Preludium en fuga (s.a.) for organ/ Les bourdons de Notre Dame de Courtrai for organ (first print)
(Kortrijk, 28 August 1890 – Calais, 14 November 1914)
Prelude and fugue (s.a.)
Les bourdons de Notre Dame de Courtrai (1914)
André Devaere was born in Kortrijk on 28 August 1890. His father, Octaaf Devaere (1865-1941) was an organist at the Kortrijk St Martin’s church and gave his son his first music lessons. In 1901, André registered as a pupil at St Almond’s college in his native town, where he was called in to accompany the chapel’s Mass celebrations at the organ. His musical talent didn’t go unnoticed at the Brussels Conservatoire either, as in 1903 he was the only one to be accepted out of fifteen candidates to the piano class of Arthur De Greef (1862-1940).
On 25 June 1907 he obtained a first prize for piano with the maximum score. The chairman of the jury and then Conservatoire director François August Gevaert (1828-1908) was himself so much impressed by Devaere’s piano playing that in a breach of protocol he allowed the public to applaud after the young pianist’s exam. Devaere’s Brussels success also came to the attention of his home town Kortrijk, where he was honoured with the foundation of the Devaere Committee and the organisation of a tributary walk through the streets of Kort-rijk on 1 July, followed by a reception of the pianist in the town hall.
After gaining his first prize for piano, André Devaere accumulated concert invitations. Thus the Société des bains de mer d’Ostende invited him to give his first concert at the Ostend Kursaal on Saturday 14 September 1907 with the Kursaal orchestra under the baton of Leon Rinskopf. The programme featured Camille Saint-Saëns’ Concerto in C minor and Frédéric Chopin’s Fantasy in F minor. In Het Kortrijksche Volk of 18 September 1907 a critic wrote: ‘The audience was raptured by the wonderful performance of the young artist. No affectation, no useless acting out with the hands, not at all! Firm, solid playing with a sure hand that can hammer when needed, yet also able to make the piano sing and sigh, to a breath-taking effect both on each human soul and the concert-hall alike.’
On 17 November of that same year Devaere was heard for the first time in his hometown, with works by Mendelssohn, Chopin, Schumann, Saint-Saëns, Bach and Liszt. In the Gazette van Kortrijk of 24 November 1907 we read: ‘Devaere possesses great qualities: he has a large memory, his playing is steady, colourful, both inspired and inspiring. He is fully in control of himself.’
Devaere also played chamber music, including a recital with the violinist Godfried Devreese, who had just obtained his first prize for violin with honours in 1909 and was celebrated in his turn in Kortrijk. The two young musicians gave a concert in the great hall of the Kortrijk council house performing works by Grieg, Tartini, Vieuxtemps, Sinding and Wieniawsky.
Concurrently with his budding concert career Devaere continued his studies at the Brussels Conservatoire, gaining first prizes for written harmony and practical harmony maxima cum laude in the class of Paul Gilson (1865-1942), and a first prize for fugue with the highest score in the class of Edgar Tinel (1854-1912).
Meanwhile Devaere also went on studying the piano, obtaining the competency degree for piano on 2 March 1909 with the maximum score. This examination was his admission pass to the ultimate test: the virtuosity degree, which was organised for the third time in the history of the Conservatoire on 7 December 1909…
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