Chairman of the jury
Marcel Cuvelier
Belgium, °1899 - 1959
More info
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.
  • Biography
More info
Nadia Boulanger
France, °1887 - 1979
Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979) was a teacher whose influence carried far beyond the academic milieu in which she worked. At age twenty-one, after studying at the Paris Conservatoire, she won the prestigious Prix de Rome which entitled her to three years' study in Rome. On her return, she became an enthusiastic admirer of Stravinsky, who then lived in Paris, and was a staunch friend of the composer when his strikingly original scores for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes resulted in fierce opposition from the Parisian public and the French academic establishment.

Contact with Stravinsky and his circle increased her determination to bring contemporary music to a wider audience and, as conductor and pianist, she premiered many works by rising composers, including the first performance in Washington in 1938 of Stravinsky's Dumbarton Oaks and, at the keyboard, the first performance of an organ symphony written for her by Aaron Copland. She spent the Second World War in the United States, where she was the first to record Monteverdi, and the first woman to direct the Boston Symphony and New York Philharmonic orchestras.

Her teaching at the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau was highly disciplined, but inspirational. She readily embraced serial and other unconventional techniques, but her principal models were Fauré, Bartók, Debussy, Ravel, and of course, Stravinsky. Her pupils came from all over the world, among them the American composers Walter Piston, Roy Harris, Aaron Copland, Elliott Carter and Philip Glass. Her British pupils included Lennox Berkeley, Thea Musgrave and Nicholas Maw. Her French alumni were Jean Françaix and Igor Markevich, a Russian-born protégé of Diaghilev.

Equally influential was her intimate knowledge of Renaissance and Baroque masters, whose works were rarely performed with any degree of authenticity in Europe or America. Her scholarly approach in a recording of Monteverdi's 1610 Marian Vespers was a path-finding example of "historically informed" performance of a kind now widely accepted as the most convincing approach to the realization of early music.
  • Biography
More info
Sem Dresden
The Netherlands, °1881 - 1957
Sem Dresden, born in Amsterdam, came from a family of merchants. He had theory lessons with Fred Roeske and composition lessons with Bernard Zweers. From 1903 till 1905 he studied at the Stern'sche Konservatorium in Berlin with Hans Pfitzner (composition and conducting).

Back in the Netherlands he started his career as a choral conductor in Tiel. In 1914 he founded the Motet and Madrigal Society, and a cappella choir of nine singers (including his wife Jacoba Dhont). With this highly expert ensemble he performed not only renaissance and baroque polyphonic music, but also romantic and contemporary repertoire. Many works were written for this ensemble by Dutch composers. It was succeeded in 1928 by the Haarlem Motet and Madrigal Society.

In 1919 Sem Dresden became teacher at the Amsterdam Conservatory; he became director of this institution in 1924, and from 1937 till 1949 of the Royal Conservatory in The Hague (being a Jew, he was suspended during the war). Shortly before his death he converted to Roman Catholicism.

In his capacities of musician, teacher, administrator and author Dresden has had a strong impact on Dutch musical life. He participated in numerous committees and was a member of the board of many organizations. His articles were published in newspapers De Amsterdammer and De Telegraaf (1918-27) and in the essay collection Stromingen en Tegenstromingen in de Muziek (Musical currents and counter currents, 1953). His Algemene Muziekleer (Elementary music theory) had eleven reprints. Some of his pupils are Marius Monnikendam, Leo Smit, Eduard van Beinum, Willem van Otterloo, Jan Mul and Cor de Groot.

Sem Dresden's affinities as a composer were with contemporary French music. Among his chamber music are a Sonata for flute and harp (1916) and a Sonata for cello and piano (1918). Other works include concertos (two of them for violin), Dansflitsen (Dance Flashes, 1951) for orchestra, and vocal works including Chorus tragicus (1927) and Chorus symphonicus (1944). Another work of the war period was the one act opera François Villon (orchestrated by Jan Mul).
  • Biography
More info
Camargo Guarnieri
Brazil, °1907 - 1993
After the era of Heitor Villa-Lobos, Mozart Camargo Guarnieri became the best known Brazilian composer. His music is as imbued with the same quality of Brazilianness (Brasilidad) as that of his predecessor, but it is not as polyphonically complex. Camargo Guarnieri is particularly noted for his art songs and dance pieces, many of which have also been successful as popular songs.

