Ben van Oosten

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Despite his nationality, Dutch organist Ben van Oosten has become recognized as one of the world's leading interpreters and authorities on music from the French Romantic organ school. He has especially…
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Despite his nationality, Dutch organist Ben van Oosten 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 repertory of Charles-Marie Widor, Louis Vierne, Alexandre Guilmant, and Marcel Dupré. Indeed, van Oosten has recorded the complete organ works of Widor and Vierne, and by 2007 was nearly finished with the output of Dupré. Van Oosten is also active as a teacher at the Rotterdam Conservatory and as church organist at the Grote Kerk in the Hague. He is also the author of a biography of Widor (Vater der Orgelsymphonie) and has made numerous recordings, mostly for the German label MD&G.

Ben van Oosten was born in the Hague, Netherlands, in 1955. He did not develop rapidly on the organ, giving his first recital at age 15. Still, his talents by then were remarkable and he soon enrolled at the Sweelinck Conservatory in Amsterdam, where his most important teachers were Albert de Klerk (organ) and Berthe Davelaar (piano).

Van Oosten graduated in 1979, and then traveled to Paris for further studies 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, van Oosten had visited the French capital as early as 1971 and confessed to being immediately captivated by the music of Vierne. In any event, throughout the 1980s and '90s van Oosten toured Europe and the United States, developing a large following and regularly garnering rave reviews.

By the mid-'90s, his first recordings, which included the early volumes of his Widor and Vierne cycles, were drawing international acclaim. Three times in the 1990s van Oosten was cited by the Paris-based Société Académique Arts, Sciences, Lettres for his achievements, and in 1998, the French government awarded him the prestigious title Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

In the new century 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. His recordings include the 2006 issue of Vol. 7 of the complete organ works of Dupré and the 2011 release A Festival of French Organ Music.