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BAEYENS, August-L.

August BAEYENS was born on 5 June 1895 in Antwerp, where he died on 17 July 1966. He received his musical training at the Royal Flemish Music Conservatory in Antwerp, studying solfège, viola (first prize, 1916), harmony and counterpoint with August de Boeck and Napoleon Distelmans. As a composer, Baeyens developed chiefly through the study of composers such as Debussy, Wagner and Strauss; this interest gave him the reputation of a revolutionary within the confines of the very traditionalist conservatory. He also came into contact with a broad repertoire through practical music-making, partly as a viola player in 'the Royal' , the French-language opera company in Antwerp, and in the Orkest van de Nieuwe Concerten, which fairly regularly programmed contemporary works, sometimes under the direction of leading foreign conductors.

Between 1920 and 1927, Baeyens was involved with various initiatives which attempted to breathe new life into the Flemish cultural scene. Important in this connection were the concerts given in Brussels and Antwerp (1921-22), which, although small in scope, premiered music by such composers as Karel Albert, Willem Pelemans, Marcel Poot and Baeyens himself.

In 1927, Baeyens founded the Antwerps Kamermuziekensemble, with which he performed a wide range of music new for the time. The ensemble presented more than forty Belgian premieres of works by composers from the Viennese School (Schönberg, Berg, Wellesz) and from France (Milhaud, Poulenc), as well as such composers as Bartók, Hindemith, Honegger, Stravinsky and several Flemish partners-in-arms (Jef Van Durme, Karel Albert). In 1932, the ensemble died a quiet death because of the limited official and public interest, with the accompanying financial difficulties that this entailed.

From 1932 to 1944, Baeyens was active at the Royal Flemish Opera in Antwerp, working as a secretary responsible, among other things, for the many Dutch libretto translations. After the liberation in 1944, he was appointed director of the opera. He then proceeded to carry out an unconventional programming policy, which led to his dismissal in 1948. In 1953 he was again appointed director, this time playing a less obtrusive role and concentrating more on the administrative aspects of his position. In 1958 he resigned in order to devote himself completely to composition.

WORKS
Baeyens' compositions were closely connected to his activities as a concert organiser. The functions that he held in the Antwerp music world demarcated phases in his oeuvre and shed light on the (technical) processes and aesthetic orientation characterising compositions from a particular period.

In the period from 1920 to 1927, Baeyens explored the European musical landscape by applying innovative tendencies in various compositions. In the piano collection Diogenes (1920), Baeyens draws on the sober style of Erik Satie. There are no bar numbers or bar lines notated and the music is constructed from a concatenation of diatonic melodic phrases which differ in terms of articulation, character and dynamics, and which are supported by a (rhythmic) ostinato accompaniment. In harmonic terms, Baeyens (like Satie) does make use of traditional chords, but these are applied in a non-functional manner. Baeyens' Jazz-Fantasie (1926) is often compared to Paul Hindemith's Ragtime , the fifth movement of the Suite 1922 op. 26 (1922). Although there are no formal similarities, both aim to legitimate their harmonic audacity (chromaticism and unusual layering of intervals) and their percussive treatment of the piano by making reference to Afro-American music.

Besides Satie and Hindemith, the influence of Schönberg (Second String Quartet, 1925), Ravel (Third String Quartet, 1927) and Stravinsky (First Symphony, 1923) is evident.

Baeyens''personal style' emerged during his activities in the Antwerps Kamermuziekensemble (1927-1932). The Sinfonia Breve (1928) is clear evidence that Baeyens made use of many ingredients of the New Music, while at the same time approaching them very personally. In terms of melody, the montage principle takes a central place: themes are presented and repeated at a number of different transpositions. Any development is limited to imitation in the entries or contrast through the use of a few chords; there is absolutely no development of motifs. The first two movements are monothematic, the 'longer' parts 3 and 4 (respectively, 5' and 2') consist of the juxtaposition of two themes, without any confrontation between them. This primacy of melody is a constant in Baeyens' work. On a harmonic level, this work treads a middle ground between a clear-cut tonality and a consistent polytonality, extended by whole-tone chords and fourth-fifth aggregates that occur independently at climaxes. The liveliness of the work comes mostly from its subtle rhythmic form. Baeyens uses syncopations, irregular rhythmic accents and metrical changes - the latter especially in the second movement, which in this way is reminiscent of the Danse Sacrale from Stravinsky's Le Sacre . In the instrumentation, the soloistic lines of the winds are prominent, often accompanied by the strings. The percussion is used sparingly. As a whole the Sinfonia Breve may be described as orchestrally-conceived ' Spielmusik ', which shuns the idea of ' Bekenntnismusik '.

