Pieter Leemans (Schaarbeek 1897 – Ixelles 1980) is a Flemish pianist, conductor and composer. The love for music was instilled in him by his mother, and he received his first music education at the music academies of St.-Joost-ten-Node and Etterbeek.
After his military service, where he played alto in the fanfare orchestra of the 4th Carabiniers, he studied piano, solfège, harmony and counterpoint at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Brussels with, among others, Richard Kips, Martin Lunssens. For orchestration and composition he went privately to Paul Gilson. French version His career began as a pianist in silent films and as a music teacher. In 1932 he was recruited to the NIR, the National Institute for Radio Broadcasting, the Belgian broadcasting organization (after the British BBC model), which broadcast from the Flageyg building in Brussels. It is the predecessor of the BRT and the VRT. Leemans was recruited there as a ‘musician-pianist/soloist’ and conductor-programmer of the ‘small orchestra’. This 12-piece orchestra was expanded to 19 players as a ‘genre orchestra’ in 1934. During this period he composed a lot for this ensemble, short ‘genre works’ in which his professional knowledge and sense for colorful orchestration are apparent. He also arranged the Gondoles Venitiennes for this line-up. In 1944 he was promoted to conductor of the Broadcasting Orchestra of the NIR (now the Brussels Philharmonic), a position he held until 1962.
Leemans wrote songs, children’s and school songs, chamber music, choral and orchestral works, film music and music for audio plays. However, he became most famous for his marches, where he also won many composition competitions. He elevated the march to an artistic level. His marches are simple and clear, cheerful, and easy to remember. He broke away from the traditional military marches, and seasoned his marches with elements of the ‘light music’ of his time. The light-heartedness and humor gave them their unmistakable optimistic style. His March of the Belgian Paratroopers (1945), his funeral march For a Hero (1945) and his March of the Belgian Commandos have become world famous and are still published and performed. As part of Expo 58, his paratrooper march was recorded by Benny Goodman, contributing to the enormous popularity of this march in the USA.
The style of his other works can be classified as Flemish impressionism. Gondoles Venitiennes is a good example of this. The tone organization is based on late romanticism and impressionism. He uses rich color harmonies, sometimes tonally organized, sometimes with an impressionistic freedom. Like his French colleagues, he also turns to the old modes. The clarity of his marches is reflected in the clear organization of his catchy melodies.
He dedicated these Venetian gondoles to his wife. Perhaps beautiful memories of a warm holiday afternoon in a gondola, gently swaying on the waves of a Venetian canal…