"The Education of women should always be relative to men. To please, to be useful to us, to make us love and esteem them, to educate us when young and to take care of us when grown up, to advise, to console us, to render our lives easy and agreeable--these are the duties of women at all time and what they should be taught in their infancy." Rousseau
"Among a hundred praise-worthy female composers hardly one can be found who fulfills simultaneously all the duties of a reasonable and good wife, an attentive and efficient housekeeper, and a concerned mother." Johann Campe 
In examining our own culture, and in cross-cultural comparisons of gender identity, we have seen now, up until around ten years ago, male bias has "informed" the literature of most disciplines; other than certain super-anomalous exceptions, women have been isolated in their nuclear families, and relegated to the "hot stove" and domestic sphere because of their reproductive functions. Men have been the masters of culture and a male world-view has prevailed. Women are seen as outside, and a threat to, the system that men represent. Power is in male hands and women have been trained to accept it. In this paper I will attempt to show how the three artists navigated the uneasy waters of social prejudice through the trajectory of their lives.
Although women had been composers since the Middle Ages , the advent of the 19th century brought a marked increase in the number of female musicians, along with journalistic recognition, and a wider audience. The greater participation of women in fields traditionally associated with men was brought about by European social and political currents, and especially by the invention of the piano. The climate of solo and chamber works (especially lieder, or song) fits comfortably into the domestic arena, a setting where women had long been accepted as performers. This contrasted with the public arena of large-scale works where opera, sacred and orchestral music were forbidden to respectable women. Female creative achievements of the 19th century—mainly lieder—include works which compare favorably with men, and some of which are equal to the best composers of the era.
As women were excluded from professional positions, (it is said there is no female Bach because no women had a position like his, as church organist with the duty of regularly composing music for religions services), modern musicological scholarship finds women absent from the conventional mainstream, not because of their non-existence, but due to the nature of musicology, which tends to focus on documents (fewer of which exist for women's music) and artists who were the most progressive and were leaders in style change, as women have not been (until this century).
Social prejudice was a central factor in the paucity of feminine musical genius in the period 1750-1900. In the eighteenth century it was believed that women did not possess the intellectual and emotional capacity to learn and that it was unnecessary and even dangerous for women to acquire knowledge, as it would detract from their true calling of wife and mother. Even Moses Mendelssohn, thought to be an illuminate of his age, cautioned his fiance: "Modest learning becomes a lady, but not scholarship. A girl who has read her eyes red deserves to be laughed at."
As women were not allowed to go about without an escort, so concertizing was thought to endanger the morals and character of a young girl. This effectively cut off the meeting of helpful and influential individuals so necessary to catapult a name into prominence. Fanny Mendelssohn, though born into one of the most intellectually and culturally gifted families of the early 19th century, was not allowed to concertize in public until she was 32. Compositions, remaining unpublished, failed to draw the larger audience. Females belittled their own compositions, and required an inordinate amount of positive reinforcement to continue.
As women's horizons and accomplishments were confined to the home, there was a lack of professional training. When a women did receive training, there was a sharp discrepancy between the high level of training and the negative attitude of society. Women's work was thought to inspire pity in the eyes of experts. To be female implied being amateur, and the air of dilettantism marked any discussion of women's work. Women were required to sublimate their talents to the emotional support of others and to household responsibility. What might have been yielded to an individual women of genius or charm was not yielded to women collectively as a right. However, the growing need of women to support themselves transformed the question of women's right to work and hold professional positions into an issue of great economic importance.
During the 19th century, the problem became a matter of locating enough trained girls to take the feminine parts. The new interest in drama made them indispensable. Therefore, one of the new movements of the 17th and 18th centuries was the institution of girls' schools. (Prior to this time, female music students were restricted to private tutoring in their homes, or to monastic schools, where they would become nuns.) Women had no access to study at cathedral schools or apprenticeship to a master player. Despite this, a few women, mostly singers, made their living in low-status jobs.
Maria Anna Mozart: No history of Mozart fails to mention his able sister, Nannerl, who accompanied the young male genius and their parents on three European tours. [See: Nannerl Notebook] And yet, as the catalog of their travels unfolds, there is always that point when the narrative continues without mention of the talented elder sister.
The girl Nannerl's talent is usually mentioned, however. On her third tour with parents and brother (which lasted until 1766) across western Europe, including London and Paris, the Baron Friedrich Meichoir Grimm judged that she played the piano brilliantly and performed the greatest and most difficult pieces with an astonishing precision. She was said to have shown an early talent scarcely inferior to her brother's.
