Belgian music, although politically divided into principalities, looks back on a tradition that goes back to the Middle Ages.
Only since the founding of the state of Belgium (1830) can one speak of Belgian music in the narrower sense. On the history of Belgian music in the 15th and 16th centuries Franco-Flemish music.
Flemish and Walloon School
As a result of the historical situation, Belgian music is primarily a mixture of different styles and influences. The Dutch and French influences, which are reflected to this day in an independent Flemish and Walloon culture, proved to have a lasting impact. As a result, no characteristic Belgian music developed in the 19th century, when national styles emerged across Europe, and isolated attempts by composers such as F.-J. Fétis, who wrote representative works for official occasions. The Belgian music of the 19th century was mainly subject to French influences (Walloon School), with the French composer of German-Belgian origin C. Franck held a key position and, inter alia. J. Jongen and Guillaume Lekeu (* 1870, † 1894)influenced. The central genre of this century was opera, which also incorporated Italian stylistic elements as well as clearly influenced by French opera (one of its most prominent representatives was A.-E.-M. Grétry, who worked in Paris from 1767), as was the case with F. -J. Fétis and F. A. Gevaert. In the case of Émile Mathieu (* 1844, † 1932), J. Blockx and Léon du Bois (* 1859, † 1935), on the other hand, the influence of R. Wagner makes itself feltnoticeable. In contrast, the representatives of the Flemish school, such as P. Benoît and Hendrik Waelput (* 1845, † 1885), were the first Flemish symphonists to strive for more cultural independence. As church music composer in the tradition of J. S. Bach joined Edgar Tinel (* 1854, † 1912) and his oratorio “Franciscus” (1890), as well as cantatas and psalm settings produce.
The invention of the saxophone by A. Sax in 1842 was of musical historical importance. It not only opened up new sounds to traditional composers, but also enabled the triumph of jazz in the 20th century. Equally important was that of C.-A. de Bériot founded the violin school at the Brussels Conservatory, from which a. Soloists such as H. Vieuxtemps and E. Ysaye emerged.
20th century and modern
The not only musical division of the country also determines modern Belgian music. The composers of the 20th century made use of numerous contemporary European musical styles since the turn of the century without, however, producing independent developments. They processed inter alia impressionistic (impressionism) and expressionistic (expressionism; e.g. Albert Huysbrechts [* 1899, † 1938] or Pierre Froidebise [* 1914, † 1962]), neoclassical (neoclassicism) and neo-romantic as well as atonal (atonal music), serial (serial music) and dodekaphone (twelve-tone technique; e.g. at Raymond Chevreuille [* 1901, † 1976]) or electronic sounds (electroacoustic music; K. Goeyvaerts) and minimal music (Wim Mertens, * 1953).
A key cultural figure was André Souris (* 1899, † 1970), who was influenced by Impressionism in his early work, but opened up to French Surrealism in the 1920s and also experimented with serial music in the 1940s; Through students like H. Pousseur, he worked on numerous younger composers. One of the central composers of the 20th century is P. Gilson, who as a member of the group »Les Synthésistes« campaigned for the dissemination of contemporary music, as did his students M. Poot and Maurice Schoemaker (* 1890, † 1964) with his Flemish music Symphonies and the opera »Kasper« (1954).
The Flemish music in the 20th century is next represented by the native Dutch Marinus de Jong (* 1891, † 1984), in a synthesis of folk music and the church modes of Gregorian chant symphonies, concertos, chamber, piano and organ music and cantatas, Masses and the oratorios “Hiawatha’s Lied” (1947) and “Imitatio Christi” (1956). Colorful Flemish orchestral music also comes from F. Alpaerts and J. Absil (“Rhapsodie flamande”, 1928), who developed a polytonal style (polytonality) after romantic beginnings. One, inter alia. by B. Bartók and the personal style inspired by the twelve-tone technique was developed by Vic (tor) Legley (* 1915, † 1994), who also worked in 1947–76 among others. worked as a programmer at the Nationaal Instituut voor de Radio-omroep NIR (today: Vlaamse Radio- en Televisieomroeporganisatie) and thereby also ensured the dissemination of contemporary music, as did the eclectic André Laporte (* 1931). Peter Cabus (* 1923, † 2000) went down in history as a neoclassical composer and founder of the »Festival van Vlaanderen Mechelen«.
The Walloon music of the 20th century is a.o. represented by: Philippe Boesmans (* 1936), who enriches the genre of opera; H. Pousseur, who individually combines modern and traditional techniques, as well as his student Pierre Bartholomée (* 1937), who created a forum for the performance of contemporary music with his ensemble Musique Nouvelles, founded in 1962, and in 1970 with Pousseur founded the Center de Recherche Musicales de Wallonie. The polystylistic composing Louis de Meester (* 1904, † 1987) drew attention to himself with radio, film and stage music. Every year, the work of Walloon composers is the focus of the “Festival de Wallonie”, which covers the entire spectrum of Walloon music, past and present, at seven different locations.