Gregoir, Edouard

Turnhout, 07/11/1822 > Wijnegem, 28/06/1890


Gregoir, Edouard

by Annelies Focquaert

Edouard-Georges-Jacques Gregoir (Grégoir) was an author on music, a pianist and a composer. After having received his first music education at home (presumably from his father), he left in 1837 for Biebrich in Germany, where just like his older brother Jacques-Mathieu-Joseph he was trained by Christian Rummel, Kapellmeister of the Duke of Nassau. In 1841 Edouard made his debut as a pianist in London, one year later going on a concert tour with the famous violinists Teresa and Maria Milanollo. From 1844 on he engaged in reforming the teaching methods and systems in elementary schools, while shortly after he was commissioned by the Belgian government to organise choral education in the Belgian army. In 1847 and 1848 he performed work of his own in Amsterdam and Paris. Around 1850 he became a music teacher at the Teachers' Training College of Lier (Frederiks and van den Branden on that point record the period 1844-1856), subsequently soon settling in Antwerp permanently.

Henceforth Gregoir was intensely working in the field of music historiography, particularly proving his mettle with his historical writings on music in Belgium and on Belgian composers, as in his Galerie biographique des artistes musiciens belges du XVIIIe et du XIXe siècle, as well as Schetsen van Nederlandsche toonkunstenaars (Outlines of Dutch Composers), and L’art musical en Belgique sous les règnes de Léopold I et Léopold II. His sources are not always considered to be entirely reliable. Pougin for instance in the updated new edition of Fétis’ Biographie Universelle incorporated quite some useful notices from Gregoir (as can be read in Pougin's biography of Gregoir), not without stating, however, that 'the full responsibility for this information is entirely Gregoir's'. Ernest Closson and Charles Van den Borren in their work La musique en Belgique (1950) even agree on the fact that the books of Gregoir have no value whatsoever: "Le manque d’idées générales, l’absence totale du sens des valeurs colorent au surplus, cette littérature d’une teinte de médiocrité telle que l’on a pu qualifier Gregoir de "chiffonier" de la musicologie." That harsh verdict meantime has been judged as less fair, witness Doris Pyee's favourable words in the RIPM introduction to the periodical La Renaissance musicale (Paris, 1881-1883), to which the 'excellent collaborator' Gregoir contributed: "There is also a valuable series entitled “Notices et biographies - Recherches sur la vie et les œuvres d’artistes-musiciens, facteurs d’orgues, historiens, etc.” by Édouard Grégoir. These articles consist of notices about musicians omitted by Fétis and Arthur Pougin in the Biographie universelle des musiciens. Their corrections are exceptionally rich in content and include many important bibliographical references.” Today every book of Gregoir's indeed proves to be invaluable for research into Flemish and Belgian composers from the nineteenth century.

Gregoir was a prolific composer, though most sources by and large have a poor opinion of his oeuvre. In addition to a great number of operas, ‘odes-symphonies’, oratorios, overtures, choral works, piano and harmonium works, classical and popular songs, he also wrote several religious works, such as masses, motets and a Te Deum. During his lifetime his compositions were performed quite frequently, at home as well as abroad. In 1847 his historical symphony Les Croisades after the première in Antwerp in 1846 had about ten performances in Amsterdam. Gregoir's symphonic oratorio Le Déluge also boasted about ten performances in Paris in 1849, subsequently being programmed in Amsterdam as well. Gregoir also wrote several singing and instruments methods, one of them from 1865, L’Histoire de l’orgue, even getting a reprint in 1972. As a journalist he wrote contributions to Le guide musical, La Belgique musicale, La plume, La Fédération artistique, Caecilia, De Vlaamsche School, Noord en Zuid and De Vlaamsche Kunstbode. Gregoir was also a collector of musical books and scores.

After his death his music library and scores were donated to the library of the Antwerp Conservatory.

© Studiecentrum voor Vlaamse Muziek vzw - Annelies Focquaert (translation: Jo Sneppe)