Lodewijk Mortelmans 1868-1952


Lodewijk Mortelmans

Lodewijk Mortelmans was born in Antwerp on Februari 5th 1868, as second son of printer Karel Mortelmans. He died on Tuesday June 24th 1952 in Antwerp and is burried on the large field of honor at the 'Schoonselhof' cimetary.
He was an outstanding, universal belgian musician and composer.

His unique and poetic classical songs, his intimate and delicate piano music and his imaginative orchestral pieces rank among the European masterworks of the end of the 19th and the early 20th century.


In his book on Lodewijk Mortelmans, Professor J. L. Broeckx describes the composer’s music as timeles and universal in meaning. (Een 'Van nu en strakser' der muziek. 1945 - see bibliography)


Logo Concours Reine ElisabethLodewijk Mortelmans broadened the horizons of the "Belgian music scene", being also,
one of the founders of the International Contest Eugène Ysaye, the present
Queen Elisabeth International Music Competition of Belgium.


After completing his musical education at the age of 19, he studied composition and orchestration under Peter Benoit.
hand in plasterIn this same year, his first lied De bloemen en de sterren was awarded 1st price of the concours 'Vlaams-Hollands Tornooi' in Roeselare.


In 1889 he already participated 'just to try' and obtained, together with Paul Lebrun, a shared Second Prix de Rome with his cantate Sinaï. He then was 21 years old. Although in 1891, he had to interrupt his participation due to illness.

In 1893 at the age of 25, Lodewijk Mortelmans was awarded the First Prize of Rome with his cantate Lady Macbeth.


Lodewijk MortelmansHis symphonic work was received with enthusiasm during a Lodewijk Mortelmans festival, organised in Antwerp in 1899. From then on he was regarded as the indisputable leader of the Antwerp music scene. Lodewijk Mortelmans and Paul Gilson were the most important composers of a generation that breathed new life into Flemish music.

From personal notes of Lodewijk Mortelmans :
"On april 17th 1899 a great concert took place in Antwerp where only works of Lodewijk Mortelmans under his conduct were performed. It were Helios, Mythe der Lente, Een lied van de smart, Salve Regina and Homerische Symphonie, all composed after his Prix de Rome. This concert confirmed definetively the reputation of Lodewijk Mortelmans. Joseph Dupont by the way, had already performed his 'Mythe der Lente' at the 'Concerts Populaires' in Brussels."


Guido GezelleWith Lodewijk Mortelmans, Flemish music became more refined in form. He had an exceptionally rich personality, which was genuinely reflected in his music. In his art he strived to combine extreme formal beauty with great natural feeling. His songs, often using poems by Guido Gezelle, are among the most beautiful of the genre in all Europe.

The composer was also a gifted pedagogue, who formed numerous famous musicians, such as
Lodewijk De Vocht, Marinus De Jong, Emmanuel Durlet and Flor Peeters.


Lodewijk MortelmansFrom 1901 to 1924 he was professor of counterpoint and fugue at the Royal Flemish Academy of Music in Antwerp, whose principal he became in 1924 and stayed until his retirement in1933. In addition to that, he lectured at the Interdiocesan School for Church Music in Mechelen, the present Lemmens Institute in Louvain.


Maatschappij der Nieuwe Concerten 1910In 1903, Mortelmans became the founding conductor of the Koninklijke Maatschappij der Nieuwe Concerten in Antwerp
(Royal Society of New Concerts) and brought this orchestra at the musical top of Belgium. He managed to have famous musicians such as Gustav Mahler, Siegfried Wagner, Hans Richter, Richard Strauss and Sergei Rachmaninov to conduct his orchestra in Antwerp.

Lodewijk Mortelmans conducted himself world famous soloists such as Pablo de Sarasate, Jacques Thibaud, Eugène Isaye, Pablo Casals and Fritz Kreisler.
As a conductor he combined technical perfection with great musical feeling.


During a successful tour in the United States of America (1920), Lodewijk Mortelmans was invited by Pablo Casals to become the conductor of a well-known Symphonic Orchestra. Some works were edited after agreements with Schirmer in New York and with Composers Musical Corporation.

