Rafaël D’Haene was born in Gullegem on 29 September 1943 and studied piano (E. de Pueyo), harmony (J. Louël), counterpoint (V. Legley) and fugue (M. Quinet) from 1962 to 1967 at the Royal Conservatory in Brussels. He earned his “Licence de Composition” in 1968 from the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris under H. Dutilleux. He subsequently studied composition for three years in the class of Victor Legley at the Muziekkapel Koningin Elisabeth, where he received his final diploma in composition in 1971. Rafaël D’Haene has taught harmony at the Royal Conservatory in Brussels since 1970, and subsequently also counterpoint, fugue and composition. In addition, he has taught music analysis at the Muziekkapel Koningin Elisabeth since 1985 and composition from 1986 to 2003.
As a composer, Rafaël D’Haene has been the recipient of numerous awards both in Belgium and abroad. Following prizes in the composition competition of the Province of West Flanders (1969) and the Tenuto competition (1972, for his orchestral work Capriccio), he earned the first prize at the international composition competition in Alicante with his cantata Klage der Ariadne (1972). In 1977 he won the Lili Boulanger prize in Paris for his complete oeuvre. In 1980 and 1981 there followed the Eugène Baie Prize (Antwerp) and the Koopal Prize (for orchestral music). Finally, he was awarded the Darche Brothers Prize, given by the Patrimony of the Royal Conservatory of Brussels in 1985 for his complete work, and the SABAM Prize for Serious Music in 1989. In 1999, D’Haene was a member of the jury for composition for the Queen Elisabeth Competition. In 2002 and 2004 he won La Bourse de Perfectionnement Emile Bernheim of the Muziekkapel Koningin Elisabeth.
In his work, Rafaël D’Haene has aimed to slow down the rapid evolution of contemporary art that, in his opinion, has led to a veritable Tower of Babel where there is no longer any mutual understanding. In order to accomplish this, he by no means closes himself to 20th (and 21st) century art, but rather assumes a sense of responsibility: in order to change a world of indifference and aggression, a new ethics and aesthetics is needed. He has not found these in an experimentation that he sees to be merely a solution of convenience. For D’Haene, the right solution lies in a respect for tradition.
Composing thus entails striving for a classical ideal of beauty that coincides with the ideal of the 19th century. On the level of instrumentation, this means that experimentation is avoided and that D’Haene seeks out the authentic colour of each instrument. The resulting music has a recognisable sound, a goal towards which all the other parameters are aimed: a clear and sturdy form, unequivocal tempi, intense transitional dynamics that create drama and expression. Nostalgia for a lost musical language is evident, for instance, in the unbroken 19th-century Romanticism of the Violin Concerto (1989), in which D’Haene means to show that the legacy of Paganini lives on. This leads to a certain degree of predictability: crescendos are often coupled with timpani rolls, or a humorous motif is given to the bassoon.
D’Haene stands for the notion of complete musical consistency. To this end, he shields himself from an overabundance of influences and limits himself to the chosen material. A composition should be built up as a consistent whole, in which everything logically progresses from what has gone before. D’Haene achieves this thematic development by means of his counterpoint, which is the catalyst for his compositional creativity. Through contrapuntal technique, he creates a highly personal musical language. From a minimum of material he extracts the maximum musical result. For the horizontal, melodic dimension of a work, this means that he works with several basic motifs. These can appear in many guises, but at the same time exhibit a strong coherence, since they are all drawn from the same germ. In harmonic terms as well, D’Haene derives everything from one basic event. For example, the harmonic pillars of the first of his 9 Stukken voor piano (9 Pieces for piano) (1968) are built on the same alternation of intervals (a minor and a major third) as that of the seminal melodic motif. Through this and other techniques, D’Haene achieves a thoroughly contrapuntal style, in which not only are the various voices balanced, phrased and interesting in terms of melody, but where there is also a harmonic structure that is at once intrinsically consistent and derived from the same basic material (as that which gives rise to the melodic voices). D’Haene sees the lack of a rational construction as the problem of the majority of avant-garde composers, who set out to be innovative in order to camouflage a lack of musical logic.
In addition to this rational approach, there is also a subjective element to D’Haene’s work. Music is simultaneously a personal means of expression, an all-embracing philosophy and a religion for this composer. Art is the continuing witness to a moment in time, to the personal experience of an event occurring close to him and the expression of the influence that such an event has on him. To this end, for a number of his compositions D’Haene has made use of texts that have accorded with his personal situation and interests at that moment (Nietzsche, Wilde, Van Ostaijen, Rilke). The music thus aims to be a faithful depiction in sound of the symbolism or themes found in these texts (e.g., Sonnette an Orpheus on a text by Rilke and Klage der Ariadne on a text by Nietzsche).
D’Haene sees no evolution in his style and does not strive to push the boundaries.
Rather, he cherishes the intention that his music might become classic so that it can bear its message for all time.
List of works
Orchestra: Capriccio (1972); Preludia (1975-76); Lettres Persanes (1986); Violin concerto (1989); L’Ombre du Passé (Symphony no. 2) (2001); Intrada e Toccata (2005)
Choir: Miroir des vanités (1970)
Lieder: Werk uit Roemenië (1969); Impressions (1977); A Bridal Song for soprano and string trio (text: P.B. Shelley) (2004)
Vocal instrumental: 5 Orchestra lieder (1972); Sonette an Orpheus (1987)
Chamber music: Sonata for trumpet and piano (1970); String quartet (1971); Cassazioni (1986); Dithyramben (1988); Sonata per violino e pianoforte (2003)
Piano music: 9 pieces for piano (1968); Sei Canzone (1980-81)
– M. DELAERE, Contrapunt en creativiteit. De muzikale taal van Rafaël D’Haene, in Ons Erfdeel, 35, 1992, p.423-429
– M. DELAERE, Y. KNOCKAERT, H. SABBE, De modernisten. Generatie °1940-’50, in Nieuwe muziek in Vlaanderen, Brugge, 1998, p. 120-122
– H. GOEDGEZELSCHAP, Rafaël D’Haene. Verhandeling tot het verkrijgen van de graad van Licentiaat in de Oudheidkunde en de Kunstgeschiedenis, Leuven, 1989
– J. MAERTENS, art. Rafaël D’Haene, in Lexicon van de Muziek in West-Vlaanderen, vol. 4, 2003
– SABAM, 1989, p.99-100
– F. VERDONK, Componeren volgens Spinoza, in Muziek & Woord, 16, 1990, p.29-30
– F. VERDONK, Componeren in de twintigste eeuw, in Muziek & Woord, 19, 1993, p.41
– Tema e variazioni per chitarra (Karel Fleischinger), KAREL FLEISCHINGER PLAYS CLASSICAL GUITAR, Studio Principuum
– Reminiscenza, LEXICON VAN DE MUZIEK IN WEST-VLAANDEREN (BRTN Philharmonic Orchestra cond. by Alexander Rahbari), 2003
CeBeDeM (from 1951 to 2015)
Texts by Pieter Vandamme and Rebecca Diependaele
Last update: 2005