Cantique du Port (1929, on a text by R. Avermaete) is Baeyens' best known work. The composition calls for an impressive array of forces consisting of a reciter, a four-voice choir and an extended orchestra with an accent on the percussion and winds. The text, which has clear vitalistic characteristics, determines the form of the piece. The composer treats the five senses in terms of the experience of a harbour; this is preceded by an introduction and concluded by a politically coloured finale dealing with a dockworkers' strike. The work is often seen to be in the same tradition as the volkscantates by Peter Benoit. This is, however, hardly accurate, since the artistic aspirations are very different, the subject much more restrained, and the (Flemish) nationalism completely absent. It is closer to the truth to speak of a dramatic recitation with orchestral accompaniment, an independent sound décor that does not set out to be naturalistic.

The years from 1932 to 1948, Baeyens' controversial period at the Royal Flemish Opera, are characterised by a major focus on vocal genres, with song taking a place of precedence. Both in terms of text and music, Baeyens' songs break with the tradition of the Romantic art-song (with piano). Here, as may be expected, the choice of text plays a crucial role. Baeyens draws on texts from Dutch Expressionists (e.g., Drie Van Ostayenliederen - Three Van Ostayen Songs - 1930) and from the New Realism movement (e.g., Een somber drinklied - A Sombre Drinking Song - 1938, on a text by Greshoff and a collection entitled Examentroost ). The latter works take aim at the self-satisfied life and artistic notions of the middle class: a bourgeois desire for order and calm, the exaltation of God, poetry and romanticism are all subtly taken to task in both the text and the music.

Besides songs, Baeyens also composed several radio plays, such as La Sonate d'Amour (1934) and Coriolanus (1940, later made into a stage version at the Royal Flemish Opera) and an opera, De Ring van Gyges (1943).

When Baeyens' artistic obligations at the opera came to an end in 1948, he concentrated more on composing, without taking on any other organisational activities. In the succeeding years he produced five symphonies (the 3 rd to the 8 th ), concertos for viola and trumpet, a wind quintet, a violin sonata and his last three string quartets (the 4 th to the 6 th ). Baeyens clearly saw himself as an established composer of the time-honoured classical genres and large-scale symphonic works. The classical patterns are, however, filled in freely, even as the melodic form continues to take a central place. In this last period, Baeyens also composed several pseudo-dodecaphonic works, in which he applied an atonal musical language for the first time. This approach was, however, to remain an exception in the composer's oeuvre.

SELECTIVE LIST OF WORKS
- Orchestra : Entrata (1917), First Symphony (1923), Sinfonia Breve (1928), Third Symphony (1949), Arcadia (1951), Fifth Symphony (1955), Concerto for Viola (1956), Concerto for Trumpet (1965)
- Chamber Music: Second Stringquartet (1925), Third Stringquartet (1927), Wind Quintet (1950),Sonata for Violin and Piano (1952)
- Music for Piano: Diogenes (1920), Jazzphantasy (1920), Sonata in A (1930)
- Lieder: Drie Van Ostaijenliederen (1930), Drie liederen (1938), Examentroost (x)
- Cantata: Lofzang aan de Haven (Cantique du Port, 1929)
- Opera: Coriolanus (1941), De Ring van Gyges (1943), De triomferende min (adaptation after K. Hacquaert 1678, 1948)
- Music for Radio: La Sonate d' amour (1934), Coriolanus (1940), Barabbas (1949)

SELECTIVE BIBLIOGRAPHY
- CORBET, A and S. WOUTERS, Art. Baeyens, August L., in Algemene Muziekencyclopedie, ed. dr. A. CORBET and W. PAAP, dl. 1, Antwerpen en Amsterdam, 1951, p. 201.
- DELAERE, M., Pioniers van de Nieuwe Muziek 1920-1950, in Nieuwe Muziek in Vlaanderen, ed. dr. M. DELAERE, Y. KNOCKAERT and H. SABBE, Brugge, 1998, p. 5-34.
- DE LANNOY, C., August L. Baeyens 1895-1966, in Vlaams Muziektijdschrift, 23/9, 1971, p. 266-270.
- LEYTENS, L., August Baeyens. De eerste Vlaamse muzikale modernist, in Kaderblad Jeugd en Muziek Vlaanderen, 185, 1995, p. 3-10.
- VAN DEN BUYS, K., August Baeyens. Te modernistisch voor zijn tijd?, in Muziek en Woord, 21, 249, 1995, p. 54-55.
- VON VOLBORTH-DANYS, D., August L. Baeyens, in CeBeDeM en zijn aangesloten componisten, uitg. dr. D. VON VOLBORTH-DANYS, dl. 1, Brussel, 1977, p. 48-51.


