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André, Franz

Brussel, 10/06/1893 > Brussel, 20/01/1975


André, Franz

by Annelies Focquaert

Franz André received his musical initiation from his mother, who was a pianist and the daughter of the poet Charles Potvin. As an adolescent he was a member of the orchestra of the Brussels Conservatory, consecutively under the direction of François-Auguste Gevaert and Edgar Tinel. He continued his music studies at the same institute, obtaining his First Prize for solfège in 1910, followed in 1912 by the First Prize for violin in the class of César Thomson.

In his subsequent Berlin period he was taught composition and orchestral conducting by Felix Weingartner and he performed in the Blüthner-Orchester, a symphonic orchestra founded in 1908 by the piano builder of the same name. Upon his return to Belgium, Franz André became a violin coach at the Brussels Conservatory starting 1913. This assignment was interrupted by his military service during the First World War, in which he survived a gas attack, participating in the battles at the Yser and in Ypres. In 1919 he resumed his function at the Brussels Conservatory until 1931, concurrently teaching violin lessons at the musical academies of Nivelles and Schaarbeek.

When ‘Radio-Belgique’ first began to broadcast in 1923, André consecutively became violinist in the station's trio, violinist in the symphonic orchestra and soon second conductor. With the foundation in 1930 of the Belgian National Radio Broadcasting Institute (N.I.R.-I.N.R.) he became director of one of its three orchestras. Five years later he founded the Great Symphonic Orchestra of the N.I.R.-I.N.R., which he succeeded in making one of the most famous of Europe's orchestras, performing numerous modern creations. He remained the orchestra's director until 1958, also later still frequently engaged by the orchestra for recordings or concerts. During the Second World War he replaced Désiré Defauw as teacher of orchestral conducting at the Brussels Conservatory and conductor of the Conservatory orchestra. From 1951 to 1964 Franz André was the tenured conductor of the International Queen Elisabeth Music Competition of Belgium. As conductor he realised European creations of works by Stravinsky, Koechlin, Milhaud, Bartok and Shostakovitch. In addition he was also teacher of chamber music at the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel (1956-1974).

André composed some works for the radio, such as La Paix d’Aristophane and Jules César, both on a text by Theo Fleischman. The Royal Library not only preserves a Prélude et Danse for piano, but also several arrangements for orchestra of baroque works, as well as Chinoiserie and Intermezzo for orchestra. Since 2005 this institute also takes care of the Franz André fund: over two hundred printed scores, some sixty musical manuscripts, two albums dedicated to Franz André, radio programmes, concert programmes, posters, photos, diplomas, a considerable correspondence and diverse sound archives.

© Studiecentrum voor Vlaamse Muziek vzw - Annelies Focquaert (translation: Jo Sneppe)