Marche de La Vestale arrangée pour le piano
(Brussels, 25 November 1775 – Ukkel, 15 December 1858)
Marche de La Vestale
arrangée pour le piano
A large part of Joseph Borremans’s career was overshadowed by that of his older brother, Charles Borremans (1769-1827). For example, from 1807 to 1820, he assisted his brother as ‘sous-chef’ when he was a conductor at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels, and under the Dutch rule he was part of the ‘musique particulière’ of king William I as a pianist, while his brother was the Kapellmeister. The Borremans brothers had close contacts with the Dutch royal family. For the inauguration of William I in Brussels in September 1815, Joseph Borremans composed music to a text by the actor Philippe Bourson. One year later, he composed the pastoral scene L’offrande à l’hymen, ou Rose et Hippolyte for the wedding of the Prince of Orange (later William II) to Anna Pavlovna. This piece was executed on 31 October 1816 in La Monnaie.
Afterwards, Joseph Borremans’s career gained momentum. In 1818, he succeeded Adrien Joseph Van Helmont as Kapellmeister of the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula. Thanks to the patronage of a number of important Brussels families, the music scene in and around the cathedral flourished and religious pieces could be performed with a full orchestra. As the Kapellmeister, Borremans obviously wrote a lot of liturgical music as well. In 1835, he was succeeded by Joseph-François Snel. However, Borremans would still remain the organist of the St. Nicholas church in Brussels. He enjoyed the reputation of being a first class improviser.
Joseph Borremans was married to the French actress and singer Cathérine-Agathe Mathieu, also known as Gouget. Since 1801, she was tied to La Monnaie, where she achieved great success with character roles in comedies.
In addition to occasional pieces for the royal family and religious pieces, Borremans also composed two operas: Clapperman, ou le crieur de nuit d’Amsterdam, only executed once, on 31 October 1804 in La Monnaie, and the one-act opera buffa La femme impromptue, performed on 5 January 1809 in La Monnaie. Furthermore, he also composed chamber music and piano pieces, like this arrangement of the march of La Vestale by Gaspare Spontini (1774-1851). Spontini’s ‘tragédie lyrique’, performed on 15 December 1807 in Paris, is considered a crucial connection between the eighteenth (Gluck) and nineteenth century (Meyerbeer) and was very much admired by Berlioz and Wagner. In his operas, Spontini displayed his penchant for marches, especially toward the end of an act: the forward driving character of the marching rhythm played an important role in his dramaturgy and created magnificent scenes in the finales. These marches were highly popular and were therefore very often transcribed and orchestrated.
Borremans chose the choir ‘De lauriers couvrons le chemin’ from the finale of the first act and limited the arrangement to just piano. He must have heard Spontini’s opera when it was performed for the first time during the 1809-1810 season in La Monnaie. The Brussels premiere must have taken place before 15 March 1810, because that day there was already a reprise with ‘première chanteuse’ Berteau in the title role. This score, which he self-published, has probably also been published in 1810.
Jan Dewilde (translation: Jasmien Dewilde)
Facsimile of a score belonging to the library of the Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp (KVC 18775). This score was published in collaboration with the non-profit Study Centre for Flemish Music (www.svm.be) and the Province of Antwerp, and is part of a larger project concerning four original manuscripts by Gaspare Spontini that were discovered in the Castle d’Ursel in Hingene.