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Joseph Jongen

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Joseph Jongen


Joseph Marie Alphonse Nicolas Jongen (14 December 1873, Liège, Belgium – 12 July 1953, Sart-lez-Spa, Belgium) was a Belgian organist, composer, and music educator.

On the strength of an amazing precocity for music, Jongen was admitted to the Liège Conservatoire at the extraordinarily young age of seven, and spent the next sixteen years there. Jongen won a First Prize for Fugue in 1895, an honors diploma in piano the next year, and another for organ in 1896. In 1897, he won the Belgian Prix de Rome, which allowed him to travel to Italy, Germany and France.

Jongen began composing at the age of 13, and immediately exhibited exceptional talent in that field too. By the time he published his Opus 1, he already had dozens of works to his credit. His monumental and massive First String Quartet was composed in 1894 and was submitted for the annual competition for fine arts held by the Royal Academy of Belgium, where it was awarded the top prize by the jury.

In 1902, he returned to his native land, and in the following year he was named a professor of harmony and counterpoint at his old Liège college. With the outbreak of World War I, he and his family moved to England, where he founded a piano quartet. When peace returned, he came back to Belgium and was named professor of fugue at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels. From 1925 until 1939, he served as director of that institution.

From his teens to his seventies Jongen composed a great deal, including symphonies, concertos (for cello, for piano and for harp), chamber music (notably a late string trio and three string quartets), and songs, some with piano, others with orchestra. (His list of opus numbers eventually reached 241, but he destroyed many pieces.) Today, the only part of his oeuvre performed with any regularity is his output for organ, much of it solo, some of it in combination with other instruments. His monumental Symphonie Concertante of 1926 is a tour de force, considered by many to be among the greatest works ever written for organ and orchestra.

In 1945, Jongen composed the Mass, Op. 130, for choir, brass and organ, in memory of his brother Alphonse.

Works for Winds