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Boesmans, Philippe

Philippe Boesmans (1936-2022), after winning first piano prize at the Conservatoire de Liège, he abandoned the piano for self-taught composition. Initially greatly influenced by serialism, he soon felt it necessary to break beyond its constraints and exclusions. Never dismissing this recent heritage, he nonetheless developed a profoundly personal musical language, at the very centre of which lay meaningful communication with its audience. 

Boesmans’career has been a prestigious one. In 1971 he received the Italia prize for Upon La-Mi, and he has consistently participated at important contemporary music festivals (those of Darmstadt, Royan, Zagreb, Avignon, Almeida, Strasbourg, Montreal, Ars Musica, Salzbourg and IRCAM to name but a few) as well as recording extensively. His Concerto pour violon and Conversions CDs won no less than six prizes, including the Koussevitzky International Recording Prize and the Charles Cros Academy award.

Based in Brussels, he also took up the post of producer at the television company RTBF in 1971, going on to become the composer in residence at the Monnaie, where Gerard Mortier commissioned several of his works, including La Passion de Gilles (1983), the Trakl-Lieder (1987) and his 1989 orchestration of L’Incoronazione di Poppea de Monteverdi. His relationship with the Monnaie continued to be a fruitful one, Bernard Foccroulle commissioning in 1993 a new opera, Reigen, staged by its writer Luc Bondy, who adapted the piece from the Schnitzler opus of the same name. That same year, the production toured to Strasbourg, continuing on to the Monnaie and the Theatre du Châtelet in 1994, and the Frankfurt Opera in 1995. Reigen continued to be staged throughout the Nineties, for instance at the Nantes Opera (1997), the Wiener Opern Theatre (1997), in Braunschweig (1998) and Amsterdam (1999).
In 2004, a new version of the piece, adapted for chamber orchestra, was commissioned from Fabrizio Cassol by the Rhine National Opera, and staged by the Rhine Atelier at the Colmar Municipal Theatre on 5th May 2004. A lot of many other productions followed.

In further collaboration with Luc Bondy, Boesmans created Wintermärchen for the Monnaie in 1999. This production too proved highly successful, being performed the following year at the Lyon Opera, Châtelet, and at the Barcelona Liceu in 2004. Further performances took place at Braunschweig in March 2001 and in Wien in February 2002. In November 2000 Deutsche Grammophon released the CDof Wintermärchen.

Fanfare III for aulochrome (a new woodwind polyphonic instrument) is a new work commissioned from Belgian saxophonist Fabrizio Cassol by The Orchestre Symphonique du SWR de Baden-Baden & Freiburg (premiere: October 2002 – Paris).

At the Monnaie, on 8th March 2005, took place the world premiere of the opera Julie upon Fröken Julie by August Strindberg. The one-act opera Julie was also rerun twice in 2005, for the Wiener Festwochen in May, and for the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence in July. Further productions took place in 2006 at Braunschweig, and in 2007 Music Theatre Wales made a tour in UK.

Philippe Boesmans received Prix Arthur Honegger in December 2000 and Prix Musique from SACD in May 2004.