Benoit, Pierre Leonard Leopold


Belgian composer, opera conductor and writer on musical subjects  Born in Flanders. First studied music with his father and at seventeen entered the Conservatory of Brussels, where he studied counterpoint, fugue, and Composition with Fetis and won two prizes. In 1856 he became conductor of the Pare Theatre of Brussels, ;where several of his musical plays and an opera, The Village in the Mountains, were successfully produced. In 1857 he won the Grand Prize, with his Le Meurtre d'Abel and received a grant from the government, with which he made an extensive journey for study, visiting Leipsic, Dresden, Munich and Berlin. During this period he composed an Ave Maria, which was performed in the Cathedral at Berlin; also six songs; twelve Pensees Naives; twelve motets; a number of piano pieces and a little cantata for Christmas, which he sent home. Upon returning to Brussels he produced his Solemn Mass, which made a great impression. In 1861 he went to Paris, where the Theatre Lyrique had accepted from him an opera. While waiting for its production, he conducted at the Bouffes Parisiens but his own opera was never put on. Returning to Brussels, he bent his energies to building up a Flemish   musical movement, that ended in the establishment of a Flemish School of Music in Antwerp, of which Benoit was appointed director. Benoit's great ambition was a national school of music, as distinct from French and German music and he did everything possible in this direction, both by his compositions and by his writings on musical subjects, his pet idea being the use of Flemish traditions and the Flemish language in musical compositions. Benoit's most important works are a sacred quadrilogie; a piano concerto; the oratorios, Lucifer, and De Schelde; the opera, Isa; the cantata, War; the choral symphony, The Reapers; and the music to the dramas. Charlotte Corday and Willem de Zwijger.