Jean Laurent

Born in Neerpelt, Belgium, on 7th June 1909, Jean Laurent lived in Antwerp from 1912. It was there that he took his high-school Diploma at the Classics grammar school and finished off his music studies at the Royal Conservatory. In Brussels he completed his violin studies with Professor Alfred Dubois and after that in Paris with Professor Firmin Touche.

However it was the years Jean Laurent spent in London with Carl Flesch which were decisive for his further development as an instrumentalist, and which determined his career as a virtuoso violinist.

Back in Belgium and after being called up in 1940 as Lieutenant in the reserve infantry, he was made Professor of Violin Studies at the Ghent Conservatory in 1943 following a national competition; six years later he was appointed to the Royal Conservatory of Antwerp.

Alongside his educational work Jean Laurent also played in concerts with the pianist Jenny Solheid and for 18 years in close and friendly cooperation with the pianist Eugène Traey, who later became director of the Royal Conservatory of Antwerp and who for many years was president of the jury of adjudicators for the Reine Elisabeth international music competition in Belgium. Both artists performed regularly in Belgium as well as abroad.

Jean Laurent as a young man and student at the Royal Conservatory in Antwerp in 1929

Jean Laurent as a young
man and student at the Royal
Conservatory in Antwerp
in 1929

At this time Jean Laurent was also a soloist in several violin concertos; amongst the composers performed by him were Mozart, Beethoven, Bruch and Saint-Saëns, as well as two unpublished concertos by Pergolesi and Jean-Marie Leclair. Jean Laurent was soloist in the premières of contemporary concertos: Jef Maes’ Violin Concerto (1951) and Henk Badings’ 3rd Concerto for Violin (1958).

Whilst staying in Lugano Jean Laurent met the harpsichordist Luciano Sgrizzi, with whom he made recordings with the Tessin radio during the years 1954 to 1957. In 1958 Jean Laurent was appointed to the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik (State Music College) in Munich as a representative of the Belgian Violin School.

At the same time his cooperation with the pianist Hugo Steurer began, then with Hellmut Hideghéti and finally with the pianist Magda Rusy; together with her he founded the Orlando-Trio in memory of the Belgian composer Orlando di Lasso, initially playing with the violoncellist Wilfried Rehm, then with Viktor Weywara.

In 1961 the Bayerische Rundfunk (Bavarian Radio) recorded Walter Abendroth’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra op. 35 with Jean Laurent as soloist and the Munich Philharmonic under the baton of Rudolph Alberth. In 1977 came the call to Tokyo, where Jean Laurent spent a year teaching as “visiting professor” at the “GeiDai” State College for Fine Arts and Music.

These are some of the stages in the life of a musician and teacher whom many former pupils remember with gratitude. An inspired musician, a true humanist, a fine person.

Jacques De Vriend
(Translation: Micheline Wiechert)

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