Sem Dresden

Biographical information

Full nameSamuel "Sem"•Dresden
Used nameSem•Dresden
Born20 April 1881 in Amsterdam, Noord-Holland (NED)
Died31 July 1957 in Den Haag (The Hague), Zuid-Holland (NED)
NOC Netherlands


Sem Dresden, the son of a diamond trader, first studied violin and piano, then composition at the Amsterdam Conservatory, and later composition and conducting at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin (1903-05). After returning to the Netherlands, he worked as a conductor in various places before founding the Motet and Madrigal Society in Amsterdam, which he directed from 1914-26. In addition to early music, he also promoted modernism and in 1918 co-founded the Nederlandsche Vereeniging tot Ontwikkeling der Moderne Scheppende Toonkunst (Dutch Society for the Development of Modern Creative Music).

From 1919 Dresden taught composition at the Conservatory in Amsterdam and served as its director from 1924-37. He then became director of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Den Haag, but in 1940, as a Jew, was removed from office by the Nazi occupation authorities. After liberation in 1945, he was reinstated to his post, which he held until 1949.

As music critic for De Telegraaf from 1923-27, Dresden contributed much to the dissemination of new music. He published several writings, including the book “Het Muziekleven in Nederlands sinds 1880” (Musical Life in the Netherlands since 1880). His compositions show both French and German influences with a distinct Dutch flavor. His oeuvre includes Chorus tragicus for choir and orchestra, variations for orchestra, a violin concerto, a sinfonietta for clarinet and orchestra, and numerous chamber music works.


Games Sport (Discipline) / Event NOC / Team Phase Unit Role As
1928 Summer Olympics Art Competitions NED Sem Dresden
Music, Compositions For Orchestra, Open (Olympic) Final Standings Judge
Music, Compositions For Solo Or Chorus, Open (Olympic) Final Standings Judge
Music, Instrumental And Chamber, Open (Olympic) Final Standings Judge