Philippe Boesmans

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Philippe Boesmans
Born(1936-05-17)17 May 1936
Tongeren, Belgium
Died10 April 2022(2022-04-10) (aged 85)
Brussels, Belgium
EducationRoyal Conservatory of Liège
  • Pianist
  • Composer
  • Academic teacher
AwardsInternational Opera Award

Philippe Boesmans (17 May 1936 – 10 April 2022)[1] was a Belgian pianist, composer and academic teacher. He studied to be a pianist at the Royal Conservatory of Liège, and was self-taught as a composer, influenced by the Liège Group of Henri Pousseur, André Souris, and Célestin Deliège, and by attending the Darmstädter Ferienkurse. He worked for the Radio Télévision Belge de la Communauté Française (RTBF) from 1961, as a producer from 1971.

Boesman became primarily recognised for his operas, with works written for the Royal Opera House La Monnaie in Brussels as composer in residence since 1985. Four operas were written in collaboration with Luc Bondy who adapted plays for him, Schnitzler's La Ronde, Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, Strindberg's Miss Julie and Iwona, księżniczka Burgunda by Witold Gombrowicz, and who directed the world premieres of the operas. Au monde was honoured with an International Opera Award in 2015. His last opera will receive its world premiere at La Monnaie in Brussels in December 2022.[citation needed]


Boesmans was born in Tongeren and studied piano at the Royal Conservatory of Liège,[2] He studied first with Robert Leudiran [fr], then with Stefan Askenase who advised him to not pursue a career as a concert pianist.[3] At the conservatoire, he was also introduced to serial composition techniques by Pierre Froidebise. However, it was only after coming into contact with the "Liège Group" of Henri Pousseur, André Souris, and Célestin Deliège [fr]) in 1957 that he began to write music, as a self-taught composer.[4] He attended courses at Darmstädter Ferienkurse.[5] He was also active as a pianist with the Ensemble Musique Nouvelle.[3][6] In 1961 he became assistant, and in 1971 producer, at the Radio Télévision Belge de la Communauté Française (RTBF),[3] working with the radio orchestra there.[7] From this experience he learned much about composing and orchestrating music. In 1965, he became a member of the Communist Party.[3] In 1971 he won the Prix Italia for his composition Upon La-Mi for horn and voice which won him international recognition.[3][8][5] In 1971, he participated in productions of the Centre de Recherches Musicales de Wallonie, collaborating with Pousseur.[9] His works have been performed at the most important festivals of contemporary music, such as Darmstadt, Warsaw, Brussels, Royan, Metz, Avignon, Zagreb, Montréal and Paris.[3] For a short time, Boesmans taught piano and composition at the Royal Conservatory of Liège.[10]

He was composer in residence at the La Monnaie opera house in Brussels.[2][7] Luc Bondy adapted four operas for him and subsequently staged their world premieres.[4] When his opera Reigen was premiered in 1993, a reviewer of Le Monde wrote: "Reigen is perhaps the most successful opera of the last seventy years."[11] His opera Au monde won the International Opera Award 2015 in the category World Premiere.[12] He was bilingual in German and French.[13]

Boesmans died after a short illness on 10 April 2022 in Brussels, at the age of 85.[13][14] He was honoured in a tribute concert at the Royal Opera House La Monnaie/De Munt on 19 April 2022.[15]

Composition style[edit]

Boesmans early works were strongly influenced by serialism.[5] After that, clear structures, periodically recurring rhythms, consonances and melodic elements characterise his musical language.[5] The aesthetics of his works has been called "trompe l'oreille" (trick the ear).[5] His instrumentations are characterised by intense timbre constellations.[5] He alluded to works of others not by exact quotations, but so-called "stylistic quotations" or "gestural quotations".[13]




Other compositions

  • Violin Concerto (1980)
  • String Quartet No. 1 (1988)
  • Surfing for viola and orchestra (1990)
  • Love and Dance Tunes for baritone and piano (1993); settings from Shakespeare's sonnets
  • Summer Dreams, String Quartet No. 2 (1994)


  • Trakl Lieder; String Quartet [No. 1]; Surfing. Françoise Pollet (soprano), Orchestre du Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, conducted by Sylvain Cambreling; Arditti String Quartet; Christophe Desjardins (viola), Ensemble Musique Nouvelle, conducted by Georges Elie Octors. Trakl Lieder recorded live, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, 14 April 1990; String Quartet recorded at the Royal Conservatory of Liège, 24 March 1990; Surfing recorded at the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, 4 June 1990. CD recording, 1 audio disc: digital, 12 cm, stereo. Ricercar RIC 083065. Anloy: SPRL Ricercar, [n.d.]. OCLC 25875206
  • Reigen (in German), Ricercar; Distrib. Musidisc, 1995, OCLC 659244085
  • Wintermärchen (in German), Deutsche Grammophon; distribution: Universal Division Polydor, 2001, OCLC 658728338 Dale Duesing; Susan Chilcott; Antonio Pappano. Sung in German; in scene four, the language changes from German to English and Boesmans introduces AKA Moon, a jazz/funk group.
  • Julie. Garry Magee, Malena Ernman, Monnaie Chamber Orchestra, Kazushi Ōno. CD recording. Cypres (CYP4626), 2005. OCLC 315734451
  • Yvonne, princesse de Bourgogne (in French), Kastafior, 2010, OCLC 873502768 Opéra National de Paris Mireille Delunsch and Yann Beuron. Cypres, 2011 Klangforum Wien, Sylvain Cambreling. Diapason d'Or[26]


