is particularly attracted to vocal composition. He completed 77 songs on Afrikaans, Dutch, German, English and French texts. These songs prove him to be a very close reader of poetry. From 1958 du Plessis used Afrikaans and Cape Malay folksongs as significant elements in his compositions. During his London period he started writing some serial compositions, but his music remains bound to tonality. Du Plessis’s sense of memento mori is often mirrored in his compositions, from the Seven Preludes (1956), dedicated to the memory of the pianist Noel Mewton-Wood, to the Sonata for solo cello (1991), the second movement of which has the Gregorian chant inscription Media vita in morte sumus. A complete chapter on du Plessis (by Edward Aitchison) is included in Composers in South Africa Today, edited by Peter Klatzow (Cape Town, Oxford University Press,1987, pp. 33–75).


Du Plessis is op 7 Junie 1922 op ’n plaas in die distrik Malmesbury, Kaapprovinsie, gebore. Nadat hy matriek aan die Hoërskool Porterville geslaag het, studeer hy aan die Universiteit van Stellenbosch (1940–1943) waar hy BA met Musiek en Engels as hoofvakke verwerf. Sy eerste komposisieleermeester was W.H. Bell by wie hy van 1942 tot 1944 studeer het. Bell was die afgetrede hoof van die South African College of Music in Kaapstad. Van 1944 was Du Plessis ’n senior demonstrator by die Rhodes Universiteitskollege in Grahamstad. Hier voltooi hy die graad BMus en ontvang komposisie-onderrig van Friedrich Hartmann. In 1951 vertrek Du Plessis na Londen en studeer aan die Royal Academy of Music waar Alan Bush en Howard Ferguson sy komposisieleermeesters was. Na sy terugkeer na Suid-Afrika in 1954 het Du Plessis aan die Universiteit van Kaapstad en die Universiteit van Stellenbosch klasgegee. In 1958 word hy in ’n voltydse pos op Stellenbosch aangestel. Hier het hy gewerk tot sy aftrede in 1982. In 1989 het die Universiteit van Stellenbosch ’n eredoktorsgraad aan hom toegeken.


Du Plessis is ’n veelsydige musikus wat in die openbaar as pianis, klavesimbelspeler en begeleier opgetree het. As ’n dosent het hy ’n groot aantal van sy studente beïnvloed. Die onderwerpe van sy boeke is Bach, die briefwisseling tussen hom en W.H. Bell, en die ontstaan van sy koorwerk Die dans van die reën. As ’n komponis is Du Plessis veral aangetrek tot vokale komposisie. Hy het 77 liedere op Afrikaanse, Nederlandse, Duitse, Engelse en Franse tekste gekomponeer. Hierdie liedere bewys dat hy ’n baie nougesette leser van die gedigte is. Van 1958 het Du Plessis Afrikaanse en Maleise volksliedere as belangrike elemente in sy komposisies begin gebruik. Tydens sy Londense tydperk skryf hy ’n aantal seriële komposisies, maar sy musiek bly tonaal gebonde. Du Plessis se bewustheid van memento mori word dikwels in sy musiek gereflekteer, vanaf die Sewe preludes (1956), opgedra ter nagedagtenis aan die pianis Noel Mewton-Wood, tot die Sonata vir solo-tjello (1991), waarvan die tweede deel die opskrif van die Gregoriaanse cantus Media vita in morte sumus dra. ’n Volledige hoofstuk oor Du Plessis (deur Edward Aitchison) is ingesluit in Composers in South Africa Today, geredigeer deur Peter Klatzow (Kaapstad, Oxford University Press,1987, pp. 33–75).



Choral and Orchestral Works:


Symphony, op.14

1954


Slamse beelde, op.21

solo vv, chorus, orch, 1959


Die dans van die reën, op.22

solo vv, chorus, orch, 1960


Music after 3 Paintings by Henri Rousseau, op.24

orch, 1962


Suid-Afrika: nag en daeraad, op.29

S, chorus, orch, 1966


En boplaas sing koortal, op.32

SATB, 1970;


Requiem aeternam, op.39

chorus, 1975


Festival Suite, op.44

chbr orch, 1978


Krokos, op.48

SATB, 1983


Hugenote-kantate, op.51

solo vv, SATB, orch, 1986–7


Chamber and Solo Instrumental Works:


4 Piano Pieces, op.1

1945


6 Miniatures, op.3

pf, 1949


Sonata no.1, op.8

pf, 1952


String Quartet, op.13

1953


7 Preludes, op.18

pf, 1956


Piano Trio, op.20

1960


Inspiré par mes chats, suite, op.27

pf, 1964


4 Pieces, op.28

pf, 1965


When I was a Child, suite, op.33

pf, 1971


Sonata no.2, op.40

pf, 1975


10 Pf Pieces for Children and Young People, op.41

1975


Sonata, op.43

va, 1977


Sonata, op.52

vc, 1991



Songs for Violin and Piano:


4 herfsliedere (Du Plessis)

1944


5 liedekens (P. van Ostaijen), op.2

1946


Herbst (R.M. Rilke), op.4

1946


In den ronde (H. Marsman), op.5

1945–8


2 middelnederlandse liedere, op.6

1949–52


Vreemde liefde (I.D. du Plessis)

1951


6 galgenlieder (C. Morgenstern), op.9

1952


5 Invocations (Webster, Fletcher), op.12

1953


3 Sonnets from the Portuguese (E.B. Browning), op.15

1954, rev. 1973


4 slampamperliedjies (C. Louis Leipoldt), op.23

1961


Die vrou (E. Eybers, Bible: Song of Solomon, Marsman, Morgenstern), op.30

1966


3 nokturnes (Totius, E. van Heerden, E. Marais), op.36

1974


3 liefdesliedere, op.37

1974 (G. Bredero, P. van Ostaijen, Bible: Samuel)


10 Boerneef-toonsettings, op.38

1974–5


3 kabaretliedere (H. Aucamp), op.45

1978


3 komische Lieder (C. Morgenstern), op.49

1983


Principal publishers: Novello; Studio Holland (Cape Town); HAUM (Cape Town); UNISA (Johannesburg); DALRO (Johannesburg); Voortrekkerpers (Johannesburg)

 

DU PLESSIS, Hubert Lawrence


(b. Malmesbury, 7 June 1922)