A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Gevaërt, François

GEVAËRT, François Auguste, Director of the Brussels Conservatoire, born July 31, 1828, at Huysse, a village near Oudenarde. His father, a baker, wished to bring him up to his own trade, but his great musical ability becoming apparent, he was sent in 1841 to the Conservatoire at Ghent, where he studied under Sommère and Mengal. He was then appointed organist of the Jesuits' Church, and in 1846 a Christmas cantata of his composition was performed in Ghent. In June 1847 his Psalm 'Super flumina' was performed at the festival of the 'Zangverband'; and Spohr, who was present, congratulated the young composer. In the May previous he had won the first prize for composition at the national competition in Brussels, but was allowed to postpone his foreign tour for two years, during which he produced in Ghent his first opera, 'Hughes de Somerghem' (March 23, 1848), followed by 'La Comedie a la ville,' a decided step in advance. In 1849 he started on his tour, and after a short stay in Paris proceeded to Spain, where he composed an orchestral fantasia 'Sobre motives españoles,' which is said to be still popular there. His reports on Spanish music, regularly forwarded to the 'Ministre de l'Interieur,' were printed in the bulletin of the Academie of Brussels for 1851. From Spain he went to Italy, and returning through Germany reached Ghent in the spring of 1852. On Nov. 27 of that year he produced 'Georgette' (1 act) at the Théâtre Lyrique in Paris; and in Oct. 1854 'Le Billet de Marguerite,' in 3 acts, libretto by Leuven and Brunswick—both with extraordinary success. 'La Lavandière de Santarem' (Oct. 28, 1855), however, was a fiasco. Gevaërt received the order of Leopold for his cantata 'De nationale verjaerdag,' composed in honour of the 25th anniversary of King Leopold's reign. 'Quentin Durward' (March 25, 1858), 'Chateau Trompette' (1860), and 'Le Capitaine Henriot'(Dec. 29, 1864), were all successes at the Opéra Comique in Paris. So also was 'Les Deux Amours,' opéra comique at the Theatre of Baden-Baden, 1861. In 1867 he was appointed 'Chef de chant' at the Academie de Musique, Paris, a post resigned by Halévy in 1845. This post Gevaërt retained till the Opéra in the Rue Le Peletier was closed (Sept. 1870) on account of the war. From that time he devoted his attention to the history of music, and in 1875 brought out the first part of his 'Histoire et Théorie de la musique dans l'Antiquité' (Henzel, Paris, 1 vol. 8vo.), a work remarkable for much new matter, the result of careful and original research. This had been preceded by his 'Leerboek van den Gregoriaenschen zang' (Ghent 1856), his 'Traité d'instrumentation' (1863), and 'Les Gloires d'ltalie' (Paris 1868), a collection of secular vocal music by Italian composers of the 17th and 18th centuries, with introduction and biographies, etc. In 1871 he succeeded Fétis as director of the Conservatoire at Brussels; a post which gave scope for his remarkable powers of organisation. One of his reforms consisted in placing the singing-classes under the annual inspection of some celebrated singer. Faure was the first engaged. In 1873 Gevaërt was elected a member of the Academie des Beaux Arts in place of Mercadante; an appointment hailed with satisfaction in France. Gevaërt is incontestably a musician of a very high order; and his fame rests on the solid foundation of a thoroughly good early education.

We embrace the opportunity of giving some notice of the Brussels Conservatoire which was omitted before.

The Conservatoire de Musique et de Declamation, established Feb. 13, 1832, by an order in council, is an offshoot of the École royale de Musique founded in 1823. By another order in Council, April 15, 1833, the directorship of the new institution was conferred on Mons.

F. J. Fétis, who continued in office till his death (March 25, 1871), and was succeeded by M. Gevaërt. Under his direction the institution steadily increased in importance. Its annual income, which amounted at first to only 8000 francs, has been augmented by endowments from the government, city, and province, to 108,040 francs (£4320) in 1870, and it has now three times outgrown its accommodation. In 1835 it removed to an hotel in the Rue de Bodenbroeck, in 1847 to the ancient Hotel de Croy in the Petit Sablon, and on Feb. 12, 1876, to the present Conservatoire, in the continuation of the Rue de la Régence, which was inaugurated by the King and Queen. The last enlargement is a proof of the popularity and influence of the present director. There are about 350 pupils in attendance, distributed as follows:—solfeggio proper, 3 superior classes and 4 preparatory; singing, 3 classes; organ and canto fermo, 1; pianoforte, 3 preparatory and 2 superior; violin, 3; viola; violoncello; double bass; flute; oboe; clarinet; bassoon; saxophone; horn; trumpet and cornet à pistons; trombone; bugle and cornet à pistons; orchestral ensemble; string quartet; chamber music; composition; counterpoint; harmony, theoretical and practical—1 class each; declamation, 2 classes; Italian declamation, and dancing and deportment, 1 class each. Among the professors we will mention by name—MM. Gevaërt (composition), J. Dupont (harmony), Kufferath (counterpoint), Mailly (organ), Auguste Dupont and Brassin (pianoforte), Colyns and Wieniawski (violin), Warnots (singing), Joseph Servais (cello), Dumon (flute), Poncelet (clarinet), Merck (horn), Duhem (trumpet), and Van Hoesen (bugle). Further details may be obtained from the 'Annuaire du Conservatoire royal de Musique de Bruxelles,' of which the first number was published in 1877. We need only add that, like the Paris Conservatoire, on which it was modelled, the institution has a library and museum, to which the upper storey of the building is devoted. According to the catalogue of 1870 the library then contained nearly 5000 volumes; M. Victor Mahillon is preparing a catalogue of the instruments in the museum.

[ G. C. ]