(Merchtem, 9th May 1865 – 9th October 1937)
August De Boeck was one of Belgium’s leading composers in the first half of the last century. He became well-known with, among other works, five operas, including Winternachtsdroom (1902), Reinaert de Vos (1907-09) and La Route d’Émeraude (1913-1920). Furthermore he composed a number of brilliant symphonic works, cantatas, religious music, songs and a series of works for various instruments.
In De Boeck’s oeuvre his songs to French poems occupy a prominent place. They were written over a period of almost half a century, between 1889 and 1937. In these songs De Boeck succeeds in evoking deep emotions with an infallible melodic intuition and very personal harmonies. With simple means he sometimes achieves sublime results; an example of this is his song L’Église paysanne, which mostly became famous in a Dutch version by Maurits Sabbe. For a number of songs, such as the Cuisinier-songs, the Stances à Marylyse, La dernière lettre or the compelling C’est en toi, bien-aimé, he wrote beautifully detailed piano accompaniments. Yet one can tell that De Boeck was first and foremost an organist. This is evident, for instance, from the way he treats basses (sequences of octaves in Le Passant), or from the use of series of lying chords (in Crépuscule, On s’en allait dans la forêt, etc.). As a pupil of his friend Paul Gilson, De Boeck was above all a masterful orchestrator. Both had personal contacts with Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, who greatly appreciated their orchestral works. The colourful orchestral accompaniments De Boeck made for a number of his songs clearly illustrate this.
In the choice of his poets De Boeck was not always very selective. He was only inspired by well- established poets on a few occasions, such as Alfred de Musset, Pierre Louÿs, François Coppée or Charles Van Lerberghe. The poems by the promising Émile Polak, who died young, were a lucky choice. It is no coincidence that De Boeck has set music to a few poems from Polak’s collection Les Sentiers du Silence, singing the praises of the purity and fragility of the children’s world. But mostly it was largely forgotten poets who provided him with the verses. For example, poems written in wartime by women poets who are now completely forgotten (Marie-Jeanne Huysmans and Nicole Raymond Hubert) moved him to write two poignant songs (Frissons de fleurs, Petite église de campagne). But it is above all seven songs to texts by Jeanne Cuisinier that are the high point of his song oeuvre. Around her twentieth birthday, this later world-famous ethnologist wrote a series of poems that reflect a hopeless love. Here, De Boeck’s music is highly charged, with a tragic or resigned undertone. …
Performance score without critical report is also available > HERE
Critical report without performance score is also available > HERE