Descending from a family of grocers in Tielt, Charles Duyck moved in 1847 to the Conservatoire in Brussels to study music. In 1850 he earned a second prize of composition in the class of Fétis and a year later he competed for the Prix de Rome, unsuccessfully so, however . For a while he served as an assistant for counterpoint at the Brussels Conservatoire, he also conducted the choral society‘Sainte Cécile’ in Kuregem (Brussels) in 1858, and founded the Music Academy of Anderlecht in 1874.
Charles Duyck’s claim to fame is mainly that he was the first teacher of harmony of the young Paul Gilson. Brenta’s biography of Gilson describes Duyck as someone who had inherited from Fétis an unmethodical type of pedagogy. The rules of harmony, counterpoint, fugue and composition were taught like a rush job: in barely six months Gilson was forced through his paces. Therefore Brenta concludes that Gilson was basically self-taught. Significantly, Gilson himself does not acknowledge Duyck in his autobiography. Even so, Brenta discerns a certain influence on Gilson’s work, more specifically a partiality for chromaticism, witness Duyck’s cantata for the Prix de Rome “in an outspoken chromatic style, which was rather exceptional in that period“.
Charles Duyck left behind a few compositions only, mostly choral works such as Les Chaperons blancs, Les Vacances, or Les Villageois. Besides he also wrote an oratorium, La Rédemption (1872).
A year after Charles Duyck’s death the Music Academy of Anderlecht founded the “Charles Duyck Award” for the most promising pupil of harmony, probably as a result of the fact that his pupil Gilson had earned the Prix de Rome in the same year.
©Studiecentrum voor Vlaamse Muziek - Jan Dewilde and Annelies Focquaert (translation: Joris Duytschaever)