Lodewijk Mortelmans was born in Antwerp on Februariy 5th, 1868. He died there on June 24th 1952. After completing his musical education at the age of 19, he studied composition and orchestration under Peter Benoit.
When he was 25, he was awarded the First Prize of Rome. His symphonic work was received with enthusiasm at a 'Lodewijk Mortelmans' festival, organised in Antwerp in 1899. From then on he was regarded as the indisputable leader of the Antwerp music scene. Mortelmans and Paul Gilson were the most important composers of a generation that breathed new life into Flemish music.
With Lodewijk Mortelmans, Flemish music became more refined in form. He had an exceptionally rich personality, which was genuinely reflected in his music. In his art he strived to combine extreme formal beauty with great natural feeling. His songs, often using poems by Guido Gzelle, are among the most beautiful of the genre in all Europe.
The composer was also a gifted pedagogue, who formed numerous famous musicians, such as Lodewijk De Vocht, Marinus De Jong and Flor Peeters.
From 1901 to 1924 he was professor of counterpoint and fugue at the Royal Flemish Academy of Music in Antwerp, whose principal he became in 1924 and stayed until his retirement in1933. In addition to that, he lectured at the Interdiocesan School for Church Music in Mechelen, the present Lemmens Institute in Louvain.
In 1903, Mortelmans became the founding conductor of the Society of New Concerts in Antwerp and brought this orchestra to the top in Belgium. He managed to have famous musicians such as Gustav Mahler, Siegfried Wagner, Hans Richter and Sergei Rachmaninov come and conduct his orchestra in Antwerp. He himself conducted world famous soloists such as Pablo de Sarasate, Jacques Thibaud, Fritz Kreisler and Pablo Casals. As a conductor he combined technical perfection with great musical feeling.
During a successful tour in the United States, Lodewijk Mortelmans was invited by Pablo Casals to become the conductor of the Boston Symphonic Orchestra. However, he rejected this flattering offer: during the war, in 1917, he had lost his wife and two of his sons, and he felt responsible for the education of his five other children.
Mortelmans remarried: his second wife was the pianist and musical pedagogue Gabriëlle Radoux. He was one of the founding members of SABAM and a member of the Royal Flemish Academy for Sciences, Literature and Fine Arts.
Both the Netherlands and Belgium honored him with several high distinctions.
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