[© 2001 Pieter Mannaerts - Lieven Van Ael, for MATRIX]

works

  • Arkadia, 1951
    19 instrumental soloists 00:23:00
  • Arlekijn, 1924
    chamber orchestra 00:10:00
  • Cantique du port, 1929
    solo, choir and large symphonic orchestra 00:18:00
  • Concertino, 1951
    oboe, clarinet, bassoon 00:13:00
  • Concerto, 1959
    trumpet and piano 00:16:00
  • Concerto, 1959
    trumpet and orchestra 00:16:00
  • Concerto, 1956
    viola and piano 00:23:00
  • Coriolanus, 1941
    Soloists, choir and orchestra 00:50:00
  • Coriolanus, 1941
    Soloists, choir and piano 00:50:00
  • De dode dichter, 1920
    orchestra 00:13:00
  • De nachtegale, 1950
    middle voice and piano 00:02:00
  • De ring van Gyges, 1943
    opera 02:10:00
  • De ring van Gyges, 1943
    mixed choir and piano 02:10:00
  • De triomferende Min, 1949
    Soloists, mixed choir and orchestra 01:00:00
  • Diogenes nr 1-2-3-4, 1920
    piano 00:05:00
  • Drie kwartijnen, 1924
    Baritone and chamber orchestra 00:03:30
  • Drie liederen, 1930
    Baritone and piano 00:03:30
  • Drie liederen, 1930
    middle or low voice and piano 00:03:30
  • Drie liederen, 1938
    middle voice and piano 00:08:45
  • Drie liederen, 1938
    Baritone or Bass and piano 00:12:00
  • Drie liederen, 1930
    middle voice and piano 00:03:30
  • Drie liederen, 1930
    Bass and piano 00:03:30
  • Drie liederen, 1938
    Baritone and piano 00:12:00
  • Drie liederen, 1938
    Bass and piano 00:12:00
  • Een somber drinklied, 1938
    Baritone and orchestra 00:03:00
  • Entrata, 1917
    orchestra 00:07:00
  • Etude nr.14, 1965
    4 timpani and piano 00:03:00
  • Examen troost, 1948
    middle voice and piano 00:07:00
  • Goudoogs verhaal, 1924
    violin and piano 00:07:00
  • Jazz fantaisie, 1926
    piano 00:02:30
  • Klein gebed, 1938
    middle voice and piano 00:03:00
  • Kwintet, 1950
    flute, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon 00:18:00
  • Kyklopen, 1925
    orchestra 00:06:00
  • L'amour et le cacatoes, 1928
    Soloists and orchestra 00:20:00
  • La sonate d'amour, 1934
    Narrators and orchestra 00:30:00
  • Liederen, 1930
    middle voice and piano 00:00:00
  • Liederen, 1938
    middle voice and piano 00:14:30
  • Mystiek, 1938
    middle voice and orchestra 00:01:30
  • Niobe, 1918
    orchestra 00:10:00
  • Notturno, 1925
    clarinet and bassoon (solo), strings and bass drum 00:06:00
  • Notturno, 1953
    symphonic orchestra 00:10:30
  • Piranesi, 1950
    Narrators (10 spoken parts), flute and cello 00:45:00
  • Piranesi suite, 1951
    flute and cello 00:15:00
  • Scherzo, 1951
    Soprano and orchestra 00:02:30
  • Sinfonia breve op. 24, 1928
    small orchestra 00:10:00
  • Sinfonie nr.1, 1923
    orchestra 00:22:00
  • Sinfonie nr.2 in F, 1939
    orchestra 00:25:00
  • Sinfonie nr.3 in ut, 1949
    orchestra 00:30:00
  • Sinfonie nr.4, 1952
    orchestra 01:20:00
  • Sinfonie nr.5, 1954
    orchestra 00:29:00
  • Sinfonie nr.6 in ré, 1955
    orchestra 00:40:00
  • Sinfonie nr.7 in een beweging, 1958
    orchestra 00:22:00
  • Sinfonie nr.8, 1961
    orchestra 00:30:00
  • Sonate, 1930
    piano 00:12:00
  • Sonate, 1952
    violin and piano 00:20:00
  • Sonatine, 1933
    two-part a cappella 00:05:00
  • Sonnet waermede den Landtman, 1950
    Bass-baritone and orchestra 00:04:00
  • Strijkkwartet nr.1, 1922
    2 violins, viola and cello 00:14:00
  • Strijkkwartet nr.2, 1925
    2 violins, viola and cello 00:13:00
  • Strijkkwartet nr.3, 1927
    2 violins, viola and cello 00:10:00
  • Strijkkwartet nr.4 in Sol, 1949
    2 violins, viola and cello 00:20:00
  • Strijkkwartet nr.5, 1951
    2 violins, viola and cello 00:35:00
  • Strijkkwartet nr.6, 1962
    2 violins, viola and cello 00:30:00
  • Thanatos' avondlied, 1948
    Bass-baritone and orchestra 00:05:00
  • Trois mélodies, 1927
    Baritone and piano 00:04:00
  • Vanwaar ken ik uw gelaat, 1938
    middle voice and orchestra 00:04:30
  • Vier kleine orkeststukken, 1923
    orchestra 00:08:00
  • Vijf gedichten uit French en andere Cancan, 1951
    middle voice and piano 00:03:30
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