Belgian Art Song Database

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In this section the life and work of some composers that were very active around the turn of the 20th century are presented. The section starts with the works of the Eduard Keurvels (1853-1917) and Leon Du Bois (1859-1935). They are followed by the avant-garde composer, Eugène Samuel-Holeman (1863-1942) son of Adolphe Samuel. The friends August De Boeck (1865-1937) and Paul Gilson (1865-1942) lived during the same era and were very influential. The last three composers of the section are Desire Pâque (1867-1939), a cosmopolitan and early advocate of atonality, the lyricist Lodewijk Mortelmans (1868-1952), and one of Franck's students, Guillaume Lekeu (1870-1894), who unfortunately died at the age of 24.
Eduard Keurvels (Antwerp 1853 - Hoogboom-Ekeren 1917)

Keurvel studied piano and violin at the Flemish School of Music in Antwerp and was Peter Benoit's student for harmony, counterpoint, and composition. He was mainly active as conductor and co-founded the Flemish Opera (1893). He worked at the Royal Flemish Conservatory and established the Peter Benoit-Fonds in 1902. His compositions range from chamber music to operas, while including songs and music for the violin. 

Art Songs (Non-Exhaustive List):

Waarom en Weet Ik niet (Floris van Westervoort) published in Ghent: Paul Struyf  ? Nederlandsche Zangeskunst
Ware ik (Floris van Westervoort) published by Gust Faes: Antwerpen
De Zee ruischt in de Verte (Van Oye) published by Vlaamsche Muziekhandel John Bode-Vinck: Antwerpen 
Zoo Groen was het Veld (S. Rippe) published by Vlaamsche Muziekhandel: Antwerpen, Jan Boucherij
Daar was ereis een meisken published in Berchem, 1935 
Duizende oogen Heeft de Nacht (Van Oye) published by Vlammsche Muziekhandel
Maartviooltjes (van Oye)
Wiegenliedje (Leo Boucherij) published by Maatschappij tot Nut van 't Algemeen, 1928
's Avonds published in Brussels, 1916 
Veldlied
Leon Du Bois (Brussels 1859 - Brussels 1935)

Du Bois studied at the Brussels Conservatory and won the Belgian Prix de Rome in 1885 with the cantata Au bois des elfes. He worked mainly as a conductor and was elected director of the Brussels Conservatory in 1912, where he stayed until his retirement in 1925. Du Bois composed only 13 songs and his music shows the influence of Wagner.

Art Songs (Non-Exhaustive List):

Chansons de Flandre (Camille Lemonnier) published in Brussels: Cyrille Kerkhofs, 1911
Le Reliquaire d'amour: poème en six chants de Lucien Solvay, published in Bruxelles: Fernand Lauweryns. Republished in Huntsville, Texas: Recital Publications, 2007
  1. Hélas! j'ai perdu pour jamais 
  2. Je veux étouffer mes douleurs
  3. Sa voix étais si fraîche 
  4. Oh! les premiers aveux 
  5. Heure supreme, heure adorée! 
  6. Reliques du passé, soleil de ma jeunesse
Soir religieux (Emil van Arenbergh) published by edition musicale: L'art Belge: Brussels
Eugène Samuel-Holeman (Schaerbeck 1863 - Etterbeek 1942)

The son of Alphonse Samuel, Samuel-Holeman studied piano and theory with his father at the conservatory of Ghent, after having had an education in philosophy and literature. He lived the most part of his life in France as a freelance musician, conductor and pianist. He was an avant-garde composer and as early as 1883 he was composing with whole tone scales. In 1896 he published a study on them. Later he became interested in overtone series (Mutation en diaphonie moderne - turning points in modern diafonie) and atonality. His mostly vocal compositions are often called austere and can be seen as a reaction against the late romantic orchestral music of the time. He is sometimes named in a line with Debussy and Satie. His most successful work was ?La jeune fille à la fenêtre? (Camille Lemonnier) produced at the Paris opera in 1914. He composed numerous songs. 

