Armand Limnander Van Nieuwenhove (1814-1892)
‘Meyerbeer once regarded him as a serious rival, yet history redirected Armand Limnander van Nieuwenhove into total oblivion. The author of Limnanders necrology in The Musical Times (1892) seems to have forefelt the composer's long term perspective, when he wrote: ‘If none of these operatic productions are likely to be revived, even in their composer's country, they nevertheless occupy a very respectable position, artistically, in the period from which they emanate, and will have their place assigned to them by its historian.’ (Annelies Focquaert, Limnander de Nieuwenhove, Armand-Marie-Ghislain, Studiecentrum voor Vlaamse Muziek, 2015)
The Musical Times seems to have been quite right with respect to Armand Limnander van Nieuwenhove. In retrospect, the enormous success of his 1849 opera Les Monténégrins in France and Belgium makes us particularly curious for the music. Marguerite's central aria from Le Maître-Chanteur ou Maximilien à Francfort, recorded by ourselves and the only snippet of his music currently available, may not be a direct competitor for, say, Meyerbeer's ‘Ombre legière’. On the other hand it would make quite an impression on a cd with pearls from the history of the opéra-comique or the entirely forgotten Flemish operatic repertoire. Therefore we present here the first ever English language introduction to the life and career of baron Armand Limnander Van Nieuwenhove.
Text: René Seghers
Armand-Marie-Ghislain Limnander Van Nieuwenhove (Ghent, May 22 1814 – Moignanville (FR), August 15 1892) was born into an old noble family. From 1823 he attended school in Saint-Acheul, after which he attended the Jesuit college of Fribourg (Swiss). There Louis Lambillotte took his musical training upon him. When Van Nieuwenhove returned to Belgium in 1835, he married Euphémie de Meester (1808-1848). They settled in Mechelen and had five children. In 1838 Van Nieuwenhove founded the 'Société symphonique des amateurs de musique'. For the performances of his own compositions in that city he needed singers, which resulted in the subsequent founding of a choir, the 'Réunion lyrique'. When his compositions met with success, he decided to complete his musical training with further lessons in composition with François-Joseph Fétis.
In 1845 Van Nieuwenhove presented his first major composition, a 'Te Deum'. In the same year he left for Paris, where he was introduced to King Louis-Philippe, thanks to the help of his nephew, the French ambassador in Brussels. With such support a concert was quickly arranged. His 'Hymne à l'harmonie' made a big impression in Paris, especially the choral passage à bouche fermée (a humming choir). Berlioz later wote in Journal des Débats that Van Nieuwenhove introduced this effect in France; Auber then copied it into his opera Haydée. In 1846 Van Nieuwenhove again travelled to Paris, where the famous composer-director Auber conducted his 'Scènes druïdiques' in the Tuilleries-Palace for King Louis-Philippe. The success then brought about Van Nieuwenhove's permanent transition to Paris in 1847, where he devoted himself to composing operas.
The 1848 revolution prevented the première of his first opera Les Monténégrins, in that year, but when it was finally given on March 31 1849, it was a veritable triumph at the Opéra-Comique. The Paris press called it an 'oeuvre d’une inspiration chaleureuse et d’un style vigoureux' (an inspired work with a strong style). Performances in the rest of France, Ghent, Antwerp and Brussels followed.
In 1851 he presented his second opera, Le Château de Barbe-Bleue, in which he was one of the first composers to use a saxophone. It was only because Louis Napoléon Bonaparte committed a coup the next day, that the première was overlooked by the press
Next, Le Maître-Chanteur ou Maximilien à Francfort came out in 1853. It had less success than Les Monténégrins earlier, but it enjoyed several revivals over the next decades. For the Brussels 1876 revival, he gave the work a new title, Maximilien à Francfort. For Belgium he then composed several religious and occasional compositions. In 1852 Brussels heared his 'Requiem' for the victims of the September days in 1830, which commemorated the separation from The Netherlands. In 1856 he presented his ‘Chant Solennel’, a commission for the celebration of Belgium's National Holiday.
