Born in Antwerp, Blockx studied the piano with Frans Aerts, the organ with Joseph Callaerts and composition with Peter Benoît at the Antwerp Conservatory. When he was still a student he wrote some songs, in Flemish, which became popular. Later he studied with Carl Reinecke at Leipzig. Despite the fact that he was Benoits favorite pupil, Blockx wanted to make his own way in life, independent of his teacher and the Flemish Movement. Unlike Benoit, Blockx never intended his works to have the educational, uplifting effect that was typical for the Flemish Movement.
This caused tensions between student and master: despite the fact that Blockx’s work helped to spread Flemish music across the Belgian borders and even saved the Vlaamse Opera from bankruptcy, Blockx received a lot of complaints from his fellow Flemish composers for publishing his works in French and through the Parisian music publisher Heugel.
In 1886 Blockx became a teacher at his Antwerp alma mater; and when Benoît died in 1901, Blockx succeeded him as director (a decision that was much contested by his colleagues despite his international reputation). He died of a stroke in Kapellenbos, near Antwerp, in 1912.
Blockx wrote operas called Iets Vergeten, Maître Martin, Rita, De Herbergprinses, Thyl Uylenspiegel, De Bruid der Zee, De Kapel and Baldie. Later he rewrote Baldie and called it Liefdelied. He also wrote a ballet called Milenka, a pantomime called St Nicholas, an overture called Rubens, and many other works. Among his other works are the cantatas Jubelgam, De Klokke Roelandt, Het Vaderland, Die Scheldezang, Feest in der Lande, Vredesang, Op den Stroom, Het Droom van't Paradies, the symphonic poem Kermisdag and Symfonisch Drieluik.
- Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1900) p 71
- The Days of Scharwenka and Moszkowski, Harcourt, Brace and Company (1936) p 77
- Biography by J. Dewilde at SVM
- Works by or about Jan Blockx at Internet Archive
- Free scores by Jan Blockx at the International Music Score Library Project
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