Art Songs (Non-Exhaustive List):

Voix éparses, feuilles mortes, 1896
La jeune fille à la fenêtre (Lyrique prose) for Mezzo, oboe, horn, harp, and quartet published in Bruxelles: Breitkopf & Haertel, 1890  and 1904
Elisabeth, reine des Belges (Tenor and piano) 1914
Berceuse (Frank Withold) voice and piano or harp published Bruxelles: Fernand Lauweryns, 1927
Deux poèmes de José Hennebicq published in Bruxelles: J.B. Katto, 1900s (for Jane Bathori)
  1. Les cloches en la nuit
  2. Adieu
Allégresse
Amour perdu!
Colloque sentimental
La fête galante (mezzo)
La tombe anonyme
Les heures dolentes
Les saisons mystiques
Obsession with String quartet or piano
Sonnet (Contralto en piano)
August De Boeck (Merchtem 1865 - Merchtem 1937)

August de Boeck's main instrument was the organ like his father. He entered the Royal Conservatory of Music in Brussels in 1880, where one year later he obtained an organ prize (teacher Alphonse Mailly). His musical career was as an organist at different Belgian churches and as musical educator. In 1909 De Boeck was appointed teacher of harmony at the Royal Flemish Conservatory of Music in Antwerp, succeeding his teacher and friend Paul Gilson in the position. In 1920 he took on the same function at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Brussels. To this, he added the position of director of the Municipal Conservatory in Mechelen in 1921. De Boeck retired in 1930. He started with composing orchestral works, but vocal music takes up the bigger part in his creations. Opera, cantatas, and songs are dominant. The success of a new opera house in Antwerp producing Flemish operas (the Flemish Opera) surely encouraged composers in the area to write for the genre. Four of de Boeck's operas were premiered there: Théroigne de Méricourt (1901), Winternachtsdroom (1902), Rijndwergen (Rhine Dwarfs, 1906), and Reinaert de Vos (1909). His late opera La Route d'Emeraude (1921) was in French and premiered at the 'Grand Théâtre' at Ghent. Although writing large works, de Boeck was at his best in short pieces, where his spontaneity and humor could shine. His Songs and piano pieces show his real talent. Musical influences can be traced back to Wagner, the Russian national school - especially Rimsky-Korsakov, and impressionism. De Boeck composed approximately 100 songs on French and Dutch texts. 

Art Songs (Non-Exhaustive List):

Bruiloftslied (Jan Lindemans) published by De Ring edition, 1925
Seven French Songs (Jeanne Cuisinier) published by Georges Oertel: bruxelles, 1911-1915
  1. Eclosion
  2. Eté
  3. Fidélité
  4. Sonnet 
  5. Elégie
  6. Mystère
  7. Le don
Goede nacht (Conscience) 1914
Epitaphe/ Hulde (van Lerberghe) published by Les editions modernes: Bruxelles, 1937
Het groetend kindje 
Hoe zal ik, sprak hij
In de lente
In het woud  (GJP van Straaten) French and German (Mezzo and orchestra)  Editions moderns
L'église paysanne  (middel voice and string orchestra) published by maison du conservatoire
L'église paysanne (Tenor and piano) published by Maison du conservatoire
L'enfant au berceau (Felix de la Motte) published by Edition Modernes, Georges Vriamont
Le cantique de Notre-dame de Beauraing
Le joli mois de mai - De mooiste maand is mei (Parose E Huys - duet) published by Les Edition Modernes: Bruxelles, copyright 1937
Pour tes dents de nacre
Stances à Marylyse
Vrede
De drie Maria's published by the David's Fonds, 1913 
Mignonne, published by Maison Beethoven Bruxelles
L?angelus (de la Montagne) published by Edition d?art Belge, 1911
Mijn Liedjes (Karel Casteels) published by De Ring, 1929 
C'est en toi, bien-aimé - 't Is in u, zoetste lief (Ch. Van Lerberghe) published by Edition Jean Pletinckx: Bruxelles
Nu wil ik treuren published by G Faes: Antwerp
Wilde Wanhoop (Jan de Smedt)
Vliegt de blauwvoet 
Twee horsen
Ten strijde (L Du Castillon) published by Jan Boucherij edition: Antwerp
Soirée de septembre published by Edition L'art Belge: Mme Gaby Maas  
Vijftien liederen: op gedichten van Theodoor Van Rijswijck: Antwerp
Van Twee Kwiksteerten (De Winde)
Wat veuzelt in het loover (Willem Gyssels) published by Jan Boucherij: Antwerpen
Stoet ? Cortege (Alb Rodenbach) published by Editions Modernes, Brussels
Elle a cueilli des fleurs published by Maison du Conservatoire: Bruxelles

