Pierre Froidebise

Pierre Froidebise (15 May 1914 – 28 October 1962) was a Belgian organist, composer, and musicologist.


Froidebise was born in the rural Condroz village of Ohey, province of Namur, the son of a well-off retail pharmacist. After completing his secondary education, he began studying the organ, first at the Namur Conservatory with René Barbier [ca; de; fr; gl; nl] and then with Paul de Maleingreau at the Brussels Conservatory, where he also studied composition with Raymond Moulaert and fugue with Léon Jongen. He took the first prize for organ in 1939, and in 1941 won the Agniez Prize for composition (Froidebise 2004; Vanhulst 2001).

He subsequently studied composition with Paul Gilson and Jean Absil, before moving to Paris to further his organ studies with Charles Tournemire (Vanhulst 2001). In 1942 he became organist at the church of Saint-Jacques in Liège, where later he performed and was choirmaster at the Grand Séminaire and taught harmony at the Conservatory, where he was appointed professor in 1947 (Froidebise 2004).

In the meantime, he won the Belgian second Prix de Rome in 1943 for his cantata La navigation d’Ulysse (Vanhulst 2001).

As a teacher, his notable students include Célestin Deliège [fr] and Henri Pousseur. Froidebise died in Liège on 28 October 1962 (Froidebise 2004).

Compositional styleEdit

Froidebise's earliest organ compositions show the influence of César Franck, but his enthusiasm soon turned to Igor Stravinsky for his model. His Trois poèmes japonais for voice and orchestra, Op. 1, No. 1 (1942), while exhibiting traits of his teacher Absil, in its overall feeling recalls Stravinsky's Three Japanese Lyrics, and the Russian master's presence is even clearer in the Cinq comptines for voice and eleven instruments, Op. 1, No. 2 (1947), which was performed at the 1950 ISCM Festival (Vanhulst 2001). His discovery of the music of Anton Webern led to a decisive turn to serialism beginning in 1948, with the cantata Amercœur—a rather severe work setting Liège place names in an economical twelve-tone technique (Vanhulst 2001).

From this point onward, Froidebise was a confirmed dodecaphonist and maintained regular contact with Olivier Messiaen, René Leibowitz, and Pierre Boulez in Paris (Froidebise 2004). His finest work, Stèle pour Sei Shonagon (1958), for soprano and four instrumental groups, added aleatory elements to a warmer use of twelve-tone technique than that found in Amercœur, combined with a supple rhythmic treatment (Vanhulst 2001).



  • Radio operas:
    • La bergère et le ramoneur (1954)
    • La lune amère (1956)
  • Ballets:
    • Le bal chez le voisin, orchestra (1954)
    • L’aube
  • Incidental music:
    • Antigone (Sophocles, 1936)
    • Oedipe roi (Sophocles, ?1946)
    • Ce vieil Oedipe (A. Curvers, ?1946)
    • Elkerlyc (1949)
    • Jan van Nude (M. Lambilliotte, 1951)
    • Les choéphores (Aeschylus, 1954)
    • Hippolyte (Euripides)
    • La maison à deux portes (Calderón)
    • Une ville chantait (J. de Coune)
    • Le p’tit bateau de la réunion (J.M. Landier)
  • Film scores:


  • De l’aube à la nuit (1934–37)
  • La légende de St Julien l’Hospitalier (1941)


  • Notre père (?1934)
  • La lumière endormie, cantata (1941)
  • Trois poèmes japonais, Op. 1, No. 1, soprano or tenor and orchestra (1942)
  • Trois poèmes japonais, for middle voice and piano (1942)
  • La navigation d’Ulysse, cantata, 1943
  • Cinq comptines, Op. 1, No. 2, soprano or tenor and 11 instruments, (1947)
  • Amercœur, Op. 1, No. 3, soprano, wind quintet, and piano (1948)
  • La cloche engloutie, cantata (1956)
  • Stèle pour Sei Shonagon, Op. 1, No. 4, soprano and chamber orchestra (19 instruments), 1958
  • Ne recorderis
  • Poème chinois, soprano or tenor and piano
  • Choral motets:
    • "Justorum animae"
    • "Laudate Dominum"
    • "Puer natus est"

Chamber musicEdit

  • Sonata, violin and piano (1938)
  • Petite suite monodique, flute or clarinet
  • Petite suite, wind quintet
  • Dom Japhet d'Arménie, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, harpsichord, 3 timpani, and percussion (1956)


  • Piano:
    • Sept croquis brefs (1934)
    • La légende de St Julien l’Hospitalier (1940; orch. 1941)
    • Hommage à Chopin (1947)
    • Livre de ricercare
  • Organ:
    • Trois pièces (1933)
    • Suite brève (1934)
    • Diptyque (1936)
    • Prelude and Fugue (1936)
    • Sonatina (1939)
    • Prelude and Fughetta
    • Livre de noëls belges
    • Hommage à J.S. Bach


  • Froidebise, Anne. 2004. "Foidebise, Pierre", at CeBeDeM website (accessed 23 July 2016).
  • Vanhulst, Henri. 2001. "Froidebise, Pierre (Jean Marie)". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers. ISBN 9781561592395 (cloth); ISBN 9780333608005; ISBN 9780195170672 (hc).
  • Koninklijk Conservatorium Brussel now houses most works and manuscripts of Froidebise, after the bankruptcy of CeBeDeM in 2015.

Further readingEdit

  • Pirenne, Christophe (ed.). 2004. Les Musiques nouvelles en Wallonie et à Bruxelles (1960–2003. Collection Musique-Musicologie. Sprimont: Editions Mardaga. ISBN 2-87009-864-2.
  • Souris, André. 2000. La lyre à double tranchant: écrits sur la musique et le surréalisme, presented and annotated by Robert Wangermée. Sprimont: Editions Mardaga. ISBN 2-87009-749-2.