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Guillaume Lekeu

Guillaume LEKEU

1870 - 1894


Date of birth:
Date of death:

Born in Belgium (in Heusy, near Verviers), Guillaume Lekeu moved to France in 1879 (Poitiers) but remained attached to his native region for the rest of his life. His music studies, begun in the village band, continued outside accepted musical institutions: he learned to play the violin, piano and cello, and began composing from 1885, particularly under the influence of one of his teachers at the secondary school in Poitiers. He began to be interested in the great German masters at this time and, when he was 19, his fascination for Wagner led him to make a pilgrimage to Bayreuth. In 1888, the Lekeu family moved to Paris as a result of his father’s career as a wool merchant and, from the following year (after his visit to Bayreuth), Lekeu began taking private lessons with César Franck. In November 1890, before the latter’s death, Lekeu gave the first public performance of one of his works in Verviers: the Première Étude Symphonique, conducted by his friend Louis Kéfer. The following year, he became a student of Vincent d’Indy and, on his recommendation, competed for the Belgian Prix de Rome, winning the deuxième second prix for his cantata Andromède. This semi-failure turned to success when, at the start of 1892, the Cercle des XX in Brussels invited him to conduct excerpts from this cantata. The violinist Eugène Ysaÿe, impressed by the young composer, commissioned him to write what remains the most celebrated work in his catalogue: the ViolinSonata, premiered by Ysaÿe at the Cercle des XX in March 1893 along with the Trois Poèmes for voice and piano.