Recordings:

In Flanders Fields volume 40: Nina Stemme (soprano) and Jozef De Beenhouwer (piano). Seven French Songs (Jeanne Cuisinier) Phaedra

Paul Gilson (Brussels 1865 - Brussels 1942)

Gilson studied three years at the Brussels Conservatory (teacher: Gevaert) but he is considered to be mostly self-taught. Precociously talented, he started to compose at the age of 16. His main musical influences were "The Five" and Wagner. He won the Prix de Rome in 1889 with his cantata Sinaï. His travels then took him to Bayreuth, Paris, and Italy. His biggest acclaim came with La mer (syphonic sketches 1892). In 1899 he was appointed professor of harmony at the Conservatories of Brussels and a few years later also in Antwerp. He gave up these two positions when he became inspector of music education in 1909. Gilson would continue to teach composition privately and he would become the most influential teacher in Belgium for the new generation of composers. Among his many pupils, a group formed in 1925 with the name the "Synthétistes." Gilson and his students founded the La Revue Musicale Belge in the same year. Often in his lifetime Gilson was caught between the fronts of the Flemish and Walloon movements. He was a master of the orchestration and particularly liked the brass section. He used folk themes and classical forms in his compositions and finished some 65 songs. His companion in life was the singer Celina Stoops.

Art Songs (Non-Exhaustive List):

Het droevig wiegelied van de verlatene (Leonce Th. C. du Catillon) published by Arthur Wilford: Bruxelles
Kerstlied / Chanson de Noël
Ekaine I-II
Le départ
Berceuse (Gille)
Bloemeken (Hiel)
Bruglied (Hiel)
Cavalcade (Renaud)
Chanson Arabe (Sylvestre) 
Chanson Persane (Renaud)
Chanson du harpiste (Goethe)
Liedeken voor Claribella (Pol de Mont) published by Schott: Brussels, 1895
Méditation du laboureur (Koltzow): Leipzig, 1896
Méditation (Bernard), 1897
Mélodie Finnoise (Hasselt), 1892
Six mélodies published in Bruxelles: Mayence; London: Schott; Leipzig: Otto Junne, 1898
  1. Le départ (chanson hongroise) (Hasselt)
  2. La brume du soir (Hasselt)
  3. Memnon (Hasselt)
  4. Elaine (Levis)
  5. Méditation(Vossaert)
  6. Songerie
Prinses Zonneschijn, 1901
Denderliedje (Hiel), published by Willems Fonds: Ghent
Droomerij bij het wiegje (Deckers) published by Faes: Antwerp
Jan Pekker in "Liederen voor ons volk" published in Antwerpen: Albert & Leo Boucherij, 1904-1906
Verlangen (G. P. Schmidt) in "Liederen voor ons volk" published in Antwerpen: Albert & Leo Boucherij, 1904-1906
Vier Liedjes voor het volk (Willem Gijssels) published by De Ring: Antwerpen, 1937
  1. Quand c'est dimanche
  2. Lui qui ne sait pas chanter un petit air
  3. Petite Marlène
  4. Petite, petit Mariette
O kom met mij in den lentenacht (Pol De Mont)  Brussels: Georges Oertel, 1905
Doe stil voort (Willem Gyssels) published in Brussels: Nationale Muziekdrukkerij, 1907
Oomken (L. Lambrechts), published by Schott: Bruxelles, 1905
Uit de Liederkrans published by Vuylsteke: Ghent 1896
  1. Ik wandelde Treurig (E. Hiel)
  2. Aan Schelde en Dender (Hiel)
Chat (Vossaert) ? Cinquantenaire de la foundation Cerlcle Artistique et Litteraire de Bruxelles, 1897
Viens avec moi dans la nui de printemps (de Mont) published by Schott: Bruxelles
Aan Schelde en Dender 
Als 't zondag is (Willem Gijssels): Berchem
Het eglantierken (Willems Gijssels) published by De Ring: Berchem, 1931
Hij die geen liedje zingen kan (Gijssels)
Zij mint mij niet (Mertens) published by Faes: Antwerpen, 1908
Hebt Medelij (E. Hiel)
De lieve maand mei! (Mertens): Antwerpen
Moeder (Lambrechts) published in Het Muziekdong, Antwerpen 
Lief kindje (Fr. Deckers) 
Pour dire à la nuit de couvrir Elaine d'un beau songe 
Songerie published by Schott Frère (Vossaert)
Six chansons écossaises (LeConte de Lisle), published in Paris: Maurice Senart, 1921. Reprinted in Huntsville, Texas: Recital Publications, 1997 
  1. Nell (1900)
  2. Nanny(1918)
  3. Jane(1998)
  4. La fille aux cheveux de lin (1918)
  5. Annie(1918)
  6. La chanson du Rouet (1816)
Trois poèmes pour baryton ou mezzo soprano (Jean Rivier) published in Paris: Salabert, cop. 1958
  1. Passage d'une nurse
  2. La sirène de Scheveningue
  3. La fable du village
Desire Pâque (Liège 1867 - Bessancourt 1939)