The tragedy of the following sentence from Grove's will not be lost on people of feeling: "From 1769 on Nannerl was permitted to show her artistic gifts only at home." She was eighteen years old. While her brother triumphed as a composer and virtuoso abroad, she remained with her mother in Salzburg. When she was thirty-three she married a magistrate at St. Gilgan. After three children, and her husband's death, she returned to Salzburg and lived a simple, peaceful life as a piano teacher. People were anxious to study with the sister of the great Mozart. In 1839, the year of her death, she was found to be blind, languid, exhausted, feeble and nearly speechless—afflicted with poverty and loneliness. She had tried her hand at composition, with results her brother approved, but none of her compositions survived.
The question remains, what might Nannerl have done if it were true that she was, indeed, as able as her famous brother—perhaps the supreme musical genius of all time? Though they were close until their respective marriages, and her diaries and letters are central documents for the study of the Mozart family, one cannot help marvel at the unspeakable loss to the world.
Fanny Mendelssohn [see: representative works], a further development of the trajectory, showed early on a musical talent comparable to her brother's and was, like him, provided with instruction in piano and music theory from Berger and Zelter—at which she is reported to have equaled her brother. The Oxford Dictionary insults her twice, once by saying she was "almost as good a pianist as her brother," and again by calling her an "amateur pianist and composer."
Fanny Mendelssohn persevered in composing despite her father's stern admonition against her becoming a professional musician and his insistence that she focus on domestic concerns and not the world at large. Felix's good opinion of her as a composer, central to her self-esteem, and his pride at being the brother of such a talent, stopped short of total support:
"I consider publishing something serious...and believe that one should do it only if one wants to appear as an author one's entire life and stick to it. Fanny...possesses neither the inclination nor calling for authorship. She is too much a woman for that, as is proper, and looks after her house and thinks neither about the public nor the musical world unless that primary occupation is accomplished. Publishing would only disturb her in these duties, and I cannot reconcile myself to it. If she decides on her own to publish, or to please Hensel, I am, as I said, ready to be helpful as much as possible, but to encourage her toward something I don't consider right is what I cannot do." 
Fanny was afforded a deep and penetrating introduction to the world via her
comprehensive education and was then denied the opportunity to follow through on her training and participate fully in that world. Abraham Mendelssohn told her: "For you it (music) can and must only be an ornament. You must...prepare more earnestly and eagerly for your real calling, the only calling of a young woman—I mean the state of a housewife." Though Felix's approval and support would have resulted in the publication of a much greater number of the 200 lieder she composed, her father and brother repeatedly discouraged her from considering composition as a career or publishing her works. Achievements of feminine lieder composers from 1775-1850 are magnificent and admirable, though mostly inaccessible to the public, awaiting serious scholarly investigation, publication, and performance.
When she married Hensel, a painter, at 24, Felix had already launched a brilliant career as composer and conductor. She followed her brother's triumphs closely, while devoting her own life to music "at home." Her isolation, centered as it was in the one outlet of Sunday musicals on the family estate in Berlin, allowed her to compose and conduct works of her own. Wilhelm Hensel encouraged her, though a very negative picture is painted of Felix's reaction to his sister's wish to publish and have her works known, and the notable effect of her limited public exposure on her productivity and self-esteem. She wrote:
"If nobody offers an opinion, or takes the slightest interest in one's productions, one loses in time not only all pleasure in them, but all power of judging their value."
Three of Fanny's early songs were published in Felix's Op. 8 and 9; a duet composed by her is said to be the best in the collection. ("An des lust-gen Brunnes Rand.") While similar to her brother's, these early efforts show certain individual traits and figurations. In addition, she composed one overture and five vocal works which include orchestra. The majority of her works, including large-scale cantatas and oratories, remain unpublished. The best composers and players of this era made constant efforts to avoid the extremes of sentimental salon music and pointless technique—two who happened to succeed were Fanny Mendelssohn and Clara Schumann.
Clara Wieck Schumann [see: representative works] was accepted as one of the greatest talents of her century. What might have happened to her at an early time, I hope to have illustrated in the proceeding two synopses; what Clara Schumann has in common with them is the connection with some great artist or pedagogue. The Mozart children had Leopold, Fanny had the whole of the brilliant circle to which she was born, and Clara had her father, a man whose pedagogical instincts were said to be formidable.
