Callaerts, Joseph

Antwerpen, 11/08/1830 > Antwerpen, 03/03/1901


Callaerts, Joseph

by Jan Dewilde

The earliest musical training of Joseph Callaerts dates from his days as a choir boy at Our Lady's Cathedral in Antwerp and as a pupil of the Antwerp composer and musicologist Eduard Gregoir, who himself was also a pianist and organist. The composer Henri Simon introduced him to harmony and counterpoint. He continued his studies at the Brussels Conservatory, where in 1856 he obtained a first prize for organ with Jacques Lemmens. In the mean time he had already been an organ player at the Jesuits in Antwerp since 1850. Then in May 1853 he had first become the adjunct and two years later the head organist of the Antwerp Cathedral, in fact even before obtaining his organ degree. Furthermore in 1863 he succeeded Jan Frans Volckerick as the town carillonneur.

In 1867 he was appointed as an organ teacher at Benoit's Antwerp School of Music, a position which he would later combine with the practical harmony course. Among his most famous organ students are Jan Blockx, Emile Wambach, Karel Gras, Willem De Latin and Lodewijk Mortelmans.

For many years he participated as an organist in the concerts of the Antwerp 'Société de Musique', where he interpreted the organ part in the Matthäus Passion as well as in Benoits De Oorlog (The War). As an organ expert he was frequently asked for advice and of course he was greatly involved in the construction of the Schijven organ between 1889 and 1891 in the Antwerp Cathedral.

Apart from the compositions he evidently wrote for organ, Callaerts also wrote religious pieces, cantatas, choral work, songs, chamber music, orchestral works (among them an organ concerto), as well as the opera Le retour imprévu created in 1889 in the Antwerp 'Théâtre Royal'. Some of his organ compositions found a publisher abroad and his Symphonie à grand orchestre, as well as his Piano trio were given an award by the 'Académie Royale de Belgique'.

© Studiecentrum voor Vlaamse Muziek vzw - Jan Dewilde (translation: Jo Sneppe)