An orphan from an early age, Pâque studied at the Liège Conservatory, where he stayed until 1889 as a teacher. He traveled a lot during his life. He researched Bulgarian folksong in Sofia, taught piano and composition at the conservatories in Athens (1900?02) and Lisbon (1906-1909). Worked in Germany and Geneva. From 1914 Pâque lived in Paris and became organist of St Louis d?Antin eventually taking on French nationality. His early compositions were influenced by Borodin and Cui, he was a friend of Busoni and worked simultaneously with Schoenberg on his own atonality (mode chromatique moderne) and even proposed to abandon regular time signature and musical development (adjonction constante). During his final years, Pâque worked on writing down his revolutionary compositional ideas on which he had been working for over 40 years. His earliest writing was finished in 1910 Esthétique musicale d'un musicien but not published until 1928 under the title "Essai sur la mélodie." Unfortunately, it is difficult to study and perform Pâque's compositions, because much of it has not been published. His composed approximately 50 songs. 

Art Songs (Non-Exhaustive List):

3 Mélodies, op. 13
5 Chants populaires, op. 25
Toc, toc, toc! Chanson (Jacques Gueux) edited by Joseph Milot: Bruxelles, 1893
7 Mélodies, op. 48 - 1900s
  1. Nr. 5 Errer! Rêver! Aimer!
L'heure, op. 54, nr. 1 (Richard Ledent): Bruxelles
7 Mélodies, op. 71
Les Chants d'une mère, op. 87 published in Paris: M. Combre, 1990 and 1992
  1. Bébé va venir!
  2. Bébé est venu!
  3. Ce que fait bébé
  4. Bébé fait dodo!
  5. Epilogue.
Lodewijk Mortelmans (Antwerp 1868 - Antwerp 1952)

In the new Grove online article about Lodewijk Mortelmans one can read the following concerning his song output: His songs are the most important expression of his development and are of international stature. They are characterized by a profound union between text and music, refined naturalism, dramatic expression and exquisitely phrased melodies arranged in fluid modal harmonies." Mortelmans' father was a printer, and his elder brother, Frans, a painter. He studied music at the Royal Flemish Conservatory in Antwerp, where some of his teachers were Peter Benoit, Jan Blockx, and Arthur Greef. He won the Belgian Prix de Rome in 1893. Mortelmans taught counterpoint and fugue at the Royal Flemish Conservatory starting from 1904. In 1924 he became its director. His favorite poet was the priest Guido Gezelle and his opera De Kinderen van Zee (The Children of the Sea) was first produced in 1920 at the Flemish Opera.

Art Songs (Non-Exhaustive List):

