Choses d’âme: mélodies pour chant et piano
(Antwerp, 20 April 1861 – Teddington (UK), 31 July 1916)
Things of the soul: melodies for voice and piano
This popular female composer was born with the name Marie Schewyck, but after marrying the architect George Matthyssens on 30 August 1881, she took her husband’s name.
Maria Matthyssens studied with great names of the Antwerp music scene, such as Jan Blockx, Emile Ergo, Emile Wambach and Flor Alpaerts. According to a letter from 1914 to the lyricist Lambrecht Lambrechts, as a child, Matthyssens, was already a skilled piano player and had a beautiful soprano voice. She performed as a singer in Antwerp and Brussels, but later she would mainly present herself as a composer. In 1898, she published a collection of twelve songs with the publisher Schott Frères in Brussels, and early 1899, the Antwerp Cercle artistique et littéraire organised a concert dedicated almost entirely to her oeuvre. Le Guide musical of 22 January 1899 wrote the following about her songs: ‘They are elegant and refined, and made to please. They don’t have the same entrancement as the lieder by Schubert, Schumann, Robert Frantz and Brahms; they are closer to the melodies of Gounod and Massenet. The melodies of Mrs Matthyssens are also very well written for the voice and are very prosodic.’ Back then, Matthyssens sang some of her own songs. For her French songs, she chose texts by, among others, Léon Solvay, Gustave De Graef or Marguerite Coppin. On rare occasions she wrote the text herself, like for Bouderie (‘petit poëme en prose pour ténor’, ‘short poem in prose for tenor’) or Chant d’hyménée (dedicated to her children).
However, Matthyssens would mostly make a name for herself as a composer of popular songs written to Dutch texts. Completely in line with the many well-attended song nights that were organised at the beginning of the twentieth century by cultural organisations such as the Willemsfonds, Davidsfonds and the Algemeen Nederlands Verbond (ANV), she wrote many songs in popular style. Her song Prins karnaval (text by Willem Gijssels) was awarded by the ANV and before the First World War it was the go-to song on the ANV song nights in Brussels. Even more popular was the cheerful Schoentje lap! (text by Ernest De Weert), which won first prize at the Antwerp song contest in 1909. The melody was played on the carillon of the Antwerp cathedral and the F.X. De Beukelaer distillery used the song to advertise its herbal liqueur Élixir d’Anvers. But the song that kept Matthyssens’s memory alive the longest, was Omdat ik Vlaming ben (text by Lambrecht Lambrechts), a song that was sung until deep into the twentieth century at many Flemish manifestations
Read full preface (also in Flemish) > HERE
The Flemish Music Collection
Choir/Voice & Instrument(s)