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Belgian music historian and theorist, teacher, and composer.

Career Summary

Gevaert studied piano and theory at the Ghent Conservatory, later becoming organist at the Jesuit College in that city. He found early success as a composer. From the early 1850s he settled in Paris, establishing himself as a significant composer of opera. In all, he wrote twelve operas and also sacred and secular vocal works, and orchestral and chamber music.

In 1867 he was appointed director of the Paris Opéra, but soon after returned to Brussels to become the director of the Brussels Conservatory, a position he held for thirty-seven years, reforming its teaching and organization. He also made important contributions to the study of ancient and medieval music.

In 1863 he wrote a treatise on instrumentation that became his best known work. Revised in 1885 as the Nouveau traité d'instrumentation, this was translated into German, English, Russian, and other languages. He wrote a second study, a course in orchestration, in 1890. His last book was a harmony treatise.

Gevaert and Schenker

Schenker's interest in Gevaert's work probably arose c.1906, when first producing his own Instrumentations-Tabelle ; he possessed a copy of the German translation by Hugo Riemann of Gevaert's 1885 Nouveau traité. Schenker spoke of his own introduction to the Table (written in 1908) as containing all the information of Gevaert's and Berlioz's treatises on orchestration "in a nutshell" (WSLB 33, December 31, 1908). There is no known contact between the two men. Schenker would have thought of him as French (despite the Flemish name): he thought of France as having only "mediocre music directors," and as having produced no music of any great significance (OJ 5/16, [2], December 25, 1908).

Bibliography (select):

  • Traité général d’instrumentation (Ghent and Liège: Gevaert, 1863)
  • Nouveau traité d'instrumentation (Paris and Brussels: Lemoine, 1885 [revn of Traité]); Ger. transl. by Hugo Riemann as Neue Instrumenten-Lehre (Leipzig: Junne Otto, 1887)
  • Cours méthodique d’orchestration (Paris and Brussels: Lemoine, 1890)
  • Histoire et théorie de la musique de l'antiquité (Ghent: Annoot-Braeckman, 1875‒81)
  • Les origines du chant liturgique de l'Eglise latine (Ghent: Hoste, 1890); Ger. transl. by Hugo Riemann (1891)
  • Traité d'harmonie théorique et pratique (Paris and Brussels: Lemoine, 1905‒07)


  • MGG (1956) (Albert van der Linden)
  • Grove Music Online (2016) (Anne-Marie Riessauw)


  • Ian Bent

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