Prière belge pour 1916 (Belgian prayer for 1916) for mixed choir (Performance Score)
(Arlon, 26 November 1854 – Antwerp, 6 May 1924)
Prière belge pour 1916
Vaderlands gebed voor 1916
[Belgian prayer for 1916]
(text by F.H. de Puymaly)
During the German invasion of 4 August 1914, Emile Wambach was in Knokke, on holiday with his family. The circumstances forced him to travel to Vlissingen via Sluis. At that time, Wambach had been the head of the Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp since 1912, and he hoped to eventually leave the neutral Netherlands and return to Antwerp. The German bombardment of the Antwerp fortresses (starting 28 September 1914) and of the city itself (starting 8 October 1914) created a stream of refugees towards the Netherlands and prevented Wambach from returning. However, even when the Antwerp Conservatoire was able to start the new academic year on 15 December 1914, and everyday life under the German occupation had somewhat stabilized, Wambach chose to remain in the neutral Netherlands. In an interview with a Dutch newspaper, he said he considered the reopening of the Conservatoire inappropriate: ‘It’s making music in a house of mourning.’ Presumably, Wambach crossed the English channel at the start of November 1915 and settled in London. He made a living as a violinist, pianist, organist and composer, contributing to numerous patriotic events and charity concerts for war victims, often in collaboration with other prominent figures of the Belgian cultural and political scene who also lived in exile. For that occasion, he composed a series of works which together create a musical chronicle of the war.
A large part of those songs and choral works are composed to lyrics by F. Henri de Puymaly. This French winegrower – he grew vines at Château Lafosse in Caudéran-Mérignac, near Bordeaux – was an amateur poet and a member of the Académie des Sciences, Belles-Lettres et Arts de Vaucluse. The most important theme in de Puymaly’s war poems is the cruel injustice little Belgium suffered at the hands of Germany, linked to the call to fight back courageously. The Dutch composer Alphonse Diepenbrock (1862-1921) would also compose music to two texts by de Puymaly in 1916, namely Belges debout! and Le vin de revanche. These pieces fit in with the international outrage about the fate of ‘brave little Belgium’, which had previously led to the publication of King Albert’s book, in which writers, artists and politicians from all over the world expressed their support and admiration for the Belgian people and their king.
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