Jules De Swert – Pensée élégiaque (1885)
(Leuven, 15 August 1843 – Ostend, 24 February 1891)
Jules De Swert received his first music lessons from his father, the music teacher, cellist, double bass player, bandmaster and composer Herman De Swert (1803-1873), just like his brothers Isidore (1830-1896), a renowned cellist, and Jean-Baptiste (1832-1856), who played various instruments and also composed.
In 1856 Jules De Swert went to the Conservatoire royal in Brussels, where he obtained a first prize with the cello virtuoso and composer Adrien François Servais (1807-1866) in 1859. This was the beginning of a great international career that took him all over Europe. He acquired fame by performing his arrangements for cello of the violin concertos of Beethoven and Mendelssohn, of his own concertos and of the cello concertos of, among others, Robert Schumann and Bernhard Molique.
De Swert became principal cellist and even concertmaster of several important German orchestras in Düsseldorf, Weimar, Berlin and Bayreuth, and was awarded the honorary title of ‘Kammervirtuose’ in several places. In 1865, he became cello teacher at the Berlin Musikhochschule, a position he would hold until 1877. In between touring, both as a soloist and in chamber music, he also composed. Besides compositions (including three concertos) and arrangements for his instrument, he also wrote songs, chamber music, the orchestral work Nordseefahrt inspired by Heinrich Heine and three operas. The most successful opera was Die Albigenser, on a libretto by Wilhelm Rullmann, which premiered in Wiesbaden on 2 October 1878 and was performed in Frankfurt, Hamburg, Strasbourg, Antwerp and Ghent. Graf Hammerstein, to a libretto by Wilhelm Jacoby, had its world premiere in Mainz on 7 February 1884, and his last opera Piccolino premiered in The Hague in 1890.
He also published didactic works such as The violoncello (a method published by Novello in 1882) and Gradus ad parnassum, ou le mécanisme du violoncelle (Leipzig, 1888).
Because of his poor health he stopped giving concerts to become director of the Music School in Ostend in 1888 and a year later second conductor of the Kursaal Orchestra. He combined these functions with that of cello teacher at the Municipal Music Conservatory in Bruges and at the Royal Conservatory in Ghent.
De Swert composed Pensée élégiaque for four cellos in 1885 on the occasion of the death of Servais’ eldest son Joseph. He also created a version for cello and piano and one for four horns.
In August 1891 Léon Rinskopf (1862-1915), De Swert’s successor as director of the Music School and conductor of the Kursaal concerts, programmed this Pensée élégiaque for four cellos in memory of the cello virtuoso and composer who died young. The programme also included De Swert’s Adagio religioso for strings, the overture to Die Albigenser, the Cello Concerto in d, opus 32, and Nordseefahrt.
This elegy is still often performed and was released in 2016 on the CD Légende by the Tansman Cello Quartet (Antarctica Records AR 0001).
(translation: Jasmien Dewilde)
This score was edited by Stijn Saveniers on the basis of two scores from the library of the Antwerp Royal Conservatoire: the Schott edition S.F. 3675 (KVC 133.752) and a manuscript (KVC 133.751).
Read Flemish preface / Deutsches Vorwort lesen > HERE