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Absil, Jean

Absil, Jean

Absil, Jean, eminent Belgian composer and pedagogue; b. Bon-Secours, Oct. 23, 1893; d. Brussels, Feb. 2, 1974. After studying organ, piano, and composition with Alphonse Oeyen in Bon-Secours, he pursued training at the Brussels Cons, with Desmet (1st prize in organ, 1916), Moulaert (piano), Lunssens (1st prize in harmony, 1916), and DuBois (1st prize in counterpoint and fugue, 1917). He completed his studies in composition with Gilson (1920–22). In 1921 he won the Prix Agniez for his 1st Sym., in 1922 the 2nd Prix de Rome for his cantata La guerre, and in 1934 the Prix Rubens. In 1938 he garnered wide recognition for his Piano Concerto, which was commissioned by the Ysayë Competition. From 1922 to 1964 Absil was director of the Etterbeek Music School. He also taught at the Brussels Cons. (1930–39) and the Chapelle Musical Reine Elisabeth (1939–59). In 1955 he became a member and in 1968 president of the Académie Royale Belgique. He received the Belgian government’s Prix Quinquennial in 1964.


DRAMATIC: Peau d’âne, lyrical poem (1937); Ulysse et les sirènes, radio play (1939); Fansou ou Le Chapeau chinois, musical comedy (1944); Le Miracle de Pan, ballet (1949); Pierre Breughel l’Ancien, radio play (1950); Épouvantail, ballet (1950); Les Voix de la mer, opera (1951; Brussels, March 26, 1954); Les Météores, ballet (1951). ORCH.: 5 syms. (1920, 1936, 1943, 1969, 1970); La Mort de Tintagiles, symphonie poem (1923–26); Rapsodie flamande (1928; also for Wind Ensemble); Berceuse for Small Orch. and Cello or Saxophone (1932); 2 violin concertos (1933, 1964); Petite suite for Small Orch. (1935; also for Wind Ensemble); 3 piano concertos (1937, 1967, 1973); Rapsodie No. 2 (1938); Hommage à Lekeu (1939); Cello Concertino (1940); Sérénade (1940); Variations symphoniques (1942); Viola Concerto (1942); Rapsodie roumaine for Violin and Orch. (1943); Concerto grosso for Wind Quintet and Orch. (1944); Jeanne d’Arc, symphonic poem (1945); Rites, triptych for Wind Ensemble (1952); Rapsodie brésilienne (1953); Mythologie, suite (1954); Croquis sportifs for Wind Ensemble (1954); Divertimento for Saxophone Quartet and Chamber Orch. (1955); Introduction et Valses (1955); Legend for Wind Ensemble (1956); Suite, after Romanian folklore (1956); Suite bucolique for Strings (1957); Fantaisie concertante for Violin and Orch. or Piano (1959); Danses bulgares (1959; also for Wind Quintet or Piano); Rapsodie bulgare (1960); 2 Danses rituelles for Small Orch. (1960); Triptyque for Small Orch. (1960); Fantaisie-humoresque for Clarinet and Strings or Piano (1962); Rapsodie No. 6 for Horn and Orch. or Piano (1963); Viola Concertino (1964); Nymphes et faunes for Wind Orch. (1966); Allegro brillante for Piano and Orch. (1967); Fantaisie- caprice for Saxophone and Strings (1971); Guitar Concerto (1971); Ballade for Saxophone, Piano, and Small Orch. (1971); Déités, suite (1973). CHAMBER: 4 string quartets (1929, 1934, 1935, 1941); 2 piano trios (1931, 1972); 2 string trios (1935, 1939); Fantaisie rapsodique for 4 Cellos (1936); Cello Quartet (1937); Quartet for Saxophones (1937); Piano Quartet (1938); Fantaisie for Piano Quartet (1939); Concert à cinq for Flute, Violin, Viola, Cello, and Harp (1939); 2 suites for Cello and Piano (1942, 1968); Chaconne for Violin (1949); 3 Contes for Trumpet and Piano (1951); Suite for Trombone and Piano (1952); Sonatine en duo for Violin and Viola (1962); Saxophone Sonata (1963); 3 Pièces for Organ (1965); Quartet for Clarinets (1967); Sonata for Solo Violin (1967); Croquis pour un carnaval for 4 Clarinets and Harp (1968); Suite mystique for 4 Flutes (1969); Violin Sonata (1970); Esquisses for Wind Quartet (1971); Images stellaires for Violin and Cello (1973); also numerous guitar pieces. Piano: 3 Impromptus (1932); 3 sonatinas (1937, 1939, 1965); 3 Marines (1939); Bagatelles (1944); 2 Grand Suites (1944, 1962); Sketches on the 7 Capital Sins (1954); Variations (1956); Chess Game, suite (1957); Passacaglia (1959); Rapsodie No. 5 for 2 Pianos (1959); Humoresques (1965); Ballade (1966); Asymétries for 2 Pianos (1968); Alternances (1968); Féeries (1971); Poésie et vélocité, 20 pieces (1972). VOCAL: La Guerre, cantata (1922); Philatélie, chamber cantata (1940); Les Bénédictions, cantata (1941); Les Chants du mort, cantata for Vocal Quartet and Small Orch. (1941); Le Zodiaque for Chorus, Piano, and Orch. (1949); Phantasmes for Contralto, Saxophone, Piano, and Percussion (1950); Le Cirque volant, cantata (1953); Petites polyphonies for 2 Voices and Orch. (1966); À cloche-pied for Children’s Chorus and Orch. (1968).


R. de Guide, J. A.: Vie et oeuvre (Tournai, 1965).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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