Sternefeld, Daniël

Antwerpen, 27/11/1905 > Ukkel, 02/06/1986


Sternefeld, Daniel

by Jan Dewilde

The conductor and composer Daniel Sternefeld studied flute and theory at the Royal Flemish Conservatory of his native town Antwerp (1918-1924). He also followed private lessons in composition under Renaat Veremans and Paul Gilson (counterpoint, fugue, orchestration and composition). He studied to be a conductor under Frank Van der Stucken and (at the Mozarteum of Salzburg) under Bernhard Paumgartner, Clemens Krauss and Herbert von Karajan. 

In 1929 he joined the orchestra of the Royal Flemish Opera in Antwerp as a flutist, and was named the third conductor in 1936, the second conductor in 1938 and principal conductor in 1944. Between 1930 and 1940 he was also engaged by the Koninklijke Nederlandse Schouwburg in Antwerp, writing incidental music. And he conducted the Cercle musical juif and some choral societies in his native town. Those years saw his first compositions, such as Symphonia Femina.

From 1948 he was conductor of the Radio Symphony Orchestra in Brussels, first as second conductor. After Franz André's retirement he became musical director in wich post he remained until 1971. He often appeared as a guest conductor in several European countries, South Africa and the Americas. 

He was known for his interpretations of modern music and directed many Belgian premieres. Sternefeld gave conducting courses at the Antwerp Conservatory from 1948 until his retirement. François Huybrechts was one of his pupils. After his retirement as conductor and professor, the last years of his life were devoted to composing. 

His music is coloured by Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss, with more than a hint of Mahler, and demonstrates expression and suggestion, emotion and atmosphere. It boasts great skill, has a strong construction and contains imaginative and daring orchestrations, often in very high registers. His opera Mater dolorosa forms a link from the late-romantic era into the mainstream 20th century. The orchestra is used as a major factor in relating the story, and in the periods of accompaniment it is used to colour the words. The vocal parts are demanding. 

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