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Falck, Jules

Antwerpen, 28/02/1881 > Antwerpen, 10/02/1959


Falck, Jules

by Jan Dewilde

In 1895 Falck started higher studies of music at the Brussels Royal Conservatory. He took the solfège course with Julien Vienne, which respectively in 1896 and in 1897 won him a second and a first prize. He also studied the piano with Arthur De Greef and his assistant Van Dam, but already in September 1897 he left the Conservatory. Meanwhile, since the school year 1896-1897, he had been enrolled at the Flemish school of music in Antwerp as well. It is not known who were his teachers there.

From 1901 to 1914 with interruptions Falck worked for the 'Théâtre royal d'Anvers'. In his contract his function was described as "pianist and all services incumbent with this job". From 1905 he was "pianiste - répétiteur - organiste" and between 1912 and 1914 he was "pianiste - accompagnateur - organiste, teaching the minor parts".

In the interbellum period Falck earned his living as a music teacher. As a committee member of the Antwerp Toonkunstenaarsvereniging (Musicians and Composers Society) Falck taught young musicians wanting to join this organisation. In the 1920s he also worked as a cinema pianist. The arrival of the sound-film went very hard with him financially.

Falck's earliest orchestral work to date, the suite for orchestra Nieuwigheden (Novelties), was composed in 1935. No doubt there were previous works of his that were lost. In 1937 he wrote Judas, stage music to Cyriel Verschaeve's play of the same name, and the opera Het Hooglied (The Song of Songs, libretto of Herman Van Puymbrouck). Although the Committee for music recommended the work to the Royal Flemish Opera, it was never produced, which meant a serious moral and financial blow to Falck. The report written by Lodewijk Mortelmans, who was a committee member, showed he highly appreciated Falck's orchestrational skills: "This score could be leafed through from beginning to end, nowhere can any tricky pastings or fillings be found, on the contrary, the orchestra incessantly moves in a well-cared-for and interesting way. Mortelmans did point out the Wagner influences in the score.

In 1938 Falck composed another orchestral work Breughelbeelden (Breughel Images), but from 1940 onwards he was regularly hospitalised in psychiatric institutes. The financial difficulties - he lived on welfare benefit - and the lack of recognition caused him plenty of psychological tensions. He got epileptic fits and suffered from paranoia. On some of his manuscripts he removed his name and substituted it for Vanderkeel.

In spite of his mental problems Falck kept on composing. In 1945 he composed the orchestral work Zeelandia; in 1946 he composed the song Die Wallfahrt nach Kevlar (The Pilgrimage to Kevlar, on a text by Heinrich Heine); in 1951 he finished Contemplation (violin and piano). Also the Trio (piano trio) and the ballet Broeder Jakob (Brother James) most probably date from around that time. During the last five years of his life he still composed Kamercantate (Chamber Cantata, text by Pieter G. Buckinx), which in 1953 he unsuccessfully entered for a composition contest of the Antwerp provincial government, as well as the Christmas oratorio Epiphanie (1954) and the songs Nevel (Mist) and Klokke (Bell).

In the course of 1955 Falck made two suicide attempts and was interned for a considerable period of time. He died totally misunderstood and impoverished on 10 February 1958.

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