Laurent Halleux Collection (1897-1964)

The Laurent Halleux collection consists of a bequest of printed and manuscript scores which belonged to Belgian violinist Laurent Halleux (1897-1964), and were donated to the library of the Conservatoire royal de Bruxelles by his daughter, Suzanne Keller-Halleux.

After being awarded the Vieuxtemps Prize in 1912, Laurent Halleux (1897-1964), whose musical education started in his birth town, Verviers, continued his studies at the Conservatoire royal de Bruxelles in the class of César Thomson, earning the First Prize (Premier Prix) for violin in 1914. In 1912, although he was only fifteen years old at the time, he started playing second violin in the Quatuor Pro Arte, along with Alphonse Onnou, Germain Prévost and Fernand Quinet. In 1932, thanks to its international popularity, the quartet was given the title "Quartet of the Court of Belgium". The quartet was famed for its interpretation of modern and avant-garde music by composers such as Stravinsky, Milhaud, Honegger or Martinu, alongside its passion for the traditional classical repertoire.

At the start of the Second World War, three of the four members of the quartet emigrated to the United states, and while Onnou died shortly afterwards (1940), Halleux left the group in 1943 to join, first, the Roth Quartet, and then the New London String Quartet and the Hungarian String Quartet. He became an American citizen in 1945 and settled in L.A. where he worked with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as recording film music for MGM studios and RGO Pictures.

After living in the United States for around twenty years, working both as a chamber musician and teacher, Halleux returned to Belgium in 1962 where he died two years later.

The Halleux collection, for the most part contains a quite particular collection of scores consisting of second violin parts only, as these were used for his work with the Quatuor Pro Arte, the New London String Quartet or in the film studios. Although it is not particularly extensive in size (étendu), numbering some 275 scores, the collection is particularly notable for the exceptional quality of certain works, and more particularly for the 54 autograph scores featuring annotations by Laurent Halleux – either his signature or his performance markings for expression, bowing or fingering.

The projects which the Quatuor Pro Arte took on in the United States make it clear why the collection also contains a good number of scores – autograph manuscripts, copies of manuscripts or facsimiles – by around twenty American-born or naturalised American composers, including fourteen which were performed by this famous quartet. While only a handful of these composers, such as Aaron Copland or Roy Harris, are known in Europe, others have remained in obscurity. This is the case for musicians such as Robert Franklyn, a composer, arranger and orchestrator of film music between 1940 and 1966.

Another composer in this category is the composer, Bohuslav Martinu, Czech-born, and a naturalised US citizen, with whom the Quatuor Pro Arte had a close relationship, performing the world premieres of two of his works, and having numerous other of his works in their repertoire.

It has been established that several manuscripts from the Halleux collection, either autographs or copies, were used for the world or European premieres of certain works such as the Quartet n°2 by Jerzy Fitelberg, the Quatuor n°1 on Indian Themes by Frederik Jacobi or 4 Indiscretions by Louis Gruenberg. However, the score of the Quatuor n°2 by Roy Harris, which was also used for the world premiere of the piece, is unique and remarkable for another reason: there exist, in fact, two autograph versions of the same work, in particular of the third movement.

The Halleux collection also contains autograph manuscripts by non-US composers such as the Belgian composers Jean Absil and Marcel Poot, French composers Darius Milhaud and Albert Roussel, or the Austrian composer Artur Schnabel and British composer Frank Bridge.

However, the most exceptional autograph copy in the collection is the Concertino pour quatuor à cordes, op. 20 by Stravinsky, which was first performed in Belgium by the Quatuor Pro Arte in 1922. Russian-born Stravinsky (who became naturalised as French in 1934 and then as American in 1945) was close to Paul Collaer, the Belgian who founded the Pro Arte Concerts in the same year, and so the composer was able to benefit from the unconditional support of the quartet in making his work better known internationally.

The Laurent Halleux collection is particularly relevant for the study of early twentieth century music of the United States, in particuar the film music which was developed there.