Callaerts, Joseph


Callaerts, Joseph

Sonate in c, opus 3 für piano solo



Joseph Callaerts – Sonata in C minor, opus 3 (s.d.)

(Antwerp, 11 August 1830 – Antwerp, 3 March 1901)

The musical life of Joseph Callaerts revolved around the organ. He was a respected composer, performer and improviser, and enjoyed a great reputation as a teacher. He maintained an active local and international concert life, received several awards, was given important composition assignments, functioned as a jury member in many competitions, and was often invited to inaugurate new organs. In 1892, he was granted the medal of “Knight in the Order of Leopold”. His compositions were widely appreciated during his lifetime, but their popularity decreased from the first decades of the twentieth century onwards.
Callaerts was trained as a choirboy in the Antwerp Cathedral of our Lady, under Kapellmeister Guillaume J. J. Kennis and choirmaster Corneel Schermers. Later, he was apprenticed to composer and violinist Henri Simon, and composer, pianist, pedagogue and author Edouard Grégoir. From 1850, he served as organist for the Jesuits in Antwerp. During his formal education at the Brussels Conservatory with Jacques-Nicolas Lemmens, he was already granted the position of organist of the Antwerp Cathedral. In 1963, the post of city carilloneur was added, and in 1867 he was appointed as organ teacher (and later practical harmony teacher) in Peter Benoit’s Antwerp Flemish Music School, which was to become the Royal Conservatory of Antwerp in 1898. Jan Blockx, Emile Wambach, Willem De Latin and Lodewijk Mortelmans were some of his notable students.
Besides a large number of organ works, including a concerto, Callaerts composed piano and chamber music, choral works and cantatas, songs, orchestral works, music for wind orchestra and brass band, an opera-comique, and a lot of liturgical music, such as motets, litanies, and masses. Callaerts has a traditionalist composer profile. Unlike his contemporary Peter Benoit, he did not search for innovative forms and did not aspire to convey a political or social message with his music.

Sonata in C minor, opus 3 (s.d.)
Joseph Callaerts’s sole piano sonata is an early, largely classical work. It was published by Heugel in Paris. Its traditional structure consists of four movements: Allegro (C minor), Andante (A flat major), Menuetto & Trio (E flat major – A flat major), Finale (C minor).
The opening Allegro’s first subject displays great contrasts: two pianissimo bars are complemented by two fortissimo bars. A lyrical line leads to the second part of the first theme group, which is characterised by French overture-like dotted rhythms, runs, and sforzandi – all in fortissimo dynamics. The second theme group, in the relative key of E flat major, has a dolce, elegant character and Mendelssohnian lightness. A short codetta closes the exposition. The development section (cantando) starts with a melody in A flat major, the head of which bears intervallic and rhythmic reference to the first subject, but which is more singing and telling. Its elaboration and repetition is followed by a variation of the second part of the opening subject, also in A flat major. A recapitulation of the first subject with a coda brings the first movement to a (fortissimo) end.
The second movement is a quietly flowing Andante in song form, evoking an atmosphere of leisurely salon dances. The middle section builds upon the same rhythmic and melodic elements, but in a more restless way, because of its dynamic contrasts, rhythmic drive, and ongoing modulations. The recapitulation of the first section is rhythmically more lively than its original manifestation, due to the use of staccato accompaniment figures and murmuring broken chords.
The subsequent Allegro movement consists of a minuet and a trio. The classical Menuetto is distinctive in its irregularity of the first phrase (four plus five bars). The Trio with its walz-like quality reflects salon culture. Once again, the melody develops over an odd number of bars (thirteen in this case). The tasteful combination of classical and lighter idioms, effectuated by the repeat of the minuet brings the overall structure into balance.
The classical Finale (Allegro vivo) is polythematic, with successive, often interrelated, subjects. There is no real development section, although this role is more or less assumed by the section following the first repeated part (which can be considered as the fourth subject). In any case, this section is followed by a recapitulation of the four subjects – albeit in a slightly modified order. The final movement’s tonal evolution is rather unadventurous, being limited to the main and relative keys.

Liselotte Sels

Reprint of a copy from the library of the Royal Conservatory of Antwerp (KVC 123.990). This score was published in collaboration with the Centre for the Study of Flemish Music ( and Labo XIX&XX, a research group of the library of the Royal Conservatory of Antwerp. This publication is part of the research project ‘”Flemish wings”: unheard piano music on contemporary instruments’.

Read Flemish preface > HERE

Score Data

Special Edition

The Flemish Music Collection


Solo Instrument


225 x 320 mm





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