Flemish composer Luc Brewaeys dies aged 56


Luc Brewaeys, one of Flanders’ greatest composer, known for his complex and challenging works, has died of cancer

Perfect sounds

The composer Luc Brewaeys, one of Flanders’ most talented and challenging composers, has died of cancer at the age of 56. Born in Mortsel in Antwerp province, Brewaeys studied composition in Brussels, Siena and Darmstadt. In the 1980s he was closely associated with the Greek composer Iannis Xenakis, and his works were regularly performed by the Munt, deFilharmonie and the Belgian National Orchestra, and smaller ensembles like Champ d’Action and Ictus.

As well as being a teacher at the conservatories of Brussels, Ghent and Rotterdam, Brewaeys was a sound engineer for VRT. His compositions have been described as spectral, poetic and impulsive. His search for the perfect but elusive sound led him to odd orchestrations, with the stage sometimes taken up with gas tanks, a bathtub or a cardboard megaphone. Four years ago, the work he composed for the Queen Elisabeth Competition was described by the jury as too difficult for the contestants to play.

He was also a whisky-lover and gave some of his works the names of Scotch malt whiskies. His Talisker, for example, was composed for the opening concert of the Antwerp City of Culture celebrations in 1993. It was performed in the main hall of the city’s landmark Central Station.

Other Brewaeys works include OBAN, symphony number 5 Laphroaig and the string quartet Bowmore. It has been said that his music was an attempt to capture the complexity in sound that a great whisky has in aroma and flavour.

He leaves behind a commissioned work for the Amsterdam Concertgebouworkest and, like Schubert, an unfinished Eighth Symphony. His last completed work, Shakespeare’s Sonnets to Sundry Notes, was premiered by Philippe Herreweghe and Collegium Vocale at the beginning of this season.

Photo courtesy Donemus Publishing