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Alphonse Hasselmans is a Belgian harpist and composer. He was born in Liège in March 1845 and he died in Paris in May 1912. Coming from a family of musicians, he begins to study the harp with his father Josef H. Hasselmans (1814- 1902), violinist and director of the Strasbourg Conservatory. He then perfects his skills with Gottlieb Krüger (1824–1895) a pupil of Parish-Alvars in Stuttgart, then with Ange-Conrad Prumier (1820-1884) at the Paris Conservatory.

It’s in Brussels that his career as a musician begins with his entry as a harpist in the orchestra of the Royal Theater of La Monnaie. In 1877, he holds the position of solo harpist in several orchestras including that of the Paris Conservatory. In 1884 following the death of Ange-Conrad Prumier, he becomes a harp teacher at the Paris Conservatory. Hasselmans would teach the instrument there until his death in 1912. Among Hasselmans’ brilliant pupils, let us mention Marcel Grandjany (1891-1975), Carlos Salzedo (1885-1961), Henriette Renié (1875-1956) and Marcel Tournier (1879-1951). Alphonse Hasselmans is a very demanding teacher. As a musician, his sound is described as breathtaking, and it is this technicality that he tries to teach to his students. Lili Laskine (1893-1988), who had her first prize with him, recounted later in her life that she admired the man but was also terrified of this tall and cold teacher.

As a composer, he also transcribes many pieces originally intended for other instruments from the repertoires of Chopin, Mendelssohn and even Fauré. In total, he composes more than fifty pieces for the harp, including in 1892, Aubade, opus 30, a piece dedicated to his pupil the Comtesse de Lauriston, Chanson de mai, opus 40 in 1897, La Source, opus 44, and Guitare, opus 50. Hasselmans also revises François-Joseph Dizi’s forty-eight studies and publishes a book on the harp and its technique.

Alphonse Hasselmans’ children also went on to musical careers. Marguerite Hasselmans (1876-1947) was a concert pianist. She was close to Paul Dukas (1865-1935) and Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) with whom she had a relationship for about twenty years. Her friend Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909) dedicated the third book of Iberia to her (1907). The son of Alphonse Hasselmans, Louis Hasselmans (1878-1957) was a cellist and conductor. He created the Hasselmans Concerts and had some success in Parisian performances, notably at the Opéra-Comique. His success also extends to the American continent, where he conducts in places such as the Opéra de Montréal or the Metropolitan in New York.

Article written by Victoria De Schrijver

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