Bosmans, Arthur

Brussel, 13/10/1908 > Belo Horizonte (BR), 14/05/1991

Biografie

Bosmans, Arthur

by Jan Dewilde and Annelies Focquaert

Arthur (Arturo) Bosmans, a native of Brussels, was a self-taught musician. However, this did not prevent him from becoming a violinist in the Symphonic Orchestra of Mons at age twelve as well as playing the piano, the clarinet and the trumpet.

From 1926 on he travelled around the world as an officer of the Belgian Marine. During one of these voyages he composed in Port Said a Romance for cello and chamber orchestra. In 1931 he quit his profession because of eye problems, landed a job at the Antwerp harbour and had enough leisure to devote himself to music. He became a member of the ‘Société des Auteurs et Compositeurs’ in Paris and earned in 1933 the composition award ‘César Franck’ in Liège with his rhapsody La Rue (The Street). In this period quite a few of his works were published as well. The World Exhibition in Brussels (1935) even included an Arthur Bosmans Festival featuring several of his symphonic works. During these years in Antwerp he was taught orchestra conducting by Löwenstein and Defauw, resulting in an appointment as assistant conductor with the Philharmonic Orchestra of Antwerp. His works from this period include James Ensor (a symphonic scherzo), Cymbalum for piano and orchestra, and the orchestral suite La vie en bleu (Life in Blue).

Meanwhile his works were more and more performed abroad: in France, Hungary, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Poland. La Rue became very popular: in 1939 it celebrated its 100th public performance. Bosmans conducted concerts in Brussels, Paris and Antwerp, graduating to the position of tenured conductor of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Antwerp. His earliest works were published by Buyst and Senart (Paris), Melodia (Brussels), and Eulenburg (Leipzig). In 1938 he became a member of the editorial board of the Revue Musicale Belge and director of the Ballet Belowa.

The German invasion caused him to join the Belgian Marine again. He was involved in the evacuation of the troops in the Channel and as a refugee he ended up through London in Lisbon, where in 1940 a Festival with his compositions was organised. There he also met Darius Milhaud, who was getting ready to flee to the United States. Milhaud was well-connected and railroaded for Bosmans a visa for Brazil. There he arrived without diplomas in his pocket and with only a very limited knowledge of the Portuguese language. However, Bosmans was a fighter. In Rio de Janeiro he met Heitor Villa-Lobos, himself to a large extent a self-taught musician too. Villa-Lobos enabled him to adapt Brazilian folksongs, and this activity facilitated his integration into the music scene of Brazil. In 1941 and 1942 he conducted the ‘Orquestra Sinfonica Brasileira’ and the Pro Musica orchestra. In this period he also started teaching composition and instrumentation at the National Conservatory in Rio de Janeiro as well as composing music for Brazilian films and a ballet Visiones de la guerra.

In 1943 he became director of the International Season of Opera and Ballet at the Teatro Municipal of Rio. Meanwhile occupied Belgium saw the premieres of his Cymbalum (in the Brussels Conservatoire) and of his ballet Le Jardin des Hespérides (The Garden of the Hesperides) by the symphonic orchestra of the National Radio. Concurrently his works were performed in Brazil, the United States, Canada, and Montevideo (Uruguay). In 1944 he was invited by the City Council of Belo Horizonte (capital of the province of Minas Gerais) to become artistic director and first conductor of the symphonic orchestra.

He married a Brazilian, became a citizen of Brazil and was appointed in 1955 as state adviser for music. Concurrently he was also professor of composition and orchestral conducting at the university of Belo Horizonte, where he also co-founded the symphonic orchestra. He broadened the musical perspective of Belo Horizonte both by executing new music of the 20th century as well as by promoting Brazilian music abroad. In addition he became first conductor and artistic adviser of the ‘Orquestra Simfonica Estadual’. With several Brazilian orchestras he conducted work by Belgian composers such as Peter Benoit, Joseph Jongen, Marcel Poot and Gaston Brenta.

On top of all these activities Bosmans still found time for compositions. Piano music for example, such as Sonatina Lusitana from 1945, dedicated to Claudio Arrau; Toccata from 1947, dedicated to Alexis Weissenberg; Ballo Barocco (1958); 3 Valsas (1982), and orchestral works with such titles as Duas danças sinfonicas (1943), L’isle galante. Suite de ballet em 5 movimentos (1975) and Blue requiem. Balada coreografica (1980). Furthermore also songs, chamber music, guitar compositions (the guitar suite Brasileiras dedicated to Victor Van Puyenbroeck) and adaptations of works by Cimarosa, Corelli, Händel, Pachelbel and Carlos Gomes.

In the 1960s he enjoyed several tours as a conductor in Latin America and in Europe. In this period one of the orchestras under his baton was the orchestra of the Belgian Radio and Television which recorded several of his works. This radio orchestra premiered in 1968 his Lyrica (Suite breve para orquestra), an elegant sinfonietta in four movements. Bosmans earned the first prize with gold medal for classical music awarded by the ‘Académie Internationale de Lutèce’ in Paris on the occasion of the 7th Great International Competition in 1975.

The impressive oeuvre composed by Bosmans ranges across a wide gamut: from songs to choral works and from chamber music to film music. His orchestral works are typical of a late romantic style. His many voyages around the world exerted an influence on his works, too: either by exuding a general atmosphere, or by the use of folk tunes. While initially his works betray influences from Debussy, Ravel and Gershwin, gradually he moved into an idiom that he himself dubbed “cosmopolitan”. As a pianist he used the piano not only as a solo instrument, but also as a special timbre in the orchestra.

Arthur Bosmans died in 1991, leaving behind a great amount of musical materials that merit further study and performance. Several of his works were published, and the collection is taken care of by his widow Walkyria, whose collection also holds recordings.

© Studiecentrum voor Vlaamse Muziek vzw - Jan Dewilde and Annelies Focquaert (translation: Joris Duytschaever)