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Eykens, Jean-Simon

Antwerpen, 13/10/1812 > Antwerpen, 09/10/1891


Eykens, Jean-Simon

by Adeline Boeckaert

Jean-Simon Eykens received his first music lessons from Antoine-Guillaume Ravets (1758 - 1827), who was a pupil of Matthias Van den Gheyn and for a long time organist at St Augustine's church in Antwerp. After Ravets’ death Eykens went to the Royal Conservatory of Liège, where he studied with Louis-Joseph Daussoigne-Méhul (harmony) and Jules Jalheau (piano). The result of these classes could be heard in his comic opera Le départ de Grétry, a one-acter performed in 1829 in the ‘Théâtre royal de Liège’. In 1831 he returned to Antwerp, where he taught solfège and piano. He would never leave his native city again until his death on 9 October 1891.

Not only as a teacher but also as a composer did Eykens prove his mettle in Antwerp, writing French-language romances and light piano works such as fantasies on opera motifs (amongst them Robert Le diable, Lucia di Lammermoor, Guido et Ginevra and Les Martyrs). On the occasion of the second marriage of king Leopold I to princess Louise of Orléans on 9 August 1832 he composed the lyrical scene La fille de la Seine aux rives de l’Escaut. His operas Le bandit and La clé du jardin were performed in the Antwerp Theatre, respectively in 1836 and 1837. During the Rubens celebrations of 16 August 1840 Eykens’ Gloire à Rubens was created as an occasional cantata on a text by Bogaerts.

In 1843 Jean-Simon Eykens was appointed as director of the ‘Réunion Lyrique Anversoise’. Five years later, on 5 May 1848, this society merged with the ‘Association royale de Sociétés Lyriques d’Anvers’, Eykens becoming its chairman and chief conductor. At the foundation of the ‘Cercle Artistique, Littéraire et Scientifique d’Anvers’ in 1852 he was one of the inspiring forces behind this society's ‘Section de Musique’. Thus it's not surprising that Eykens’ œuvre mainly consists of choral works, with titles such as Broedergroet (Fraternal Greetings), Nachtgezang (Nocturnal Song), Flandre au Lion, Le Vallon, Le Départ du pêcheur, Les Napolitains, Le retour de mai, La Madone des champs, Pierre l’Hermite, Les croisés devant Jérusalem, Hommage à Van Bree, Hommage à la Reine and Hymne à la Sagesse.

The twenty-fifth anniversary of Belgium's Independence and the coronation of Leopold I was commemorated by Eykens on 21 July 1856 with his cantata Dieu protège le Roi - God sta de Koning bij. This occasional work for three equal voices and piano ad libitum is a bilingual homage to the dynasty and to the nine provinces.

In addition Eykens composed several Masses and other religious works that were performed in the churches of Antwerp. Some of them appeared in print, such as the Messe für 3 Stimmen mit Begleitung der Orgel, op. 20. This Mass, composed in 1832, was published by Schott in Antwerp and was dedicated to Henri de Brouckère. The major bulk of his oeuvre, however, has come down to us in manuscript form.

© Studiecentrum voor Vlaamse Muziek vzw - Adeline Boeckaert (translation: Jo Sneppe)