Blockx, Jan


Distinguished contemporary Belgian composer and teacher, who has won his chief renown in opera. He was born at Antwerp, the son of an upholsterer, and as a lad was set to learn his father's trade. His employer noticing he possessed an unusual talent for music, aided him to set out on a musical career. He studied in Antwerp and Brussels, and completed his education at the Leipsic Conservatory. At an early age he composed considerable music, his Flemish songs winning for him much popularity in his native city, and in this period he also wrote cantatas and some chamber-music. In 1877 his one-act opera lets Vergeten was brought out, and with a cantata for the Rubens Festival, Ons Vaterland, he won a prize over twenty-one other competitors. In 1886 he became a teacher at the Antwerp Conservatory, was musical director of the Cercle Artistique of Antwerp, and in 1902 succeeded Benoit as director of the Conservatory. His ballet Milenka, produced at Brussels in 1886, made his name widely known. This was followed by the four-act opera comique, Maitre Martin, and then came the lyric drama, De Herbegprinses, produced at Antwerp in 1896 and proving a very great success. An equal success was the opera, Thyl Uylenspiegel, produced at Brussels, in 1900; and a still greater success, La Fiancee de la Mer, brought out in 1903. Grove gives this estimate of the Belgian composer's work: "In his various compositions Blockx manifests a very interesting personality, which, while carrying out the newer tendencies in harmony and orchestration, succeeds in avoiding all imitation of Wagner."