This year marks the 50th anniversary of death.
Jean Absil (23 October 1893 – 2 February 1974) was a Belgian composer, organist, and professor at the Brussels Conservatoire.


Jean Absil (23 October 1893 – 2 February 1974) was a Belgian composer, organist, and professor at the Brussels Conservatoire.


Absil was born in Bonsecours, Hainaut, Belgium. His teacher there was Alphonse Oeyen, organist at the basilica of Bonsecours. From 1913 he studied organ and harmony at the Brussels Conservatoire, but upon graduating, decided to concentrate on composition instead.

In 1922 Absil won the Belgian Prix de Rome and in 1934 the Prix Rubens, which allowed him to travel to Paris. Here, he met fellow contemporary composers Ibert, Milhaud, and Honegger. Absil gained international prominence with the premiere of his first piano concerto (op. 30).

From 1930 onwards, Absil taught harmony at the Brussels Conservatoire, becoming a professor of counterpoint there six years later. Amongst his Conservatoire pupils was Paul Danblon. He also taught at Chapelle Musicale Reine Elisabeth and the Etterbeek Music School. From 1955 he served as a member of Belgium's Royal Academy. He died in Brussels at the age of 80.


Initially, Absil was influenced by the late Romantic school, particularly Wagner and Richard Strauss. Around the time he made his trip to Paris in 1934, he began to adopt a more modern style. This included the use of polyphony and polymodal structures, influenced by contemporary composers such as Milhaud and Schoenberg.

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.

Unusually prolific from his 20s to his late 70s, Absil concentrated especially on writing piano works; he was himself a skilled pianist. These works include Ballade, op. 129, for solo piano (which is played with the left hand only) as well as 3 Pièces (played with the right one only). Among his conventionally two-handed piano compositions are three sonatinas (written in 1937, 1939, and 1965 respectively) and two Grand Suites. The Grand Suites (Op.110, composed in 1965) served as a tribute to Frédéric Chopin. In 1946, he composed another work, Hommage à Schumann and in 1957 the Passacaglia in Memoriam Alban Berg, both of them for piano. His last finished composition was the Piano Concerto no. 3, op. 162.

Non-piano music of Absil's includes one opera, Les Voix de la mer, and a cycle of five symphonies, the first of which (op. 1) he composed at 27, when he was a pupil of Paul Gilson. It won the Prix Agniez in 1921.

Info: Belgian composer
Index: 7.2
Type: Person Male
Period: 1893.10.23 - 1974.2.2
Age: aged 80
Area :Belgium
Occupation :Composer
Periods :Modernist Music


Update Time:2017-11-09 21:41 / 6 years, 3 months ago.