Gabrielle MortelmansLodewijk Mortelmans rejected this honorable offer, because during the war, in 1917, he had lost his wife Gabrielle Mortelmans and two of his sons, and therefor felt responsible for the education of his five other children.
   (Gabriella Mortelmans †03.05.1917 - Frits †22.07.1917 and Guido †10.01.1917)

The trip started on the night of 29th of March 1921 from Antwerpen to Baltimore on board of the Nerviër (Shipping Company : Lloyd Royal Belge).
The Cunard Line was choosen for the returntrip, whilst the crossing of these vessels due to conflicts is unsafe.
On the 9th of june 1921 Misses Gabrielle Radoux, Daisy Jean and himself sailed of for Cherbourg aboard the Lodewijk Mortelmans & Gabrielle RadouxRMS Saxonia on a ten days journey. From there on, they would travel home by train.
In his correspondance he expected to be home in the Helenalei around the 23st.
Lodewijk Mortelmans remarried on january 14th of 1922, with the pianist and musical pedagogue Gabrielle Radoux.

photo Lodewijk Mortelmans & Gabrielle Radoux


Membership Nr. 1 NaveaLodewijk Mortelmans was founder, founding member and first president of the authors rights association NAVEA in Belgium, actually named SABAM.
He had the membership Nr. 1,
and was member of the Royal Flemish Academy for Sciences, Literature and Fine Arts.
Co-foundors of NAVEA are amongst others : Edward Verheyden, Emiel Hullebroeck



Bösendorfer piano Lodewijk MortelmansBösendorfer practice piano of Lodewijk Mortelmans

The late pianist Philibert Mees played for many years on this exceptional instrument. He bought the piano from composer and conductor Ivo Mortelmans, son of Lodewijk.
The Mees family handed it over to our foundation.
Today this piano is stored in the privat museum House Mortelmans
in Antwerp, only 20m away from the house of the family Mortelmans.
Dirk Schiltz, president of the Association, aswell manager of the museum.


Helenalei 17 AntwerpenSunday 24 JUNE 2012 - 14.00h :
Presentation commemorative plate on residence of Lodewijk Mortelmans

Regarding the 60th anniversary of the death of Lodewijk Mortelmans, a commemorative plate was presentated at his house in presence of the Antwerp Alderman of Culture, Philip Heylen.
Lodewijk Mortelmans Waasmunster 
After his pension in 1933 Lodewijk Mortelmans he lead a retired life in Waasmunster where he continued the composition of piano music, the orchestration of early Lieder, the arrangement of folk Lieder and the writing of a manual for counterpoint.
WaasmunsterHe travelled forth and back for years between his residence in the Helenalei and his countryhouse in Waasmunster. When there was no railcar from Linkeroever (Left Bank), which sometimes occured, you could only make the long walk by foot. Waasmunster offered him the chance to make long walks, where nature became his source of inspiration. He lived and worked there, with Gabrielle Radoux, where family came to visit them.
Lodewijk Mortelmans - Erica Schiltz - Bobby, in Waasmunster 
Family tradition :
"Around 1920 one day he catched pneumonia, because no railcar came along, and he had to wait in the cold at Linkeroever. Then in 1952 he was ill for a while, first at his home in the Helenalei and finally at the hospital. After three weeks he died in the hospital, complete weakened, completely used up."

Photo : Lodewijk Mortelmans -
his Godchild Erica Schiltz - his dog Bobby

Antoon Mortelmans - Heide 1910His brother Frans Mortelmans had his summer house in the village of Heide, on the borders of the Kalmthoutse heide.
The gifted sculptor Josué Dupon was there his neighbour, whom had there too his summer house.
Aquarel, painted by Antoon Mortelmans of the country house of Frans in 1910.



Lodewijk Mortelmans died on the 24th of june 1952 at the hospital "Sint-Camillus Gesticht", actually Gasthuiszusters, in Antwerp.

Both the Netherlands and Belgium honored Lodewijk Mortelmans with several high distinctions:
Lodewijk Mortelmans Honorary Medals  - Ere-bestuurder van het Koninklijk Vlaamse Konservatorium
  - Lid van de Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie
  - Stichtend lid van de Koninklijke Maatschappij der Nieuwe Concerten
  - Groot-Officier in de Leopoldsorde
  - Groot-Officier in de Orde van Oranje Nassau
  - Groot-Officier in de Kroonorde
  - Commandeur in de Leopoldsorde
  - Commandeur in de Kroonorde
  - Officier in de Leopoldsorde
  - Ridder in de Kroonorde
  - Burgerlijke Medaille van 1e Klasse van 1914-1918.

He was widower of Mrs. Gabrielle Mortelmans, and husband of Mrs. Mevrouw Gabrielle Radoux.

The funerary monument for Lodewijk Mortelmans is located on the large field of honor N of the Schoonselhof cimetary in Antwerp.



The music of Mortelmans in the maintime is played in more than 45 countries. (source Sabam 2007)
Since the start of this association, 35 CD's were edited, containing his music.

graphicThe statistics of our website compared to the nations of our visitors confirm the international recognition
of his works :
America, Argentinia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brasil, Croatia, England, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Roemenia, Russia, Taiwan, Turkey, South-Africa, South-Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine..


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