Tinel, Edgar



One of the most important contemporary Belgian musicians; born at Sinay, East Flanders, March 27, 1854. His father was a schoolmaster and organist, who took great care with his education and gave him the first organ training. Tinel studied at a music school in a nearby city, and at last went to Brussels, where Fetis treated him with great kindness and where, at the Conservatory, he received instruction of Bressin, Mailly, Michekrt and Samuel and where, in 1872 and 1873, he took prizes for piano-playing. During his student days he had to cope with poverty, and while in Brussels he partly supported himself by teaching piano and singing in choirs, although he still continued to study theory under Kufferath and Gevaert. During a journey to Germany he made the acquaintance of Raff, and decided to devote himself wholly to composition. In 1877 he won the Grand Prize of Rome for a cantata entitled Klokke Roland, which was performed at the Royal Belgian Academy with pronounced success. This interesting composition has for its subject the great bell of Ghent which clangs out the warning of war and of fire or rings in celebration of Flemish victories. During his subsequent travels through France, Germany and Italy he became much interested in church-music. He wrote a book on Gregorian Modes, containing many advanced ideas, among them the Wagnerian theory that words and music should be harmonious in idea. This excellent book received much notice and recognition, and was the means of obtaining for its author the position of director of the Sacred Music School at Malines. About this time overwork brought on illness and made it necessary for Tinel to undergo two operations. A third was advised, but the composer would not consent to this until he had finished his oratorio, St. Francis. In the interest and enthusiasm of composition he completely regained his health. This oratorio is an excellent piece of composition. Its subject is St. Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan Brotherhood, and it is divided into three parts, the first treating of the early life of St. Francis at the gay Italian Court, his walk through moonlit lanes after a feast, and the hearing of a heavenly voice; the second part deals with his life as a monk and introduces choruses of spirits and an almost literal translation of the song to poverty accredited to St. Francis; the third part gives his death and apotheosis. The style of composition varies greatly from the strictly contrapuntal to the elaborately orchestrated. This oratorio was an  immediate success. It came out in 1888 and was performed fourteen times in the city of Malines, in Brussels and through Germany. Its first English production was at the Cardiff Festival, when the composer himself conducted. Another oratorio, St. Godelive, is in the freer style and is not so great as St. Francis. Other writings are the mass for the Holy Virgin of Lourdes; three orchestra pieces for Corneille's Polyeucte; Kollebloemen for solo, chorus and orchestra; De Drie Ridders; much sacre d music; songs; and piano-music. This composer is little known in England and America and has spent most of his time in Belgium, where for many years he has been inspector in the state music schools and where he is now professor of fugue and counterpoint in Brussels Conservatory.