Biography

From early age on, Stefaan Vanheertum was actively engaged in choral singing. As a boy he sang in the Schola Cantorum in Ghent and participated in many concerts including Britten’s’ “War Requiem” in Ieper in 1968, Honeggers’ “Le Roi David” and the yearly performances of Bach’s “St Matthews’ passion”…to name a few. These very early musical encounters made an everlasting impression. Later he became member of the mixed choir “Rundadinella” (directed by Florian Heyerick). In the meantime, next to his school career, Stefaan played the alto recorder, piano and alto saxophone, and took lessons in harmony, music theory and -history at the music school Gentbrugge, his home town. In parallel, his interest focused on science: he studied chemistry at the University of Ghent and got a PhD in science in December 1982. Although he nearly finished studies in music theory and harmony at the Ghent Conservatory (with Norbert Goddaer), Stefaan was not able to finish them as in1984 he started a professional career in the private sector. Stefaan held several international oriented marketing and technical-commercial positions.

Stefaan Vanheertums’ earliest composition is a cycle of five studies for alto recorder (1978). At that time he was studying alto recorder and wanted to play modern music. As an alternative to baroque scores, his teacher gave im scores by Hans Martin Linde. This was an eye-opener and promptly he started writing a similar style of music for alto recorder. This being a point of reference, is considered his opus number 0!! It was from 1986 that his composing activities started on a more regular basis. Till 1990, this mainly consisted of songs with piano accompaniment. The first songs for solo voice and piano (Rimbauds’ “Ophélie”, 1986 and four songs for high voice and piano on Rilke texts, 1986-1988) and three a cappella choral songs (different French poems, 1988) are all written in a post-romantic setting. Also the piano sonata “Le P'tit cheval de Neptune” (1990) used the same musical language.

From 1990 onwards, in order to broaden his musical horizon and as a result of discussions on compositional techniques with composers Raoul De Smet and Lucien Posman, Stefaan Vanheertum started experimenting with dodecaphonic related techniques. This resulted in a series of sonatas for various solo instruments and piano (between 1991 and 1994). In 1995, his compositional techniques were fine-tuned as he created works with a longer musical span. A first string quartet was created 1998! The result was encouraging and at present a total of 5 string quartets are in his opus list, (1995, 2000, 2002, 2006 and 2018). In 1999, commissioned by the “Orpheus competition for contemporary music”, the Millennium Sonata for two pianos was written. Other sonatas were composed for flute and piano (the “Gran Partita”, 1997) for oboe and piano (1996) and “conversations” for string quartet, flute and oboe.

Until today Stefaan composed two song cycles: "Ten English love songs for tenor or soprano and piano" (1995) based on various English poems and dedicated to his wife Monica and "Le Canari et la Cerise" (2000), based on the poetry by Paul Neuyhuys. Other vocal compositions followed: for mixed choir (texts of Rimbaud in 2006 and Rilke in 2012 and Latin texts recently) and a commission by Arte Musicale of Ghent for the youth choir “Furiakanti” on the famous text of Paul van Ostaijen; “Huldegedicht aan Singer” (2008). His two daughters, Elisa and Irene, both gifted with musical talent, sing in that choir since 2006. In addition, works for string orchestra were written: two notable pieces are the “Nebling Suite” for oboe and string orchestra (1998) and “9h02min07sec”, (2002) for string orchestra, both of which are on the CD released in 2014. The latter is an elegy for strings to commemorate the victims of the 9/11 attacks. It is a very intense piece (Stefaan was in the US when this happened).

An important parameter of Stefaan Vanheertums’ style and form of music is the joy for the performer and accessibility to the listener, without compromising on originality. As a result, his present compositional technique is best described as post modernistic/romantic, whereby the use of mild serialism and a diatonically “new simplicity” are some of the main ingredients. A good illustration of this principle is the “Stabat Mater”, written for large choir, instrument ensemble, percussion and two soloists and embedded in our Western religious tradition. Several concerts devoted to his works have been regularly organized in the last 20 years. Comments by performers and audience are always enthusiastic. Stefaan is member of SABAM, the Belgian organisation for protection of copyrights, where most of his work is registered, MATRIX and COMAV, the Flemish composers society.

Muziekprofiel Stefaan in muziekcentrum Vlaanderen

July 2019