The Gevaert also fulfilled a mission of fervent animator. Valuable musician, as evidenced by his work Quentin Durward and his patriotic cantata Jacob van Artevelde, still popular in Belgium, was a great conductor and talented professor. Appointed director of the Brussels Conservatory, he quickly made this school one of the best music centers in Europe. In the concerts he conducted in the conservatory hall, he heard (at a time when these works were ignored and misunderstood) the cantatas of JS Bach and the vocal works of the great Italian masters of the century. XVII: Dear, Luigi Rossi and Scarlatti, whose works he published. Gevaert was also the first in Europe to give impetus to regular performances of Wagner’s music.
The Wagnerian opera was warmly received in Belgium long before it was known in Paris, and the Bayreuth troupe regularly went to the theater de la Monnaie, before the war, with the famous Belgian tenor Van Dyck, the unforgettable Siegfried. Richard Strauss himself directed Salomé and Elektra ; Pelléas et Melisande by Debussy, Ariane et Barbe – Bleue by Dukas, Penelope by Gabriel Fauré, were revealed to the Brussels public shortly after they were created in France.
The current direction (Corneil de Thoran, Spaak, Van Glabbeke) has successfully represented the avant-garde works of Ravel (L’enfant et les sortilèges, l ‘ Heure espagnole) by Honegger (Judith, Antigone) by Milhaud, Pizzetti, Malipiero, Čerepnin, Stravinsky, etc.
In Antwerp, the Flemish Opera has bravely attempted to present works from other countries, translated into Flemish language, some even of very advanced tendencies, such as Franco Alfano’s Sakuntala, or the Three Goldonian comedies by GF Malipiero. In the same city, the French opera lives above all from the ancient repertoire. The same applies to the opera houses of Liege and Ghent, where, however, have been represented for the first time several national works.
Brussels is a major center for concerts. The city has had a grandiose special building since 1928, the Palace of Fine Arts, which contains, in addition to numerous halls for exhibitions, conferences, and cinemas, also three magnificent rooms capable of accommodating 2000,700 and 300 people respectively. There are concerts of the Philharmonic Society, administered by Enrico Le Boeuf (great animator and patron, who took the initiative in building the Palace of Fine Arts). On Sundays there are popular concerts (established in 1865) in the hall of the theater de la Monnaie. Concerts spirituels are given at the Conservatory conducted by Jongen and those of the Conservatory Society under the direction of M. Defauw, who also conducts the concerts known under his name. The Ysaye concerts, the Houdret concerts, as well as the “pro arte” concerts ordinarily limit their activity to chamber music. However, the latter give every year several concerts of modern music, with the participation of the renowned band of the regiment of guides (conducted by A. Prévost) and an orchestra of stringed instruments.
In Antwerp, the magnificent activity of the “Nouveaux concerts” conducted by De Vocht, the concerts of F. Alpaerts and those of the “Bach-vereeniging” deserve to be mentioned. In Ghent, the winter concerts (director Rasse) and the musical meetings of the artistic circle, in Liège the Opera of the artists, the concerts of the conservatory, those of the Acclimatization Garden (director Charlier) and the valuable a cappella ensemble ; in Tournai the concerts of the Society of Music (conductor Van Heake), and finally those of the Kursaal d’Ostenda, conducted during the summer by Toussaint de Sulter, successor of Leone Jehin.
The churches have excellent schools of cantors, among which that of Saint-Rombaut in Malines stands out, which under the direction of the canon Van Nuffel revives great forgotten polyphonic works.
In Belgium not only the educated classes are interested in music, but the masses of the people are very sensitive to this art. The singing schools, and the choirs, of workers, clerks, or bourgeois, swarm in all the cities. The countries all have fanfare, and contests offer numerous prizes.
The Belgian violin school, founded by Vieuxtemps, was illustrated above all by Eugenio Ysaïe, a virtuoso of genius, undoubtedly the greatest of his time. Tommaso Mathieu, Cerikboom, Alfredo Dubois, Clockers, preserve the traditions of this great school. Belgium can then be said to be the homeland of quartets. It currently owns, without doubt, one of the best quartets in Europe: the “Pro arte” quartet. Other quartets of the highest order: Zimmer quartet, Charlier quartet, Rédelé quartet and Liège quartet. We also mention the well-known trio of the Belgian court and the Belgian quartet with piano (1st viola: G. Lykondi).
The religious music school originates from Malines; it enjoys a great reputation, and so does the music box school run by the great carillonneur Jef Denyn. Bell concerts (carillons) are very popular in Belgium, and there are notable ones in Malines, Bruges, Ghent etc.
Belgium has four state conservatories, qualified royals: in Brussels (director Giuseppe Jongen), in Antwerp (director Mortelmans), Ghent (director Lunssens) and Liège (director Rasse). Furthermore, all large provincial cities have academies, conservatories or music schools subsidized by the respective municipality, and sometimes also subsidized by the state, as in Bruges, Leuven, Malines, Mons, Charleroi, Namur etc.
Belgium also gave birth to famous instrument makers, such as Mahillon and, above all, Adolfo Sax (born in Dinant), inventor of saxophones, trombones with six independent pistons and numerous brass instruments with which Wagner has enriched the orchestra of the Tetralogy, and which today are in common use.
Belgium has also given many critics and musicologists of great value, among which we must first of all mention the regretful Ottavio Maus, who introduced in Belgium a very audacious music for his time.