Camargo Guarnieri's father was a Sicilian immigrant who gave each of his children a name honoring a great composer. At age ten, Camargo Guarnieri began to fulfill the implied promise of his name by beginning musical studies. In 1923, the family moved to São Paolo, where he took piano lessons; to help support the family and to pay for further musical studies he played in silent theater orchestras and in café bands. He also took classes at the São Paolo Musical and Theater Conservatory, studying composition and conducting.

Camargo Guarnieri's work in the popular music field and his contact with the nationalist Brazilian ethnomusicologist Mario de Andrade influenced him to adopt Brazilian popular and folk influences in much of his music. By the time he was 21 he had written his Brazilian Dance and his Canção Sertaneja, highly popular pieces (the dance is his best-known work outside of Brazil) that put him on the road to renown. In 1927, he was appointed to teach piano at the Conservatory. His reputation was bolstered by the appearance of the early installments in his body of songs, one of the most important by any Latin American composer.

In 1935, the city of São Paulo founded its own Department of Culture. Camargo Guarnieri took over its conducting position and gained special esteem as a choral conductor. In 1938 a government fellowship enabled him to study in Paris. He took counterpoint, fugue, composition, and musical aesthetics courses from composer Charles Koechlin, undertook conducting studies with Franz Rühlmann, and, like so many other twentieth-century composers, attended master classes with Nadia Boulanger. His biographers agree that he returned from Paris with greatly increased confidence in his compositional skills, and he began to write larger-scale works. In 1942, his violin concerto was the first prize of the Philadelphia Free Library Fleischer Music Collection. His small symphonic piece Encantamento became especially popular. Early in the 1940s, his first two symphonies were premiered in Brazil and the U.S. The Symphony No. 2 became known as a Symphony of the Americas.

In 1945, he was appointed conductor of the São Paolo Symphony Orchestra, and in 1960 he became director of the Conservatory.

Most of his music included a variety Brazilian national elements. One of the main differences between Camargo Guarnieri's outlook and that of Villa-Lobos is that Camargo Guarnieri avoids the sense of the mysterious or exotic that is a frequently a trait of his older compatriot's works. His Symphony No. 3 (1952) was dedicated to the 400th anniversary of the founding of São Paolo. Some critics consider his Symphony No. 6 his finest achievement in the form. Aside from opera and other stage genres, Camargo Guarnieri wrote in virtually every genre of classical music. His violin sonatas are particularly well respected among chamber music players, but the crown jewel of his oeuvre is his series of over 200 songs. These adroitly reflect the main currents of Brazilian music: Portuguese, Afro-Brazilian, and Amerindian. Many of them have been adapted by Brazilian popular musicians.

Camargo Guarnieri began to adopt 12-tone elements in his music around 1960, but then took time off from composition to reconsider his aesthetic approach. Finally he returned to his established style, if anything increasing the emphasis on national and popular elements.
  • Biography
More info
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.
  • Biography
More info
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.
  • Biography
More info
Francesco Malipiero
Italy, °1882 - 1973
Francesco Malipiero was born in Venice into a family of musicians. Both his grandfather Francesco and his nephew Riccardo were composers, and his father, Luigi, was a pianist and conductor. From 1898 to 1899 he studied briefly at the Vienna Conservatory; from 1899 to 1902 he studied counterpoint with Marco Enrico Bossi at the Venice Liceo Musicale and was assistant to composer Antonio Smareglia; and in 1908 he attended Max Bruch's classes in Berlin.

Experiences which exerted a lasting influence on his creative personality were his encounter with early Italian music (Monteverdi, Frescobaldi, Merulo and others) and his stay in Paris in 1913, including his friendship with Alfredo Casella and his attendance of the première of Strawinsky's Rite of Spring which, as he later said, woke him "from a long and dangerous lethargy." The First World War disrupted his life but, as he put it, "if I created something new in my art (formally and stylistically), it happened precisely in this period."

In the early 1920s in Rome, Francesco Malipiero joined Casella's Società Italiana di Musica Moderna, and together they founded the Corporazione delle Nuove Musiche. From 1926 to 1942 he was active as editor of Monteverdi's complete works, and from 1939 until 1952 he was director of the Venice Liceo Musicale. As president of the Istituto Italiano Antonio Vivaldi he initiated the publication of the composer's instrumental music in 1947. His creative energy remained unbroken up to his death in Treviso in 1973.
  • Biography
More info
Frank Martin
, °1890 - 1974
Frank Martin (1890-1974) was born in Geneva, as the tenth and youngest child of a clergyman's family. He played and improvised on the piano even before he went to school. By the age of nine he had composed charming children's songs that were perfectly balanced without ever having been taught musical forms or harmony. A performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion, heard at the age of twelve, left a lasting impression on the composer, for whom J.S. Bach remained the true master.

