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Blockx, Jan

° Antwerpen, 25/01/1851 — † Kapellenbos, 26/05/1912

Jan Dewilde (translation: Jo Sneppe)

Jan Blockx studied at the Flemish School of Music in Antwerp with Frans Aerts (piano), Joseph Callaerts (organ) and Peter Benoit (harmony, counterpoint and fugue, composition). Blockx was generally considered as Benoit's favourite pupil and as his successor. Nevertheless he wanted to adopt an independent attitude towards Benoit and also to develop singularly detached from the Flemish Movement in music. So on the advice of Jan van Beers he went to Leipzig in 1879, where he studied with Carl Reinecke and had contacts with Edvard Grieg.

Contrary to Benoit, Blockx did not have in mind to edify the people with his music. He addressed the middle class in the concert hall and the opera rather than the masses at open-air performances. Owing to the international success of his operas the composer Jan Blockx contributed to the propagation of Flemish music. However, since Blockx did not assign any educative uplifting value to his music he was strongly contested within the Flemish Movement in music.

Blockx wrote several symphonic works, some of them on Flemish themes, like the popular Vlaamse dansen (Flemish Dances, 1884), but he also composed more abstract works such as his Symfonie in D (1885), the Symfonisch drieluik (Symphonic Triptych, 1905) and the Suite in den ouden vorm (Suite in the Old Style, 1907). Most successful, however, were his romantic-realistic operas. His hit operas Herbergprinses (Princess of the Inn, 1896) and Bruid der zee (Bride of the Sea, 1901), both on librettos of Nestor de Tière, were performed in places as far as South Africa and the United States.

Although with these operas Blockx had meant a lot for the international dissemination of Flemish music and had even saved the young Flemish Opera from bankruptcy, he was fiercely blamed by the Flemish radical Nationalists for his association with the Parisian music publisher Heugel. This resulted in a real anti-Blockx campaign, in the background mainly animated by Edward Keurvels. It was considered as a denial of the Flemish Movement in music that in the score of Herbergprinses Heugel had only printed the French text, that he had forced a French librettist on Blockx for his opera Thijl Uilenspiegel and, what's more, had insisted on creating this opera in French in the Brussels 'Théâtre de la Monnaie' on 16 January 1900, two days before the Antwerp première. In addition Blockx was accused of thwarting Benoit in his struggle for a royal conservatory. Even so Blockx also sporadically wrote occasional works for the Flemish Movement, such as Hulde aan Conscience (Homage to Conscience - a Flemish writer) and Klokke Roeland (Roeland's Bell), as well as cooperating as répétiteur with the big performances of Benoit's cantatas and oratorios.

In his function as teacher of harmony (since 1885) he was jointly responsible for training a new generation of Flemish composers (amongst them Lodewijk Mortelmans, Julius Schrey and Flor Alpaerts). Nevertheless his appointment as Antwerp Conservatory director in succession of Benoit in 1901 was heavily questioned. And despite his efforts to develop the Conservatory in the spirit of Benoits principles, the baiting continued. In response to the creation in 1908 of his opera Baldie (again on a libretto by De Tière) Jef van Hoof together with some fellow-protesters published two issues of the paper De Ploege, in which they called Blockx an unworthy successor of Benoit. Victor Resseler in two pamphlets claimed that Blockx' themes from Herbergprinses had been copied from Benoit and that he fouled up the public's taste with immoral librettos and vulgar music. Only outside of Antwerp did Blockx receive the support of people like Florimond van Duyse and Paul Gilson.

Blockx' career is symptomatic for the evolution of the Flemish Movement in music. As first pupil of Benoit's school he gained international successes indeed with compositions that were permeated by the national popular music. Yet for the Benoit adepts this was no match for the fact that he refused to comply with Benoit's strict rules concerning the primacy of the Dutch language.

Les compositeurs belges, 1936, p. 22.


