Philippe Boesmans was born in Tongeren (Belgium) in 1936. After he studied piano at the Conservatoire de Liège, he chose for a composer’s career. Initially greatly influenced by serialism, he soon felt it necessary to break beyond its constraints and exclusions. Never dismissing this recent heritage, he nonetheless developed a profoundly personal musical language, at the very centre of which lay meaningful communication with its audience.
Boesmans’ career has been a prestigious one. He has consistently participated at important contemporary music festivals (those of Darmstadt, Royan, Zagreb, Avignon, Almeida, Strasbourg, Montreal, Ars Musica, Salzbourg and IRCAM to name but a few) as well as recording extensively. Based in Brussels, he also took up the post of producer at the television company RTBF in 1971, going on to become the composer in residence at the Monnaie, where Gerard Mortier commissioned several of his works, including La Passion de Gilles
(1983), the Trakl-Lieder
(1987) and his 1989 orchestration of L’Incoronazione di Poppea
His relationship with La Monnaie continued to be a fruitful one, Bernard Foccroulle commissioning in 1993 a new opera, Reigen
, staged by its writer Luc Bondy, who adapted the piece from the Schnitzler opus of the same name. That same year, the production toured to Strasbourg, continuing on to the Monnaie and the Theatre du Châtelet in 1994, and the Frankfurt Opera in 1995. Reigen
continued to be staged throughout the nineties, for instance at the Nantes Opera (1997), the Wiener Opern Theatre (1997), in Braunschweig (1998) and Amsterdam (1999). In 2004, a new version of the piece, adapted for chamber orchestra, was commissioned from Fabrizio Cassol by the Rhine National Opera, and staged by the Rhine Atelier at the Colmar Municipal Theatre that May. Further performances were scheduled in Mulhouse, Paris, Strasbourg and Lausanne. The Opera Studio Nederland toured in September and October 2007 in a staging of Harry Küpfer.
In further collaboration with Luc Bondy, Boesmans created Wintermärchen
for La Monnaie in 1999. This production too proved highly successful, being performed the following year at the Lyon Opera, in Paris at Châtelet, and at the Barcelona Liceo in 2004. Further performances were programmed in Braunschweig, Vienna and Nuremberg. The opera was recorded in 2000 with Deutsche Gramophon.
The one-act opera Julie
was created in 2005 at La Monnaie and was programmed at the Wiener Festwochen and at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence. Other productions were programmed in Braunschweig (2006), London (2007), Bolzano (2009), Sweden (2010), …
The last opera Philippe Boesmans composed, again in collaboration with Luc Bondy, was Yvonne
after Yvonne, Princesse de Bourgogne
from Witold Gombrowicz. This opera went in première in 2009 at the Opéra de Paris and programmed at La Monnaie in 2010. A new version of his orchestration of L’Incoronazione di Poppea
from Monteverdi went in première at the opera of Madrid in June, 2012.
During his career Philippe Boesmans obtained many prizes: the Italia prize for Upon La-Mi
. His Concerto pour violon
CDs won no less than six prizes, including the Koussevitzky International Recording Prize and the Charles Cros Academy award. He was awarded the Arthur Honegger Prize in December 2000, and the SACD Music Prize in May 2004. In December 2007, the DVD of Julie
(BelAir Classiques) received several prizes among them le Grand Prix Charles Cros. In 2009, Philippe Boesmans was awarded for Yvonne, princesse de Bourgogne
‘le prix de la critique française’ for the best creation of the year and the CD received the Diapason d’Or.