He attended classical languages high school and, to please his parents, went on to study mathematics and physics at the University of Geneva for two years. Simultaneously he started studying piano and composition with Joseph Lauber, who initiated him in the "craft", especially in instrumentation. Between 1918 and 1926 Frank Martin lived in Zurich, Rome and Paris, working on his own, searching for a personal musical language.

In 1926 he founded the Société de Musique de Chambre de Genève which he led as pianist and harpsichord player for ten years. He taught improvisation and theory of rhythm at the Institut Jacques-Dalcroze and chamber music at the Geneva Conservatory of Music. He was artistic director of the Technicum Moderne de Musique from 1933 to 1940 and president of the Swiss Association of Musicians between 1942 and 1946.

In 1932 he became interested in the 12-tone technique of Arnold Schönberg. He incorporated certain elements into his own musical language, creating a synthesis of the chromatic and twelve-tone techniques, without however abandoning the sense of tone - that is, the hierarchical relations between notes. Le Vin Herbé (1941) was the first important work in which he completely mastered this very personal idiom. Together with the Petite Symphonie Concertante (1944-45) it established his international reputation.

Frank Martin's many musical activities in Switzerland interfered with the peace and concentration his compository work required. Consequently he decided to move to the Netherlands in 1946. For ten years he lived in the centre of Amsterdam before finally settling in the little town of Naarden in 1956. Between 1950 and 1957 he taught composition at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik in Cologne.

After that he ceased all teaching activities, preferring to work at home and to make occasional tours with the Swiss cellist Henri Honegger and to accept invitations to conduct his own music at many important musical centres, including those in the United States.

He received many honours and awards from all over the world. In the extensive "oeuvre" of Frank Martin oratorios play an important part. In May 1973 he conducted the world premiere of his Requiem in the Cathedral of Lausanne. His compositions kept the same vitality until the end of his life. He worked on the cantata Et la vie l'emporta until ten days before his death on 21 November 1974.
  • Biography
More info
Bohuslav Martinů
Czech Republic, °1890 - 1959
Bohuslav Martinů (1890-1959) was born in a room at the top of a church tower in Policka, a small town in the Bohemian-Moravian highlands (his cobbler father, Ferdinand, was also a bell-ringer and fire-watcher). He showed early promise as a violinist and was composing when barely into his teens. In 1906 the citizens of Policka collected the funds to send him to the Conservatoire in Prague, but his academic career was not a success.

By the age of 20, while earning his living as an orchestral violinist, Bohuslav Martinů was composing prolifically and maintained this productivity for the rest of his life. The first important influence on his music was Claude Debussy, followed by Stravinsky, but soon an individual voice began to emerge, characterised by motoric, insistent rhythmic patterns and a natural, folklike melodiousness.

In 1923 Bohuslav Martinů moved to Paris where he studied with Albert Roussel and, in 1931, married Charlotte Quennechen, whose work as a dressmaker supported him while he continued to compose. Although he now seemed settled in Paris for good, he was becoming more aware of his Czech roots, and Czech themes and Czech authors featured prominently in his music. The threatened German invasion of Czechoslovakia prompted a work of protest, the powerful Double Concerto for two string orchestras, piano and timpani - perhaps the best of the many concerti grossi he composed in the 1930s. With the Nazi invasion of France in 1940 Bohuslav Martinu and his wife fled before the advancing troops, escaping to the United States via Spain and Portugal.

In 1942 he began the first of what were to be six symphonies, the first five written at the rate of one a year - although, of course, he was, as always writing much else besides. A succession of teaching posts gave him some financial security, but a fall from a balcony in 1946 resulted in serious injury and high medical bills, and a temporary interruption in his ability to write music.

