March 5, 1845 - May 19, 1912
born in Liège, Belgium, composed during the Romantic period
Belgian-born Alphonse Hasselmans is generally considered a minor composer, but he was a key figure in the genre of harp playing in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, since he is credited with establishing the French School of harp playing and with helping to revive interest in the harp.
Hasselmans was born in Liège on March 5, 1845, the son of Josef H. Hasselmanns, a prominent conductor, harpist and violinist. Young Alphonse exhibited talent on the harp as a child and began study on the instrument at the Strasbourg Conservatory with his father. He later took instruction on the harp in Stuttgart from Gottlieb Krüger, in Brussels from Xavier Desargas, and at the Paris Conservatory from Ange-Conrad Prumier.
Hasselmans' earliest significant post was harpist for the orchestra at the Théâtre de la Monnaie (Brussels), hardly a venue for him to showcase his rare talent. However, he gave a series of solo appearances in Paris in 1877 that created a sensation. Thereafter, he was able to secure a succession of posts with major ensembles: the Paris Conservatory Orchestra, the Opéra National de Paris, and the Opéra-Comique Paris.
As a solo performer Hasselmans often played his own compositions in concert, many of which were very difficult. Of his fifty-four works all were for solo harp, none for harp and orchestra. His output includes a handful of popular pieces, such as Gitana, Op. 21 and La Source, Op. 44.
In the latter part of his career Hasselmans began to turn toward teaching and the refining of harp techniques. In 1884 he was appointed professor of harp at the Paris Conservatory, a post he held until his death. Over the coming years his students would include some of the greatest harpists of the 20th century: Marcel Grandjany, Marcel Tournier, Pierre Jamet, Henriette Renié and Carlos Salzedo. By all accounts Hasselmans was a strict and difficult teacher, often turning livid at a pupil's inadequacies.
Before his death Hasselmans wrote an important essay, La harpe et sa technique (published in 1913), outlining his principles of harp playing. He died in Paris in 1912. ~ Robert Cummings, Rovi