PHIA BERGHOUT 1909 – 1993
Sophia Rosa Berghout was born in Rotterdam in 1909 into a musical family. Her father, Johannes Cornelis Berghout, was an all-round musician, who taught, directed choirs and chamber orchestras, and wrote church music.
Phia began her musical studies with her father at the age of five on the piano and when she was six on the violin. She took up the harp at the age of fifteen, with Rosa Spier. After a difficult choice between Chemistry and Harp, she entered the Amsterdam Conservatoire where she received degrees in orchestral as well as solo playing. Phia thoroughly enjoyed this study period, but it was also a time of financial need and she earned her living by playing with the Fritz Hirsch Operette, a musical comedy group.
From 1933 to 1945 Phia was second harp of the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. During this time she was briefly married to Johannes den Hertog. In 1945 Phia followed in her teacher’s footsteps to become principal harp until 1960, and shortly after the Second World War she also took over Rosa Spier’s harp class at the Amsterdam Conservatoire.
During an outstanding solo career Phia Berghout commissioned and – more often – inspired works from composers like Henk Badings, Hans Henkemans, Lex van Delden, Jurriaan Andriessen, Hendrik Andriessen, and Marius Flothuis. She had a long-standing duo with the Dutch flautist Hubert Barwahser and was a member of many ensembles. She recorded all the main works in the harp repertoire.
From 1974 onwards she concentrated her teaching activities in the Maastricht Conservatoire with a growing number of international students. As a teacher she was both demanding and inspiring. She insisted on musicianship and intelligence in playing and she instilled in her pupils a great commitment to the instrument.
Phia felt strongly that young musicians did not have enough opportunity to reflect upon their future career and broaden their experience of the arts. With this in mind she started the Eduard van Beinum Foundation in memory of the conductor with whom she had worked closely and whom she so much admired.
From 1960 onwards, Phia organized the International Harpweeks in Queekhoven, an old manor near Amsterdam. These were led jointly by Phia and Maria Korchinska. The Harpweeks brought together colleagues who hitherto had had no opportunity to meet harpists from other parts of the world. The number of participants grew steadily, reaching record levels of nearly 300 by the early Eighties. At this time an international board was formed to continue Phia’s work: the World Harp Congress.