July 4, 1903 - July 4, 1986
born in Tielen, composed during the Modern period
Flor Peeters was one of the most renowned organists and composers for organ of the twentieth century. He was also a great teacher and a respected researcher of older Flemish music. Peeters attended the Lemmens Institute in Mechelen where he studied organ with Depuydt. He won the highest award, the Lemmens-Tinel Prize and at the age of twenty and was appointed a professor at Lemmens. In addition, in 1923, he became assistant organist at the Cathedral of St. Rombout in Mechelen.
When Depuydt died in 1925, Peeters was appointed to succeed him as professor of organ. He also served as a professor of organ at Ghent Conservatory from 1931 to 1938 and professor of organ at the Tilburg Conservatory in the Netherlands from 1935 to 1948.
He began to write what would become a large catalog of organ music and sacred choral works. He was particularly masterful in his use of the variation forms. He became a close friend of Charles Tournemire (1870-1939), one of the great line of French organist-composers, from which he is said to have derived some of the style and technique of his improvisations. In his will, Tournemire bequeathed to Peeters the organ console that the great Belgian composer César Franck had used as organist of St. Clotilde.
Peeters had begun studying older music while he was still a student at Lemmens, where he took courses in Gregorian chant from van Nuffel. The influence of this ancient form of Roman Catholic Church chant is often found in his slower music and sometimes forms the basis of longer compositions, such as the Toccata, Fugue, and Hymn on "Ave Maris Stella," Op. 28, which was dedicated to Tournemire. In 1943, he completed his Practical Method for Accompanying Gregorian Chant.
Germany attacked and occupied both Belgium and the Netherlands in 1940. Peeters refused to perform for the German occupiers. As a result, his passport was confiscated. Nevertheless, he was permitted to travel regularly across the border between Belgium and the Netherlands in order to continue his teaching at Tilburg, and, in the course of doing this, he carried secret messages between the authorities of the cathedrals of these two countries.
In addition to Gregorian chants, Peeters studied Renaissance music, particularly of the school of Flemish polyphony. This style was also absorbed into his music. Despite his friendship with Tournemire, and his role in carrying on the Franco-Belgian organ school that Tournemire represented, the styles of the two composers is not particularly close (aside from the incorporation of some of the keyboard technique of the older master in improvisatory passages). Instead, his style is closer to that of his younger French contemporary, Marcel Dupré (1886-1971). Peeters showed an interest in twentieth century tonal composition techniques such as polyrhythms and polytonality. One of his wartime works, the Sinfonia, Op. 48, seems clearly to express the suffering of the Belgians during the occupation in its stark, highly dissonant language. Other Peeters' compositions, by contrast, are often attractive and rhythmically bright, although almost always highly contrapuntal. Later in his life, his style became more neo-Classical and contemplative.
Peeters gave up his position in Tilburg in 1948, when he accepted the post of organ professor of Antwerp Conservatory. He became director of the Conservatory in 1952, at which time he resigned from his position at Lemmens. He was in much demand as a teacher and gave master classes in addition to concerts throughout the world, including several teaching visits to Boys' Town, Nebraska.
In 1971, King Boudoin elevated him to the Belgian peerage as Baron Peeters, only the third Belgian musician so honored. ~ Joseph Stevenson, Rovi