Bohuslav Martinů had been considering a return to Czechoslovakia since the end of the Second World War, but the seizure of power by the Communists in 1948 forced him to the reluctant conclusion that he might never see his homeland again. In the early 1950s he again began to spend more time in Europe and moved to Nice in 1953, returning to America two years later to take up a teaching position at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia; by now he was again composing as prolifically as before his accident. His post at the Curtis Institute lasted only a year: in 1956, eager to be back in Europe, he accepted a teaching post in Rome, at the American Academy of Music, and the following year he gratefully took advantage of a generous offer by the Swiss conductor and maecenas Paul Sacher and moved to Sacher’s estate in Switzerland. There he lived until his death in 1959.
  • Biography
More info
Aloys Mooser
Switzerland, °1876 - 1969
The mother of Aloys Mooser (1876-1969) was Russian and his father, Jean-Louis (who worked for a time in St Petersburg), was a son of the organ and piano maker Joseph Mooser. He studied the organ with Otto Barblan and theory in Geneva, and in 1896 composition with Balakirev and orchestration with Rimsky-Korsakov in St Petersburg, concurrently working there as organist at the French Protestant Church (1896-1909), music critic of the French periodical Journal de St-Pétersbourg and a member of the directorate of the Imperial Theatre (1899-1904). Subsequently he was music critic of the Geneva periodical La Suisse (1909-62) and director of Auditions du Jeudi, the Geneva concert series of modern music (1915-21). The independent periodical Dissonances which he directed, edited and published (1923-46) was particularly concerned with modern, Swiss and Russian works and strenuously opposed German and Italian fascism during the war. Geneva University awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1956.

Aloys Mooser, along with Willi Schuh, was the leading music critic in Switzerland, and in the French-speaking area his fame was comparable to Ansermet's; his criticism showed an independence of all schools and doctrines. He enthusiastically supported Honegger, Frank Martin and Malipiero, and though he never appreciated Schoenberg (whom he compared with Meyerbeer), he nevertheless recognized the importance of such figures as Webern, Apostel, Berg, Lutoslawski and Nono. His restrained opposition to Messiaen, Boulez, Stockhausen and serial music of the 1960s showed him (in his 80s) to be open to all contemporary developments and prepared him to make a thorough study of music otherwise alien to him. His highly informative studies of Russian music history have become standard works in the subject, and his study of the Genevan composer and violinist Gaspard Fritz gives a multi-faceted account of Genevan musical life from 1750 tot 1850.
  • Biography
More info
Andrzej Panufnik
Poland, Great Britain, °1914 - 1991
Andrzej Panufnik was born in in Warsaw and grew up in a musical family, beginning to compose at the age of nine. He gained his diploma at the Warsaw State Conservatoire and travelled to Vienna to study conducting with Felix Weingartner, and to Paris and London for further composition studies. At the outbreak of war he returned to Warsaw where he remained throughout the Nazi occupation. Under a pseudonym he wrote patriotic songs, also playing the piano in underground and charity concerts (often piano duets with Witold Lutoslawski). All his compositions were destroyed in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, though he reconstructed three scores in the following years.

After the war, Andrzej Panufnik held conducting positions with the Krakow Philharmonic and the Warsaw Philharmonic, also appearing as a guest conductor with many of the leading European orchestras such as the Berlin Philharmonic, the Orchestre National, Paris, and the London Philharmonic. In 1950 he was elected vice-chairman, with Arthur Honegger, of the International Music Council of UNESCO; and as head of a Polish cultural delegation to China in 1953, he was personally received by Chairman Mao.

In 1954 Andrzej Panufnik left Poland as a protest against political control over creative artists, resulting in the total supression of his name and music. He settled in England and subsequently gained British nationality. From 1957-59 he was musical director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, his last official position before deciding to concentrate on composing. In 1977, after a 23-year long silence, Panufnik's music was once again heard in Poland, and in 1990 the composer made a momentous return to his native country to conduct a programme of his works to open the Warsaw Autumn Festival. His autobiography, Composing Myself, was published in 1987 by Methuen (UK). The composer received a British knighthood in January 1991, and following his death nine months later was awarded a Polish knighthood by President Lech Walesa.

Andrzej Panufnik's oeuvre is dominated by a series of large-scale orchestral works, including commissioned scores for the Boston, Chicago and London Symphony Orchestras. As well as the ten symphonies, his output includes concertos for piano, violin, bassoon and cello, three string quartets, vocal and choral music, works for young people, and transcriptions of old Polish music. His compositions have been performed by many leading musical interpreters, including Stokowski, Horenstein, Solti, Ozawa, Previn, Menuhin and Rostropovich.
  • Biography
More info
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.
  • Biography
More info
Domingo Santa Cruz (Wilson)
, °1899 - 1987
More info
Relive the performances of Cello 2022
The Competition's CD's
This site uses cookies to provide you with the best experience possible.
By clicking on « ACCEPT » or continuing to browse the site, you accept the use of cookies on your web browser. For more information about our cookie policy and the different types of cookies used, click on Learn more