Though more usually known as muse to her husband Robert (a Romantic figure party to a passionate friendship, a devoted wife and mother, a "consecrated loyal priestess"), Clara Schumann made a decisive mark on the musical life of the time, attaining a remarkable success in view of European society's general disapprobation of women in professional roles. As one of the genuinely great musicians and teachers of the century, she brought about many innovations in the musical as well as the personal sphere.
To say that she ventured beyond the home is an astounding understatement; when her husband died, a sociological shift enabled fuller participation and she took up again the life of a concertizing artist she began at age nine, in order to support their seven children. She was among the first to play recitals without the music in front of her and give recitals without supporting musicians. (In other words, as in modern practice.) Her programming and standards changed the character of the solo piano recital. She was a peer and had the respect of Paganini, Liszt, Thalberg, and Rubinstein—and was a tireless promoter of her husband's work as well as that of the young Brahms, who adored her. She popularized, through her exquisite playing, Beethoven's music, then considered baffling and obtruse. Her concerts were sold out, and she was everywhere greeted with wild applause, warm review, gifts and honors. Still she struggled to maintain her sense of priority as a composer:
"I have already made a few attempts on the Ruchert poems that Robert noted down for me; however, it is not working—I have no talent whatsoever for
Despite her international success, she is often, in her husband's biographies, a subordinate figure—or a reproach. She has yet to be accorded the dignity of a full-fledged scholarly study. Many of the details of her life have been glossed over, omitted—and the correspondence abridged. And yet no other performer of her century, male or female, maintained a career over such a span of time, playing more than 1,300 publicized concerts in England and Europe. Though beginning their careers with flashy debuts and brilliant appearances, the bulk of her female contemporaries gave up careers when they married or found the pressure too straining. Clara took the whole job of concert-managing on herself; she rented pianos, had them moved and tuned, made all the arrangements for the halls, lights, heat, had tickets printed, advertisements placed in papers and on posters, and tended to her own costume.
Her father considered her an extension of himself, and brought to bear on her his extraordinary gift for pedagogy. In 1816 he married Marianne, whose grandfather was a well-known and accomplished flutist. No credit has been given to the contribution Clara's mother may have had on her daughter, though she was an uncommonly talented singer and pianist. When the Wicks divorced, Clara's mother was only allowed to see her children at Wicks' pleasure, since according to Saxon law they were the father's property.
Though her father successfully trained her as a child wonder (his program of moderate work, physical exercise, performance attendance and contact with distinguished musicians was also used on Clara's sister), he treated her with extreme harshness when she decided to marry. She and Robert Schumann had to take the matter to court; when they won and were allowed to marry, her father took all her savings from her earnings and gave her nothing with which to start married life. Though her husband loved and admired her, they both took it for granted that she would arrange her daily routine around him. In her diary: "My playing is getting all behindhand, as is always the case when Robert is composing. I cannot find one little hour in the day for myself."
However, Clara Schumann did recognize her own importance as a pianist. Because of the seven children and a husband who ended his days in an asylum, she resumed her concert career at 35. (Robert: "We found the solution. You took a companion with you, and I came back to the child and to my work.") She considered herself an artist first and a parent second. While on tour, the children were deposited with family friends, grandparents, or in boarding school. She wrote them constantly and the eldest children were put in charge of managing family reunions (often for an entire summer), and arranging concert tours and teaching engagements, as soon as they were old enough. Robert, survived by her by forty years, was amazingly enlightened for the time. During their fourteen-year marriage, and eight children (one died in infancy, and there was one miscarriage), very little is ever mentioned of resentment by either party.
Along with distinguished pupils and her fame for the integrity and breath of her playing, Clara Schumann's compositions include: a piano concerto (A minor), a piano trio, many piano pieces, several songs, and cadenzas for concertos by Mozart and Beethoven. Hensel and Schumann both composed large-scale orchestral works, and began to break away from the narrow circumscription regarding acceptable musical expression; both collections of their lieder merit recognition and inclusion in standard repertoire.
I hope these brief biographical notes have indicated the types of anomalous positions in which societal prejudice placed these three women of genius. There is something hopeful in their efforts; each person of this trilogy succeeded more than the last. Surely women of the future are continuing this trend, benefiting from a fairer distribution of educational and musical opportunities, as women become less anomalies and more acceptable as artists in society.
Women Making Music. The Western Artistic Tradition, 1150-1950. Jane Burrows and Judith Tice. University of Illinois Press. Chicago 1986.
Ibid. p. 226.