Download fragmenten uit Quentin Durward
Our download program with Flemish opera arias and duets 401Concerts Nr. 2 was filmed and recorded on January 27, 2016, in Museum Vleeshuis, in a coproduction with the artists, soprano Pauline Lebbe and baritone Joris Grouwels. From Van Nieuwenhove's Le Maître-Chanteur ou Maximilien à Francfort lall four central pieces were performed:
01 ‘Chant de l'armurier’ (Aria Maximilien) [J]
02 ‘Je n'avais pas trois ans’ (Marguerite) [P]
03 ‘Si tu m'abandonais’ (Aria of Gunther) [J]
04 ‘Moi qui l'aimais’ (Aria of Marguerite) [P]
Other arias and duets include Jan Blockx' operas De herbergprinses and De bruid der zee, and excerpts from operas by François-Auguste Gevaert, Armand Limnander van Nieuwenhove, Emiel Wambach en August De Boeck. Some highlights can be seen in the video trailer above. The complete concert is downloadable from our Flemish Opera Arias & Duets Concertpage.
Yvonne et La Messe de Minuit
On November 29, 1859, Van Nieuwenhove’s fourth opera, Yvonne ou Les blancs et les Bleus was premièred, on a libretto by Eugène Scribe. Fétis judged it his best work, yet Annelies Focquaert argues that at the time it lost the battle with Meyerbeer’s Dinorah, an opera that also played in Bretagne. This meagre result proved a turning point in Van Nieuwenhove's career. He tried once more, in 1863, with the opera La messe de minuit, which however did not even make it to any stage. He then moved to Spain, where he exploited a private railroad between Badajoz and Ciudad Real, which came from the family heritage of his wife. A year later he returned to Paris, where he was amongst others juror in the competition for Le Prix de Rome. The French-German war then caused his return to Belgium. In 1872 he was accepted into the 'Académie Royale de Belgique'. In 1883 Van Nieuwenhove became Friedrich von Flotow's successor as member of the Académie Française, leaving candidates such as Brahms, Benoit, Grieg, Verdi and Tchaikovsky behind him. His final years were spent in his castle in Moignanville near Paris, where he died of pneumonia, on August 15, 1892.
• Les Monténégrins (1849, opéra-comique)
• Le château de Barbe-Bleue (1851, opéra-comique).
• Le Maître-chanteur ou Maximilien à Francfort (1853, opéra-comique)
• Yvonne ou Les blancs et les Bleus (1859, drame-lyrique)
• La messe de minuit (1863)
• Scènes druïdiques.
• Chant jubilaire (1856).
Also Chamber Mususic, Religious Music, and a 'Symphonie triomphale'
– A. Thys, Armand Limnander Van Nieuwenhove (Les sociétés chorales en Belgique, Gent, 1861).
– K. de Schrijver, Baron Limnander Van Nieuwenhove (Bibliografie der Belgische toonkunstenaars sedert 1800, Leuven, 1958).
– Oscar Coomans de Brachène, État présent de la noblesse Belge (Annuaire 1993, Brussel, 1993).
– M. R. van Driessche, Aspecten van het muziekleven te Gent in de 19de eeuw (licentiaatsthesis (not published), Rijksuniversiteit Gent, 1998).
– Flavie Roquet, Lexicon van Vlaamse componisten geboren na 1800 (Roeselare, 2007).
– Michel Brix et Jean-Claude Yon, Nerval et l'Opéra-Comique: le dossier des Monténégrins (Presse Universitaires de Namur, 2009)
– Marcel Kocken, Armand Limnander Van Nieuwenhove. Een vergeten Mechelaar.
(Mededelingenblad, Jaargang 45, Nummer 1, Mechelen, 2014)
– Annelies Focquaert, Limnander Van Nieuwenhove (Studiecentrum voor Vlaamse Muziek vzw, 2015).
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