• 1934 — 2019
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Playing with impeccable technique and a beautiful, unadulterated tone, Anner Bylsma was acknowledged as a master cellist, comfortable in a wide range of music on both period and modern cellos.
As they were for many gifted musicians, Bylsma's first lessons were from a parent, in this case his father, also a multi-talented musician. At the age of 16, he enrolled at the Royal Conservatory, The Hague, to study with Carel van Leeuwen Boomkamp, principal cellist with the Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam. It was Boomkamp who introduced Bylsma to the Baroque cello. Bylsma won the school's Prix d'excellence in 1957, and after becoming the Netherlands Opera Orchestra's principal cellist, he won first prize in the Casals Competition in Mexico in 1959. He himself then became principal cellist of the Concertgebouw in 1962. Six years later he left the orchestra to devote his performing career to solo and chamber ensemble touring. His chamber music collaborators often included period flutist Frans Brüggen, harpsichordist Gustav Leonhardt, and in the 1990s-2000s keyboardists Malcolm Bilson and Jos van Immerseel. Bylsma was also a co-founder of the string chamber ensemble L'Archibudelli. As a solo performer he plays regularly with such orchestras as the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Tafelmusik, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Freiburger Barock, and the 20th century music ensemble Rondom Kwartet.
Bylsma was also a noted scholar and teacher, and author of Bach, the Fencing Master, about the first three of Bach's Cello Suites. His playing was always based on what he found in the composers' manuscripts. However, he quickly admitted that his interpretation of a work was not and should not be the only one, which he also impressed on his students. Although he didn't like to use the term "authentic," it was in keeping with period performance that he avoided the use of steel strings, and this was a major element of his tone. Both his 1695 Gofriller cello and his 1865 Pressenda were strung with gut or silver-wrapped gut. He also had a five-string "violoncello piccolo" that he used to record Bach's solo works.
His recordings can be found on a variety of labels, covering a variety of works, from Vivaldi to Hindemith. Many of his recordings on Sony, both as a soloist and with L'Archibudelli, have won the Edison prize, the Diapason d'or, the Liszt prize, and the Vivaldi prize.
Bylsma was married to violinist Vera Beths. He died in late July 2019.