Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The National Anthem of Belgium

The Belgium anthem had its genesis when Belgium gained its independence in 1830. The popular legend goes that it was written by some young people in a cafe on Fource St. in Brussels in September 1830. While the story may or may not be true, the anthem does date back to that time. In 1860, the anti-Dutch lyrics were softened and the version that is in use today was created. When Dechet (better known as "Jenneval") wrote his verses, he called the poem 'La Bruxelloise'. His publisher thought it better to broaden the scope from the city's to the area's name (Brabant) and renamed it "La Brabançonne" (Song of Brabant).

The music was written in September of 1830 and the first public performance of the anthem occurred the following month. Finally, in 1921, it was decreed that only the fourth stanza of the 1860 lyrics are official in the French and Dutch versions. However, an official version of the "Brabançonne" does not actually exist. Different commissions have been established to examine the words and melody of the song and establish an official version. Yet, all of their efforts had been in vain. The words were written by Louis-Alexandre Dechet (original French) and Victor Ceulemans (Dutch translation). The music was composed by François van Campenhout.

François van Campenhout (5 February 1779 – 24 April 1848) was a Belgian opera singer, conductor and composer. Campenhout was born in Brussels, where he studied violin. He worked initially as an office clerk, but soon pursued a career as a musician. After he had been a violinist at the Theatre de la Monnaie (or Muntschouwburg) in Brussels for a while, he started a career as a tenor at the Opera in Ghent. This was the beginning of a successful opera career, which brought him to Brussels, Antwerp, Paris, Amsterdam, The Hague, Lyon and Bordeaux. In 1828, he ended his career as a singer and became conductor in Brussels, where he died in 1848.

Campenhout wrote a large number of works: operas such as Grotius ou le Château de Lovesteyn and Passe-Partout, which were successful, and he also composed ballet music, symphonies and choir music. Van Campenhout was a freemason and a member of the Grand Orient of Belgium.

Above is a postcard with the French version of the Belgian national anthem.