Both his parents were artistically-minded, his father Livin Fortuné being a musician, a man of letters and a graphic artist, his mother Louise a singer. Jean-Baptiste was initiated into music at home and already in 1859 at age seven he made his public debut as a pianist in Brussels. In 1864 he was accepted as a pupil in Alphonse Mailly's piano class at the Brussels Conservatoire, where he obtained the first prize in 1869. Concurrently he also took lessons of harmony and score reading with Charles Bosselet and Adolphe Samuel, obtaining the first prize in 1868. In the organ class of Alphonse Mailly he earned his first prize for organ in 1872, followed by the ‘Diplôme de Capacité’ or the ‘Prix d’Excellence’ in 1873. He studied composition with Fétis (first prize in 1870) and subsequently with Gevaert. Already in October 1871, even before having earned his first prize for organ, De Pauw became Mailly's assistant. In 1872 he was appointed as titular of the Schyven organ of St Bonifatius' church in Elsene, where some of his religious works were also performed. De Pauw presented himself as a composer, taking part several times in the 'Prix de Rome' competition, first with La Sirène (1875), then with La Cloche Roeland (1877, second prize), and eventually yet again winning a second prize with his cantata Camoëns, as the jury didn't award first prize Prix de Rome that year. In the same period he composed several sonatas, symphonies, songs and cantatas, none of which were published, however. After his appointment as ‘concert-organist’ of the 'Paleis voor Volksvlijt' (Palace for Popular Diligence) in Amsterdam, on 1 December 1879, his field of activity shifted thoroughly. In this concert hall the French organ manufacturer Cavaillé-Coll had built in 1875 his first instrument in the Netherlands and the function was of major importance for the influence of the French-Belgian organ music in that country. De Pauw bade farewell to Brussels and relocated to Amsterdam, where he gave weekly organ concerts, thus contributing to the aura of the Amsterdam concert and orchestra scene. When in 1895 the orchestra of the ' Paleis voor Volksvlijt' was disbanded, his appointment disappeared as well.
From then on his career completely switched to teaching. He had already been involved in the foundation of the Conservatory of Amsterdam in 1884, where he had been appointed as piano and organ teacher. In 1895 he was also appointed as piano teacher in the 'Muziekschool voor Toonkunst' music school of the same city. All these functions he held until right before his death. Among his piano and organ students are Cornelis De Wolf, Jan Nieland, Evert Cornelis, Marius Monnikendam, Cor Kee and the brothers Hendrik and Willem Andriessen. In 1912, when he became sixty, the Belgian government knighted him in the Order of Leopold.
For organ he wrote a Rêve d’Amour, dedicated to his spouse (1882); for piano he published Trois Morceaux Caractéristiques pour le piano, which he also frequently played on the organ under the titles Gavotte, Courante and Intermezzo. Apart from the three cantatas for the Prix de Rome he also wrote two symphonies, Prélude et Fugato for piano, Quatre pièces pour piano et violon (1898), and two songs La Jeune Fille and Berceuse. Of the many organ arrangements he made, only his version of the Treurmars (Funeral March) from the oratorio Franciscus by Tinel has been published (1898); no manuscripts have been preserved.
© Studiecentrum voor Vlaamse Muziek vzw - Annelies Focquaert (translation: Jo Sneppe)