Hildegard of Bingen in the 12th century, Barbara Strozza in the 17th century, and Elizabeth Jacquet de la Guerre at the turn of the 18th century, to name a few.
During the reign of Louis XIV, the composer Lully began one of the first schools, which developed into L'Academie Francaise. Girls' tuition fees made such institutions profitable, and they soon existed in almost every major city. Ibid p. 236.
From the travel diaries of Vincent and Mary Novells, 1829. Grove Diction, p. 680.
Women in Music, p. 230.
Ibid, p. 245.
Ibid, p. 2430.
Ibid, p. 232.
Music and Women, Sophie Drucker. Zenger Publishing Company.
Washington, D.C. 1977.
One hesitates to use the phrase “female composer," which smacks of sexism and all the old prejudices that women have struggled to overcome. And yet, from the perspective of a violin teacher and someone who collects and evaluates these materials, it does seem to be that a number of very good composers—who happen to be female—have created a number of sets of important contemporary works in violin pedagogy.
Janice Tucker Rhoda,
come to mind. And now recently, another composer has come to my attention with a set of three books which are must-haves for violin teachers:
The composer/violin teacher Heather Figi has given me permission to cite snippets from the three books she has available online for download. This is truly beautiful, interesting and helpful material which I am looking forward to sharing with my students in the coming years.
This material is very rich, and there is so much of it, so I have limited the examples to five, two duets and a trio from the Twinkle book, and one each from each of the I Came Here to Play volumes. Each book has a "Compose Your Own" section at the end, where the melody is given with blank staffs for students to write their own music. And in Vol. 2, the sections of Twinkle in the styles of Copland, Mozart and Vivaldi are quite remarkable.
When I first read Shin'ici Suzuki's seminal work, Nurtured by Love, I was moved emotionally by his character and intent. Later on in my teaching career, however, when I dared to question any of the methods on some online forums, I came under personal attack and a lot of criticism. This didn't change my views towards Suzuki, but only to substantiate the maxim that frequently when believers in some set of ideas are challenged, the most vociferous defenders are the ones who feel, however subconsciously, that their beliefs have no basis. There is no arguing with the irrational.
These ad hominem attacks did not occur, however, on the official SSA forum, where I have found nothing but tolerance, kindness and courtesy. Perhaps it is correct to say that much broader viewpoints are allowed and encouraged (or at least not denigrated) on the SSA official forum, than one may find in YahooGroups forums, where many years ago, I encountered a lot of angry people who angrily defended their hero in a cult-like manner.
I would like to say, however, that at first glance, it seems a little hypocritical, to me, that Mark O'Connor is criticizing Suzuki so vociferously, given that he played in the film extolling the method, "Music of the Heart". But that was before he developed his method, I suppose.
Given that, in general, adherence to the truth—no matter where it leads, or how much it contradicts one's most cherished beliefs—is a rare quality, and scholarship based on the desire to find the truth, is rarer still, I find it impossible to draw a final conclusion about this matter. I don't have access to the original documents. It is irrational to draw conclusions without evidence. And even then, to be free of prejudice, it is necessary to hold one's views tentatively, based on the freshest evidence one has. Basing conclusions on emotional reasons is not likely to lead to the truth, however much we would like it to.
What I would like to see—though I hold out no real hopes for this—is the dispassionate search for the truth. Regardless, as I mentioned above, where it may lead. It should be self-evident that the most effective method of finding the truth is not to start with a premise, and then find support for your premise, choosing only that evidence which supports it and disregarding any evidence which does not. This, unfortunately, is the methodology of half the arguments offered in most controversial areas.
But the honest way to find truth which will stand up under scrutiny, is to first gather all the available evidence with a purely disinterested mindset, and then evaluate the evidence on its own merit. This may well lead to conclusions which are not ones you'd wish to accept. The truth, however, is valuable, useful and respectable. Believing something merely because (1) you are told by authorities that it's true; (2) believing it's true makes you feel good; or (3) pretending to believe it's true supports some financial or other agenda you hold—these reasons are not intellectually respectable, and do not lead to truth finding, but only to dissension, confusion, and bad feelings.
Note: I found a xerox copy of the following document, folded up in the back of John Holt's much loved:
Never Too Late: My Musical Life Story, a book frequently enjoyed by adult music students.