  • Julie. Garry Magee, Malena Ernman, Kerstin Avemo, Monnaie Chamber Orchestra, Kazushi Ōno. DVD recording. BelAir, 2005. OCLC 605048279



  1. ^ Tobisch, Léopold (11 April 2022). "Le compositeur Philippe Boesmans est mort". Radio France (in French). Retrieved 12 April 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Philippe Boesmans". Schott Music. 17 May 1936. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Leclercq, Fernand (7 April 2022). "Boesmans, Philippe". MGG Online (in German). Retrieved 12 April 2022.
  4. ^ a b "Belgian composer Philippe Boesmans has died". Pizzicato. 11 April 2022. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Orchestermusik von Philippe Boesmans / Magische, schillernde Klangspiele". Deutschlandfunk (in German). 17 November 2019. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
  6. ^ Boesmans, P.; Renard, C.; Wangermée, R. (2005). Philippe Boesmans: entretiens et témoignages. Collection Musique, musicologie (in French). Conseil de la musique de la communauté française de Belgique. p. 26. ISBN 978-2-87009-890-5. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
  7. ^ a b "Le compositeur belge Philippe Boesmans est décédé". RTBF (in French). 11 April 2022. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
  8. ^ Visscher 2001.
  9. ^ a b "Philippe Boesmans (biography, works, resources)" (in French and English). IRCAM.
  10. ^ "Department für Oper und Musiktheater – Bio_Boesmans". Universität Mozarteum Salzburg. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
  11. ^ a b "Musiques La Ronde des vanites – l'opéra exceptionnel de Philippe Boesmans, d'après la pièce de Schnitzler, est mis en scène à Bruxelles par Luc Bondy. Il sera à Paris le 25 novembre". Le Monde (in French). 16 November 1994. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
  12. ^ a b "Au Monde wins Best World Premiere Award at the International Opera Awards". Focus on Belgium. 10 July 2015. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
  13. ^ a b c d e Machart, Renaud (11 April 2022). "Le compositeur belge Philippe Boesmans est mort". Le Monde (in French). Retrieved 12 April 2022.
  14. ^ Tomeo, Marissa (11 April 2022). "Composer Philippe Boesmans Has Died". Retrieved 12 April 2022.
  15. ^ "La Monnaie honorera, lors d'un concert, le compositeur Philippe Boesmans, décédé dimanche". 13 April 2022.
  16. ^ Morris 1996,[page needed].
  17. ^ Farthofer, Lisa (2005). "Die Unheimlichkeit des Menschlichen – zu Julie von Philippe Boesmans". Österreichische Musikzeitschrift. Boehlau Verlag. 60 (5). doi:10.7767/omz.2005.60.5.27. ISSN 2307-2970. S2CID 163467861.
  18. ^ Tunbridge, L. (14 November 2008). "Philippe Boesmans: Julie". The Opera Quarterly. Oxford University Press (OUP). 23 (4): 504–511. doi:10.1093/oq/kbn052. ISSN 0736-0053.
  19. ^ Ender, Daniel (2009). "Philippe Boesmans Yvonne, princesse de Bourgogne". Österreichische Musikzeitschrift. Boehlau Verlag. 64 (5). doi:10.7767/omz.2009.64.5.4. ISSN 2307-2970. S2CID 163499322.
  20. ^ "Poppea e Nerone" (work details) (in French and English). IRCAM.
  21. ^ "[t]akte: Neues altes Meisterwerk. Philippe Boesmans' Bearbeitung von Monteverdis L'incoronazione di Poppea". [t]akte (in German). Retrieved 12 April 2022.
  22. ^ Ashman, Mike. "Boesmans Au Monde". Gramophone. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
  23. ^ Boesmans, Philippe (30 March 2014). "Au Monde". Opéra Comique. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
  24. ^ Festival International d'Art Lyrique d'Aix-en-Provence 2016.
  25. ^ "On purge bébé". La Monnaie / De Munt. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
  26. ^ "Boesmans". Forum des Compositeurs. 27 March 2022. Retrieved 12 April 2022.


Further reading[edit]

  • Auzolle, Cécile. 2014. "Vers l'étrangeté, ou l'opéra selon Philippe Boesmans". Arles: Actes sud.
  • Deliège, Célestin [fr], Bernard Foccroule, and Claude Ledoux. 1983. Philippe Boesmans. Paris and Brussels: Opéra national de Belgique & Éditions BEBA.
  • Dufour, Valérie. 2005. "Catalogue de l'œuvre de Philippe Boesmans". In Philippe Boesmans: entretiens et témoignages, edited by Christian Renard and Robert Wangermée, 203–260. Sprimont: Pierre Mardaga. ISBN 2-87009-890-1
  • "Philippe Boesmans". La Monnaie / De Munt. 17 May 1936. Retrieved 12 April 2022.

External links[edit]