Het jonge jaar (Gezelle), 1900
Hoe schoon de morgendauw (Gezelle), 1900
'Is de mandel (Gezelle), 1900
't Pardoent (Gezelle), 1900
De vlaamsche Tale (Gezelle), 1900
Wierook (Gezelle), 1900
't Avondt (Gezelle): Amsterdam, 1901
't Meezeken (Gezelle), 1901
'k Hoore tuitend'hoornen (Gezelle), 1902
Roses (Gezelle), 1902
't Groeit een blomken (Gezelle), 1902
Wiegeliedje (Gezelle), 1905
Klokkensang (Gezelle), 1908
Als de ziele luistert (Gezelle), 1913
Meidag (Gezelle), 1913
Doe dit te mijne indachtigheid (Gezelle), 1913
Mocht ik (Gezelle), 1913
Kerkhofblomme (Gezelle), 1916
Blijde mei (Gezelle): Antwerpen, 1938
Moederken (Gezelle), 1938
Perels (Gezelle), 1938
Afscheid (Nic Beets): Antwerpen
Oud-Vlaamsche Kerstliederen en Driekoningenliederen: met klavierbegeleiding: Antwerpen
Avond in den herfst (Pol de Mont): Antwerpen, 1927
Blauwe meinacht (Lodewijk Mortelmans): Antwerpen
Vier liederen in Volkstrant: Antwerpen, 1949
Two songs of meditation: For medium voice and piano. - New York, N.Y., 1922
Het Lelieken uit den dale (Teirlinck-Stijns): Antwerpen
Lied: uit Ophelia (Pol de Mont): Antwerpen
Maagdeke Mei (Pol de Mont): Antwerpen, 1927
Doornroosje (Pol de Mont), 1903
De orgeldraaier: lied met klavierbegeleiding (Theodoor van Ryswyck): Antwerpen
Poverjanneken (Pol de Mont): Antwerpen
Sacred songs: New York, N.Y., 1923
Song of fervor (Lambrechts): New York, N.Y., 1923
Kindje, wat ben je toch zacht (Joannes Reddingius), 1910?
Witte watte wolken (Alfred de Geest), 1934
Twee Betuwsche liederen (B. van Meurs): Antwerpen
De vlaamsche tale (Lodewijk Mortelmans): Antwerpen
Wierook (Lodewijk Mortelmans): Antwerpen
De bloemen en de sterren: Antwerpen
De zwane: for mezzo and orchestra, transcribed for piano (Mortelmans)
Moeder en kind (Frans de Cort): Antwerpen
Twaalf liederen (Guido Gezelle): Antwerpen, 1903
Ze liggen lang begraven (Lodewijk Mortelmans)
Meisje met Uw Rozenmondje (Heine)
L'Ennemi (Baudelaire)

Recordings:

In Flanders Fields volume 19: Songs and piano music Lodewijk Mortelmans. Werner van Mechelen (bass-bariton) and Jozef De Beenhouwer (piano). Phaedra

Guillaume Lekeu (Heusy 1870 - Anger 1894)

Guillaume Lekeu studied with César Franck and Vincent D'Indy in Paris and admired the music of Beethoven and Wagner, but never fell into the trap of copying their styles. Lekeu's music is very rich and personal. He obtained in 1891 a second Prix de Rome for his cantata Andromède. His main publisher was E Baudoux & Cie (Salabert today). Lekeu died at the age of 24 and left us 13 songs, of which only 8 are performable and really worth being so. 

Art Songs (Non-Exhaustive List):

La fenêtre de la maison paternelle (Lamartine), 1887
Les pavots (Lamartine), 1887
L'ombre plus dense (Lekeu), 1889
Quelque antique et lente danse (Lekeu), 1889
Chanson de mai, 1891
Trois poèmes (Lekeu), 1892
  1. Sur une tombe
  2. Ronde
  3. Nocturne
Les deux bonnes soeurs (Baudelaire), 1887 - lost
L'âme des calices défunts (Silvestre), 1891 - lost
References:
  • Marie-Thérèse Buyssens. "Keurvels, Edward." In Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com.proxy.libraries.rutgers.edu/subscriber/article/grove/music/14940 (accessed June 8, 2012).
  • Eric Frederick Jensen. ?Towards a Symbolist Aesthetic in Music: The Works of Guillaume Lekeu? in The Music Review vol. 50, nr. 2 (May, 1989), pp. 134-141.
  • O. G. Sonneck. ?Guillaume Lekeu (1870-1894)? in The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 5, No. 1 (Jan., 1919), pp. 109-147.
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  • Luc Leytens. " Auguste de Boeck" In Studiecentrum voor Vlaamse Muziek Online, http://www.svm.be/content/de-boeck-august?display=biography&language=nl (accessed February 2, 2012).
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  • A. Corbet: "Paul Gilson: Flemish Composer" in Music & Letters, Vol. 27, No. 2 (Apr., 1946), pp. 71-73
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  • Van den Borren, Charles and Frederick H. Martens. "The General Trends in Contemporary Belgian Music" in The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 7, No. 3 (Jul., 1921), pp. 351-365.