Willem de Fesch

Willem de Fesch
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General
Willem de Fesch (also written as Defesch, du Feche, de Feghg, de Veg) is born on August 26, 1687. His parents, Louis de Fesch and Johanna Maasbracht, come from Luik. Their sons Pieter and Willem are born in Alkmaar. The family returns to Luik before 1690. About 1710, Pieter and Willem travel to Holland to establish themselves as musicians in Amsterdam. Willem de Fesch marries the daughter of his violin teacher, Carl Rosier. In 1750, Willem de Fesch withdraws from public life. He dies in London on January 3, 1761.

Career
Willem performs on several occasions – in 1718, 1719 and 1722, in any case – as a concert violinist in Antwerp. He has probably also worked in Amsterdam as a church musician.

In 1725, De Fesch moves to Antwerp, where he succeeds Alphonse d’Eve as kapellmeister at the Cathedral of Our Lady. He soon is in conflict with the church authorities, apparently because of his behaviour. Some complain of his unpredictable, egotistic and negligent character.

Compositions
Between 1710 and 1725 his first printed works appear: duets for two violins and a number of concertos and sonatas for various small (string) ensembles. The music is in keeping with the stylistic characteristics of the time, but it stands out for its virtuoso cadenzas, apparently those performed by the composer himself.

In the years 1725-1731 Willem de Fesch composes several Masses and instrumental sonatas, which are published in Brussels. These works show greater expressivity and simplicity, as is emerging in the Italian style of the period (Corelli and Vivaldi). De Fesch must ultimately resign from his position in Antwerp.

In 1732, Willem de Fesch moves with his wife to London, where he performs as a violinist, his wife as a singer. London, along with Paris and Milan, is one of the most important music centres of the day. Handel has for some time already had great success there with his operas and (later) oratorios. His first oratorio in English, ‘Esther’, is performed in 1732, and De Fesch’s oratorio ‘Judith’ follows a year later – it is performed again in 1740. The performance of Handel’s oratorio ‘Joseph and his Brethren’ in 1744 is followed in 1745 by De Fesch’s oratorio ‘Joseph‘. When, in 1746, De Fesch becomes the concertmaster of Handel’s orchestra, it becomes clear that there is no rivalry between them. In 1748 and 1749, he conducts the orchestra in Marylebone Gardens. In addition to the aforementioned oratorios, De Fesch composes in London the pastoral serenade ‘Love and Friendship’, the comic opera ‘The London Apprentice’, various sonatas and concertos, and a collection of songs. Some of the English songs are written for theatre productions, such as William Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest‘ in 1746. The texts of his Italian songs are taken mostly from Paolo Rolli’s “Di canzonette e di cantate libri due”.

De Fesch was not only an accomplished composer, as can be understood by the diversity of his music, but a virtuoso violinist as well.