Vanden Berghe, Philippe


Vanden Berghe, Philippe

Simple mélodie pour piano op. 29



Philippe Vanden Berghe – Simple mélodie pour piano op. 29

(Menen, 8 December 1822 – Menen, 5 January 1885)

(ca. 1863?)

Philippe Vanden Berghe was born into a well-to-do family in Menen; his father was a merchant, landlord and homeowner as well as a local councillor. His school years at Sint-Aloysius College in Menen were rather difficult, which according to school reports was due to his fickleness and ‘a weakness of character.’ His attention was clearly elsewhere: ‘Gifted with a great talent for study, he could have the most brilliant successes, but instead of dedicating himself to study, he only shows interest in drawing and music.’1 According to some sources, he studied literature at the University of Leuven after his secondary education, but no evidence of this has been found. Around 1853 he married Leonie Mulle, with whom he would have eight children and to whom he would dedicate his Deux pensées fugitives pour piano op. 20. At the time of his marriage – he was about thirty years old – he was already registered as a rentier; later on in his children’s birth and marriage records, this became tobacco manufacturer and landlord. That Vanden Berghe was wealthy is also evident from his spacious house on the Leiekaai in Menen, one of the largest and most beautiful in the city. He also held a number of official positions.

Vanden Berghe probably received his earliest music education from the otherwise unknown Ingûel, from Hyacinthe Labbe (a priest and teacher at the College in Menen) and from the equally unknown Schmidt de Buckenbourg. At the end of 1837 Vanden Berghe moved to Namur, where he studied violin, piano and composition with Paul Wilbrant (1800-1868), the conductor of the local theatre orchestra, and with Jean-Christophe Schröder (1800-1860), the conductor of the Grenadiers’ band.
According to musicographer Edouard Grégoir (1822-1890), whom Vanden Berghe must have known personally, he also had contact with prominent pianists and composers such as Friedrich Kümstedt (1809-1858), Jules Schulhoff (1825-1898), Alexander Dreyschock (1818-1869), Henri Herz (1803-1888), Sigismund Thalberg (1812-1871) and Ferdinand Hiller (1811-1885), from whom he received lessons in organ and counterpoint.2 Unfortunately, Grégoir does not mention any further details about these encounters. The only traces that remain of these contacts are the works he dedicated to some of these pianists and composers, although the hope of a performance of the score in question might have played a role here. For example, he dedicated early works to Thalberg (Grande fantaisie sur deux motifs de Haydn op. 3) and to Dreyschock (Scherzo pour piano en forme de galop op. 4). Still according to Grégoir, Vanden Berghe is said to have performed as pianist and organist in Paris and London and was asked as organist for inaugural concerts. But there is no trace of this either.

As a wealthy amateur musician without any official conservatory training, Vanden Berghe probably did not pursue a career as a travelling concert pianist. However, during his lifetime articles full of praise for his piano and organ compositions were written, which he had published by publishing houses such as Richault, de Crevel frères and Van Deventer in Paris, Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig and Gevaert in Ghent. He self-published some of his works. He must have written cantatas and liturgical music as well, but to this day these manuscripts have not been found.

Within the piano literature Vanden Berghe practised different genres: in addition to two concertos he wrote virtuoso concert studies, brilliant fantasies on folk songs, dances and salon music. Vanden Berghe self-published this Simple mélodie in 1863 and dedicated the edition to his cousin Maria Delva. After a short but animated introduction, Vanden Berghe (‘con molto espressione’) presents a delicate melody that develops over broken chords in the left hand. These broken chords continue in an expressive development full of chromaticism and fast runs. A counter-theme, in the tempo of the opening melody, and an agitated passage with chromaticism and scale figures, ensure an effective return of the delicate opening melody, after which the piece dies out on the pianissimo tonic chord As.

Jan Dewilde
(translation: Jasmien Dewilde)

Reprint of a copy housed at the library of the Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp (KVC 54525). This score was published in collaboration with the Study Centre for Flemish Music ( and Labo XIX&XX, a research group of the Antwerp Conservatoire library, as part of the research project ‘Flemish wings’: unheard piano music on contemporary instruments.

1 Hendrik Willaert, Opzoekingen naar leven en werk van Philippe Vanden Berghe, een 19de eeuwse Vlaamse komponist. Analyse en stilistische situering van zijn pianowerken (Ghent University, 1969-1970), dl. 1, p. 14.
2 Edouard Grégoir, Galerie biographique des artistes-musiciens belges du 18e et 19e siècle, Brussels, 1862, pp. 184-185.


Read full German and Flemish preface> HERE

Score Data

Special Edition

The Flemish Music Collection


Solo Instrument


225 x 320 mm


Performance Score





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