Chairman of the jury
Marcel Poot
Belgium, °1901 - 1988
Marcel Poot (1901-1988), the son of Jan Poot, director of the Royal Flemish Theatre, grew up in an artistic milieu. He took his first music lessons with the organist Gerard Nauwelaerts and subsequently studied solfège, piano and harmony from 1916 to 1919 at the Royal Conservatory in Brussels with Arthur De Greef, José Sevenans and Martin Lunssens. His first prizes in counterpoint (1922) and fugue (1924) were earned at the Royal Conservatory in Antwerp with Lodewijk Mortelmans. He also studied composition and orchestration privately with Paul Gilson.

Together, Poot and Gilson published La Revue Musicale Belge, a periodical that appeared starting in 1925. In that same year, he and seven other of Gilson’s students set up the group known as Les Synthétistes, which aimed to create a synthesis of the achievements of current musical evolutions, without sacrificing their individuality. In 1930, he won the Rubens Prize, which allowed him to study for three years with Paul Dukas at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris.

Marcel Poot began his career at the State Secondary School in Vilvoorde and also taught piano, solfège and music history at the music academy in that city. He taught practical harmony (1939) and counterpoint (1940-1949) at the Royal Conservatory in Brussels before becoming director of that school (1949-1966). Besides this, he was a lecturer at the Institut Supérieur des Arts Décoratifs, headmaster of the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel (1970-1976), a member of the Royal Flemish Academy for Sciences, Letters and Fine Arts, a jury member for the Queen Elisabeth Competition (1963-1981), chairman of SABAM (composers’ rights organisation), the Union of Belgian Composers and CISAC (the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers), and he was a jury member for various composition competitions.
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Jean Absil
Belgium, °1893 - 1974
Jean Absil was, first, a pupil of Alphonse Oeyen, organist at the basilica of Bonsecours. From 1913 he attended classes at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, where he completed his musical studies. After learning orchestration and composition with Paul Gilson, he was awarded the Rome Prize and the Rubens Prize. He also sought the advice of Florent Schmitt. He was a professor at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels and at the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel and, for more than forty years, he was director of the Music Academy in Etterbeek, which has borne his name since 1963. He was also a member of the Royal Academy of Belgium.

Two activities dominated Jean Absil’s life and career: education and composition. An undisputed educator, he trained generations of composers for more than forty years. A leader who allowed his disciples to discover the music of their time, Absil synthetized the French School, Stravinsky, Bartok, polytonal, atonal and serial music (J. Stehman). His extensive works encompass all genres.

His first distinguishing work was La mort de Tintagiles. His research on polytonality and atonality led to a brief study: Postulat de la musique contemporaine, prefaced by Darius Milhaud.
Between 1929 and 1936 Absil applied the principles of his style mainly to numerous chamber music works. In 1936 he returned to large orchestral works with a second Symphony and Concertos for various instruments, including a Concerto for piano which, as a compulsory piece at the Ysaÿe Competition of 1938, definitely established his reputation. He produced large-scale works such as Les Bénédictions, Pierre Breughel l’Ancien, Les Voix de la Mer, and many choral works, whether religious or secular. Moreover, he often drew his inspiration from the folklore and rhythmic subtleties of Central Europe.

When characterizing the Absilian language, Joseph Dopp notes that the ear never suffers from an impression of tonal insecurity when listening to Absil’s music: while it is no longer possible to find a reference to the classical major or minor tonalities, the composer invents new modes, which he replaces for each piece. From these modes emerge chords which, even if they are different from the classical ones, also have an expressive sense (tension or resolution). Absil never practised a real atonality: the apparent tonal independence of the voices always resolves itself into a unique tonality.
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Léon Jongen
Belgium, °1884 - 1969
Upon completion of his studies at the Conservatory of Liège, Léon Jongen became organist at the Saint Jacques church in his native city. In 1913, he won the First Grand Prize of Rome with his cantata Les fiancés de Noël. He started a career as pianist. In 1918 after World War I he travelled extensively to Africa, India, China and Japan and for 2 years was director and conductor of the Opéra Français of Hanoï.

Back in Belgium in 1934 he taught fugue at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, afterwards he succeeded his brother Joseph as director of this institution. From 1939 to 1949 he conducted the concerts of the conservatory. His Violin Concerto was the compulsory work of the Queen Elisabeth Competition in 1963.

He wrote numerous symphonic works and he was attracted by the theatre. His opera Thomas l’Agnelet is one of the best lyrical works ever written in Belgium. Although a great admiror of the French romantic school and slightly influenced by César Franck he nevertheless developed towards more modernistic conceptions.
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Victor Legley
Belgium, °1915 - 1994
Victor Legley (1915-1994) received his first music lessons - in viola, harmony and counterpoint -with Lionel Blomme in Ypres. In 1935 he began his full-time musical education at the Royal Conservatory in Brussels, where he earned first prizes in viola, chamber music, counterpoint and fugue.

From 1936 to 1948 he played viola in the Symphony Orchestra of what was then the NIR (National Broadcasting Corporation). On the advice of fellow violist Gérard Ruymen, he began to take lessons in composition with Jean Absil in 1941, a study that was rewarded in 1943 with the Second Rome Prize. After the war he played in the orchestra of the opera in Brussels and in the Déclin Quartet, in which he became acquainted with the music of Bartók and Schönberg.

In 1947, Victor Legley became a progammer for the NIR, and then advisor-department head for 'serious music' and for the third programme of the Flemish radio broadcasts. In this function, he attempted to promote contemporary music and Belgian composers in particular.

From 1948 to 1950 he was a teacher at the Municipal Conservatory in Leuven. In 1949 he was named professor of harmony at the conservatory in Brussels and in 1956 professor of composition and analysis at the Muziekkapel Koningin Elisabeth. He held both functions until 1979.

In 1965 Victor Legley became a member of the Royal Academy of Belgium and was its chairman until 1972. He was also the author of numerous articles for the proceedings of the Royal Academy for Sciences, Letters and Fine Arts of Belgium. He was chairman of SABAM (the authors' rights association) from 1980 to 1992, and of the Union of Belgian Composers from 1986 to 1990. He has also often served as jury-member or chairman at international competitions, such as the Queen Elisabeth Competition, the Verviers International Competition of Lyrical Song, and the Bösendorfer-Empire International Piano Competition.

In 1986 he was appointed officer of the Order of Leopold. The Vrije Universiteit Brussel granted him an honorary doctorate in 1987. In addition, he has received a great many prizes and distinctions, both for specific works and for his complete oeuvre. He has also represented Belgium at various foreign festivals and new music conferences.
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Jean Louël
Belgium, °1914 - 2005
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Piano 2020 postponed to May 2021
How the competition unfolds
H.M. Queen Mathilde
Piano Competitions' Juries
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