Although Bernard van Dieren is not, and never has been well known to the concert going public, he has been highly praised in the writings of many musicians. Constant Lambert, in the preface to the second edition of "Music Ho"(1936), described him as one of the two major musicians of the day, the other being Alban Berg; and Sorabji (in "Mi contra fa") stated that his intellectual and artistic greatness could only be compared with da Vinci or Michelangelo, and to those few who knew his work regarded him as "one of the supreme masters of modern times".
His compositions include two symphonies, an opera : The Tailor, two violin sonatas, some piano pieces and many songs. His choral Chinese Symphony uses the same poems as Mahler used in Das Lied von der Erde. The first performance was conducted by Constant Lambert, using a copy of the score which had been made by Peter Warlock, who was another musician greatly influenced by and devoted to the music of van Dieren.
An almost complete list of his compositions can be found in the 2001 edition of Grove’s Dictionary of music and musicians. One piano composition not included in Grove is his "6 Skizzen", which were published by Universal Edition of Vienna in 1921. Two further piano works were published in England by the Oxford University Press : "12 Netherlands Melodies" and "Tema con Variazione" (1st published in 1927 and 1928). Of these especially the (simple 8 bar) Theme and 14 Variations repay study if a copy can be found.
Christened Bernard Helene Joseph, van Dieren was born of a Dutch father and a Dutch/French mother. As a child he studied the violin, but at school was trained for a scientific career. In 1908, when he left school he took up music full time, as a largely self taught composer. In 1909, he left The Netherlands to follow Frida Kindler (who was a pianist who had studied with Busoni) to London where he married her in 1910. In 1911 and 1912 he visited Berlin as a music correspondent. While there he met Schönberg and Busoni, with whom he long remained a friend. From 1912 until the end of his life he suffered from renal calculi, and was frequently confined to bed with very severe attacks of renal pain. Sorabji in his book "Mi Contra Fa", chapter 19, writes affectionately both as an admirer and friend, and describes a highly intellectual, brave and kind man.
Apart from composition, he wrote many essays on music, some of which were published in the book "Down among the Dead Men"(OUP 1935), in which he writes readably sometimes amusingly, as well as approvingly on such unfashionable subjects as the Operas of Meyerbeer.
Although his complex music has never been and is not likely to become popular or be widely performed, much of it is highly original and will certainly repay study by the serious musician.