The Dutch cellist, Anner Bylsma [Bijlsma], received his first lessons were from a parent, in this case his father, also a multi-talented musician. At the age of 16, he enrolled at the Royal Conservatory, The Hague, to study with Carel van Leeuwen Boomkamp, principal cellist with the Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam. It was Boomkamp who introduced Bylsma to the Baroque cello. Bylsma won the school's Prix d'excellence in 1957, and after becoming the Netherlands Opera Orchestra's principal cellist, he won first prize in the Casals Competition in Mexico in 1959.
Playing with impeccable technique and a beautiful, unadulterated tone, Anner Bylsma is acknowledged as a master cellist, comfortable in a wide range of music on both both modern cello, and period instrument cello in an historically informed Baroque style. As his father, he himself was principal cellist of the Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam for six years (from 1962 to 1968). He left the orchestra to devote his performing career to solo and chamber ensemble touring. He is one of the pioneers of the 'Dutch Baroque School' and rose to fame as a partner of period flutist Frans Brüggen, harpsichordist Gustav Leonhardt, who toured extensively together and made many recordings. In the 1990’s-2000’s keyboardists Malcolm Bilson and Jos van Immerseel. He continues to be a towering figure in the Baroque cello movement. Bylsma was also a co-founder of the string chamber ensemble L'Archibudelli. As a solo performer he plays regularly with such orchestras as the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Tafelmusik, Australian Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Freiburger Barockorchester, and the 20th century music ensemble Rondom Kwartet. His chamber music partners include violinists Lucy van Dael and Catherine Manson; flautist Frans Brüggen; harpsichordists Gustav Leonhardt and Bob van Asperen.
Anner Bylsma became an Erasmus Scholar at Harvard University in 1982. He is also a noted scholar and teacher and author of Bach - The Fencing Master, a stylistic and aesthetic analysis of the first three of J.S. Bach's Cello Suites. His playing is always based on what he finds in the composers' manuscripts. However, he quickly admits that his interpretation of a work is not and should not be the only one, which he also impresses on his students. Although he doesn't like to use the term "authentic," it is in keeping with period performance that he avoids the use of steel strings, and this is a major element of his tone. Both his 1695 Gofriller cello and his 1865 Pressenda are strung with gut or silver-wrapped gut. He also has a five-string "violoncello piccolo" that he has used to record J.S. Bach's solo works.
His recordings can be found on a variety of labels, covering a variety of works, from Antonio Vivaldi to Paul Hindemith. In 1979 Bijlsma recorded the Six Suites for unaccompanied cello (BWV 1007-1012) by J.S. Bach, the first of its kind on a period instrument. He also made a second recording of the same music in 1992 on the large Servais Stradivarius and on a five-string violoncello piccolo. Many of his recordings on Sony, both as a soloist and with L'Archibudelli, have won the Edison prize, the Diapason d'or, the Liszt prize, and the Vivaldi prize.
Anner Bylsma is married to Dutch violinist Vera Beths.