Schoemaker, Maurice

Anderlecht, 27/12/1890 > Brussel, 24/08/1964


Schoemaker, Maurice

by Jan Dewilde

Schoemaker started out self-educated, but subsequently he went to study with renowned professors such as Theo Ysaye (harmony), Michel Brusselmans (counterpoint), Martin Lunssens (fugue) and Paul Gilson (orchestration and composition).

He was one of the initiators and inspirers of Les Synthétistes, an association of composers - all of them former pupils of Gilson, founded in 1925 on the occasion of the latter’s sixtieth anniversary. Other members were René Bernier, Gaston Brenta, Francis De Bourguignon, Theo De Joncker, Marcel Poot and Jules Strens. In Music of October 1930 Brenta expressed the group’s artistic intentions: "Couching all the achievements of contemporary music in particular forms, in one word: synthesising. Moreover, the musicians in question leave behind the long development of musical thought and level-headed pedantic rhetoric in order to createa clear and living art." Together they published an album with piano works, for which Schoemaker composed Nocturnale.

Schoemaker was a skilled technician who tackled all genres. As a symphonist he attracted attention with the symphonic poem Vuurwerk (Fireworks, 1922), a virtuoso and popular piece that caught on very well and was also frequently performed abroad. Among the synthesists he was the marked Fleming, as proven by titles of orchestral work, like Breughelsuite (1928). Further witnesses are the symphonic poem De legende van Heer Halewijn (The Legend of Lord Halewijn, 1930), Vlaamse Rapsodie, incorporating the folksongs Daar zat een sneeuwwit vogeltje (There sat a snow-white birdie) and O ratten en muizen (Oh rats and mice, 1931), Vlaamse tonelen (Flemish Scenes, 1934) and Twee Vlaamse dansen (Two Flemish Dances, 1944).

His opera De Swane (The Swan, 1933), on a libretto of Emmanuel De Bom and Stijn Streuvels based on the latter’s pantheist story Het woud (The Wood), deals with a Flemish wood engraver who gets under the spell of lady Swane. Dramatically it is a strong work with a marked symphonic character. A good example of a particularly successful scene is the beginning of the first act, where he describes the dawn awakening the wood. The Antwerp Royal Flemish Opera staged the work with great success during the 1933-1934 season. After the Second World War the opera had other successful reruns. Schoemaker liked composing for the stage and he wrote another two operas as well as two ballets.

Schoemaker also composed on French texts. Some of his best songs he wrote on verses by Maurice Carème (the cycle Mère), Emile Verhaeren (Le ciel en nuit), Michel de Ghelderode (Psaume), Adrienne Revelard (Trois poèmes) and Armand Bernier (Sylvestre, a cycle with piano and string orchestra accompaniment). Furthermore he composed songs on well-chosen texts by J.M. Dautzenberg, Pol de Mont and Karel Jonckheere.

Apart from this he wrote excellent piano music (one sonata and Tombeau de Chopin for two pianos), chamber music, sacred music, choral music and radio plays.

For many years Schoemaker has been a representative of SABAM.

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