JEF MAES (1905 - 1996)
As a student of the Antwerp composer and conductor Karel Candael - himself a student of Lodewijk Mortelmans and Jan Blockx, who in their turn studied under Peter Benoit - Jef Maes can be regarded as an artistic great-grandchild of the pioneer of the Flemish Romantic movement. In this sense he is also a direct heir of the renowned Antwerp School, started by Peter Benoit. On a technical-compositional level he also follows the same course of Romanticism, not so much in the choice of genres, not with large scale cantatas on historical or poplar themes in his works but more in the twentieth century. He was certainly open to the new styles that were springing up everywhere. When asked to describe his style, he likes to call himself a modern Romantic, a nineteenth century poet in the body of a twentieth century orchestrator.
In 1922, the seventeen year old Maes enrolled as a student at the Royal Flemish Conservatory of Music in his home city of Antwerp. Initially it was his friend and contemporary André Cluytens, who later took French nationality and became a well known conductor, who persuaded him to take this step. A few years later Maes was awarded the First Prize for viola and chamber music. His tutor for harmony, counterpoint and fugue was Karel Candael. As a solo viola-player he worked with the most important chamber music ensembles and symphony orchestras from his home town, and in this privileged position, he enhanced, his knowledge of orchestration. From the forties he gradually abandoned orchestral work in order to spend more time teaching. He kept in close touch, however, with the concert world of the city and this led him in 1955 to co-found the Antwerp Philharmonic, the predecessor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of Flanders