Victor Legley – Before Endeavours Fade, op. 92
(Hazebrouck, 18 June 1915 – Oostende, 28 November 1994
for string orchestra
Victor Legley was born in the French-Flemish town of Hazebroek (official name: Hazebrouck) in the French Départe-ment du Nord. His parents had fled their hometown of Ypres because of the threat of war violence and crossed the French border, where Victor Legley was born on 18 juni 1915. With this piece for string orchestra, Legley pays tribute to the victims of the First World War, as well as to his mother (on the sheet music he wrote: ‘For mum’). In the score of this in memoriam he further explains:
‘The title is difficult to translate [into Dutch]. The idea that comes closest is this one: before the goodwill disappears. Before endeavours fade is the title of a leaflet that leads along the battlefields – i.e. graveyards – of the War of 14-18. Usually these roads lead to Ypres, the city of my youth. I have visited all of these graveyards, which are scattered all over the region, as proof of the absurdity of every illusion. They were my friends, these hundreds of thousands of young men, known unto God. What God? Why did they die, and for whom? Since then every moment reminds us of the monstrous uselessness of their deaths. No one understands. Until the end of time they will continue killing the young and hopeful, always in the name of the same principles, which – by all who depend on them – are called ideals.
Will they ever understand, before endeavours fade?’
The book Legley is referring to is Before endeavours fade: a guide to the battlefields of the First World War by Rose E. Coombs, an employee of the Imperial War Museum in London. This standard work from 1980 went through several editions and was updated even after Coombs’s death in 1991.
In addition to a posthumous tribute to the war victims and to his mother, Legley supposedly also meant the work as a piece in occasion of the 175th birthday of the chapter of the Brussels lodge Les amis philanthropes. Legley was a member of different lodges and composed Zeven maçonnieke liederen (Seven masonic songs) (for baritone and piano).
Before endeavours fade marks a turning period in Legley’s oeuvre: around that time he began composing for wind orchestra at the request of Yvon Ducène, the conductor of the Royal Band of the Belgian Guides. First he adapted symphonic pieces for wind orchestra (Le bal des halles from 1954 in 1977 and Before endeavours fade in 1979), afterwards he also wrote original pieces for wind orchestra, such as Hommage à Jean Absil (1979), Paradise regained (1986) and the Zevende symfonie (Seventh Symphony) (1988). After that he would return to symphonic orchestra with his Derde vioolconcerto (Third Violin Concerto) (1990) and Achtste symfonie (Eighth Symphony) (1993).
In the score of Before endeavours fade Legley asks for eight violins, two violas, two cellos and one double bass. However, in a note in the manuscript he calls this the minimum: ‘Preferably more! In particular when it comes to altos, cellos and basses.’
CD recordings are available of both the original version for string orchestra as well as of the arrangement for wind orchestra:
– The Flemish connection: orchestral music / Vlaams Radio Orkest conducted by Jan Latham-Koenig (Klara MMP 024, 2002)
– Victor Legley: works for symphonic band / Royal Symphonic Band of the Belgian Guides conducted by Norbert Nozy (René Gailly CD87 123, 1996)
Duration: 8 tot 9 minutes
Jan Dewilde (translation: Jasmien Dewilde)
This score was created by Stijn Saveniers based on a facsimile of the autograph manuscript housed at the Royal Conservatoire of Brussels. A facsimile of the manuscript was also published as an appendix to the Muziekkrant of January 1980. This publication is the result of a collaboration with the Study Centre for Flemish Music, where the sheet music can be be obtained (www.svm.be).
Read Flemish preface > HERE