Aafje Heynis was born in Krommenie in 1924. At the age of four she sang in a children's choir as well as with her father at the harmonium. On the advice of Jan Mienes, the conductor of the choral society in her native town, she auditioned for teacher Jo Immink in Amsterdam with an arrangement of the "Pilgrims' Chorus" from Richard Wagner's Tannhäuser. From 1946 to 1949 her singing teacher was Aaltje Noordewier-Reddingius and she was also advised by Laurens Bogtman, the great oratorio singer.
She quickly established her reputation, to begin with in the field of oratorio. With her performance in Johannes Brahms' Alto Rhapsody with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra under the direction of Eduard van Beinum, she attracted wide attention. She performed many concerts in churches, Lieder recitals, and numerous performances of Johann Sebastian Bach's St Matthew Passion. For the Philips label she made a whole series of recordings of works by Brahms, Bach, George Frideric Handel and Felix Mendelssohn.
However, Aafje Heynis showed a particular preference for Gustav Mahler, one consequence of which was a legendary recording of his Symphony No. 2 with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Bernard Haitink.
- Bach, Handel : Sacred Arias, Pierre Palla, Walther Schneiderhan (violinist), Nikolaus Hübner, Meindert Boekel ; Vienna Symphony Orchestra, Amsterdam Chamber Orchestra, Prop Musica Choir ; Dir. Hans Gillesberger, Marinus Voorberg, Lex Karsemeijer.
- Bach : Cantatas BWV 170 & 169, Sacred Songs, Albert de Klerk, Simon Jansen ; Netherlands Chamber Orchestra, Netherlands Bach Society Choir, Szymon Goldberg.
- Brahms : Choral Works & Overtures. Vienna Singverein, Vienna Symphony Orchestra; Dir. Wolfgang Sawallisch.
- Brahms : Alto Rhapsody, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Apollo Royal Male Choir, Eduard Van Beinum (1958).
- Brahms, Vier ernste Gesänge, piano : Johan van den Boogert (1958).
- Mahler : Symphony No. 2 "Resurrection", Elly Ameling, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Netherlands Radio Chorus, Bernard Haitink, 1968.
- Schubert : Rosamunde, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Bernard Haitink.
- Het Puik van zoete kelen (The Cream of Glorious Voices) Philips Dutch Masters 464 385-2 (includes her performance "Sea Slumber Song" by Edward Elgar)
- Les rarissimes de Aafje Heinis : Gluck, Haydn, Dorjak, Franck, Caplet, Brahms, Schuinbert, R. Strauss, Wolf, Mahler (EMI, 2005)
- MusicWeb reviews of Philips Bach and Handel arias CD, accessed 21 January 2010
- Dutch Divas - Aafje Heynis, contralto
- Dutch Divas - Aafje Heynis - zangeres zonder pretenties (Dutch – more extensive set of five pages)
- Six Dutch Contraltos (includes MP3 of Sir Edward Elgar's Sea Slumber Song)
- Bach Cantatas page on Aafje Heynis
- Aafje Heynis at the Internet Movie Database