Anderen over deze componist

  • Brenta, G.: J. Blockx, in: Panorama de la Musique belge - Deuxième partie: le XIXe siècle, Brochures-programmes de l’I.N.R., Série Française N° 21, Brussel, 1938, p. 25-26.
  • Blockx, F.: Jan Blockx, Brussel, 1943.
  • Dela Montagne, V.: ’k bestijg den Helikon, in: Gregoir, E.: Bibliothèque musicale populaire, ouvrage en trois volumes, dl. 2, Brussel, 1877, p. 57-58.
  • Dewilde, J.: Momentopnamen uit de relatie Peter Benoit-Jan Blockx, in: Realisme en romantiek in vorm en koloriet. Vijf essays over Peter Benoit, Harelbeke, 1994, p. 41-48.
  • E.E. [Edmond Evenepoel?]: Bruxelles. Reprise de Philémon et Baucis - Première représentation de Milenka, de Jan Blockx, in: Le guide musical, jrg. 44, nr. 45, 8 november 1888, p. 286.
  • Gilson, P.: Les compositeurs belges, in: Série française n° 8 - Emissions musicales A, NIR-INR (Brussel, 1936), p. 22.
  • Gregoir, E.: Blockx (Jan), in: Les artistes-musiciens belges au XVIIIme et au XIXme siècle, Brussel, 1885, p. 58-60.
  • Lambrechts, L.: Jan Blockx, in: Muziek-Warande, jrg. 10, nr. 12, 1 december 1931, p. 246-255.
  • N.N.: Belgian Opera for Hammerstein, in: The New York Times, 30 augustus 1908.
  • N.N.: New Blockx Opera at the Manhattan, in: The New York Times, 11 maart 1909.
  • S.[olvay?], L.[ucien?]: Correspondance de Belgique, in: Le Ménestrel, jrg. 54, nr. 46, 11 november 1888, p. 364-365.
  • S.[olvay ?], L.[ucien ?]: Nouvelles diverses - Etranger, in: Le Ménestrel, jrg. 62, nr. 42, 18 oktober 1896, p. 334.
  • Wambach, E.: Correspondances - Anvers, in: Le guide musical, jrg. 42, nr. 43, 25 oktober 1896, p. 695.


  • Cinq morceaux (1908)
    voor twee violen
  • Drieluik (1893)
    voor piano vierhandig, fluit, hobo, engelse hoorn en fagot
  • Humoreske (1890)
    voor strijkkwartet
  • Lied in de oude trant (1872)
    voor fluit, hobo, fagot en vier cello’s
  • Pianokwintet (1886)
    voor pianokwintet


Höflich-uitgave: Vlaamse dansen, op. 26 (1884) van Jan Blockx

Jan Dewilde

Nederlandse inleiding bij Höflich-cataloognummer 507a-c, 2005 en 2015

Höflich-uitgave: Suite dans le style ancien

Jan Dewilde

Nederlandse inleiding bij Höflich-cataloognummer 2566

Höflich-uitgave: Kermesse flamande (uit Milenka, 1887)

Jan Dewilde

Nederlandse inleiding bij Höflich-cataloognummer 570

Höflich-uitgave: Suite dans le style ancien (1906-1907)

Jan Dewilde

Nederlandse inleiding bij Höflich-cataloognummer 568

Höflich-uitgave: Symfonisch drieluik (facsimile)

Jan Dewilde

Nederlandse inleiding bij Höflich-cataloognummer 561

Historische teksten

Première van Milenka volgens Le Guide musical

E.E. [Edmond Evenepoel?]

Bruxelles. Reprise de Philémon et Baucis - Première représentation de Milenka, de Jan Blockx

[...] Sans doute, le public était accouru nombreux pour assister à la reprise de Philémon et Baucis; mais il est permis de croire aussi que l’attrait d’une nouveauté chorégraphique entrait pour quelque chose dans l’empressement de ce même public.

Première van Milenka volgens Le Ménestrel

L.S. [Lucien Solvay?]

Nous avons eu, cette semaine, une première à la Monnaie, - une vraie première: un ballet de deux auteurs belges, Milenka, scénario de M. Paul Berlier, musique de M. Jan Blockx.

Jan Blockx

Lambrecht Lambrechts

"De Teniers der Vl. Muziek" was een kind van Antwerpen (1851-1912), waar zijn vroolijke vader, die een behanger was, hem vroegtijdig ontviel, zoodat de aankomende musicus dapper voor zich en de zijnen heeft moeten werken.

Herbergprinses in Antwerpen

L.S. [Lucien Solvay?] en Emiel Wambach

Op 10 oktober 1896 vond in de Vlaamse Opera in Antwerpen de wereldcreatie plaats van Jan Blockx' veristische opera Herbergprinses. Het zou Blockx' meest succesvolle opera worden. Mede dankzij de Parijse muziekuitgever Heugel werd Herbergprinses in vele belangrijke operahuizen opgevoerd.

Herbergprinses in Manhattan

twee anonieme journalisten

Het was de legendarische operadirecteur en impresario Oscar Hammerstein (1846-1919) die in het seizoen 1908-1909 Princesse d'Auberge van Jan Blockx naar de Verenigde Staten haalde en in zijn Manhattan Opera House monteerde.

'k bestijg den Helikon

Victor Dela Montagne

'k bestijg den Helikon, om groene lauwerblaren,
een jonge held ter eer, tot eenen krans te garen,
ik laaf mij aan de bron, die dichter worden doet

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