In 1982 Holt discovered a tumorous growth on the inside of his left thigh. He had accumulated a file of material on alternative cancer treatments over the years, as part of his general interest in self-reliance as opposed to institutional dependence. Already very skeptical of the conventional medical establishment, he was reluctant to go to a doctor or surgeon, and decided to treat the tumor with large doses of vitamin C. He continued to take vitamin C and to monitor the growth of the tumor for the next couple of years. By the spring of 1984, however, managing the tumor had become a daily burden, and he was ready to look for a surgeon he could trust. Friends recommended Dr. Bernie Siegel of Exceptional Cancer Patients (ECaP) in New Haven, Connecticut. Siegel, a supporter of unconventional therapies, has since become widely known for his book
Love, Medicine, and Miracles. In September of 1984 Holt went to New Haven to have the tumor removed.
One of the thoughts that kept coming to my mind as I struggled with this cancer was, "Why me?" Traveling on planes in July and August, now and then I would look around and see people smoking, drinking their two cocktails before lunch, and generally eating and living unhealthily, and I would think, not so much in resentment as in simple curiosity, "How come I got this thing and they did not?" Like many, I had believed for some time that cancer is caused by, or at least made much more likely and destructive by tension, stress, unresolved conflicts. But at first this didn't seem to have much to do with me ... It wasn't so much a matter of having a sudden revelation as of very slowly having faint hunches, which became dearer and more certain the more I thought about them and talked about them with others. By a week or two after surgery I felt that I knew what had been the unresolved conflicts in my life, and how I would change my life to resolve them.
The first and most serious conflict that I found was between my work (with children, parents, and the home schooling movement) and my growing love for music and need to make music. For years I had been saying, "Someday, when I get less busy, I want to really work hard on the cello and see how far I can go toward becoming a good player ..." But I never did get less busy, and this "someday" kept disappearing into the future. I decided that this had gone on long enough, and that I had to start turning someday into today ...
The second thing I found out about myself is that I am tired of talking to school people, educators, meetings of teachers, educational conferences, and all that, tired of talking to people who are not really looking for new ideas or ways to improve their work, and who do not take seriously what I say and never did... For some time, to people who have asked me, "Why have you given up on schools?" I have said that I haven't given up on them, that I was as interested as I ever was in making them better, if only I could see a way to do it. I learned from my cancer that even if this was true for a while it is not true any more. I have indeed given up on schools. According to Dr. John Goodlad, Dean of the School of Education at UCLA and author of A Place Called School, schools have not changed in any important respect in close to a hundred years. They certainly haven't changed in the forty years of my adult life ... As I said in Instead of Education, they are bad because they start with an essentially bad idea, not just mistaken and impossible, but bad in the sense of morally wrong, that some people have or ought to have the right to determine what a lot of other people know and think. As long as they start from this bad idea they cannot become better, and I don't want to take part any longer in any public pretense that they can...
The third thing I found out about myself was something that I had perhaps known for some time but had tried to ignore, namely, that I need space in my life, and really dislike the feeling with which I have been living for many years now, that even with twice as many hours in the day I could never manage to do all that I have to do, but would just keep falling further and further behind ... I learned that... I had to define my work in such a way that, without spending every evening and weekend in the office as I had been doing, I could actually get it done ...
With these resolutions Holt did indeed begin to make actual changes in his life. He raised his lecture fee so sharply that he received fewer invitations, which is just what he had hoped would happen, and he began to spend more time on music. But by the spring of 1985 the cancer had returned, and this time he was unable to defeat it. He died at home on September 14, almost exactly a year after the original surgery.
Though he had sought effective alternative treatments after discovering the tumor, a letter written in June of 1984 to Dr. George Wootan, another supporter of unconventional therapies, reveals that Holt had always suspected that he might not be able to cure himself. In the letter he had written:
[I]t is possible that none of these treatments may work—none of these people claim 100% success rates, though their rates are high. In that case, I will die of cancer sometime in the next year or two. I looked that fact squarely in the eye earlier today, and I found out a terrific secret about myself, the knowledge of which is one of the most exhilarating experiences I have ever known. I am not afraid of death. Lying in a hospital full of tubes and in worse and worse pain, yes. Death, no. I had hoped this might be so, and have tried to train myself to live in the knowledge of my own death. But it was mostly an unreal exercise; my real idea about myself was that I would live to be 90, or 100, being a healthy person from a long-lived family. But now I confront squarely the fact that I may die, not at 90, but at 62 or 61 (which is what I am now). And the thought that comes to me is, well, if that's the way it is, that's the way it is, all those big projects (learning the piano, etc.) are just going to have to be left undone. Too bad. What I have to do is get things in order here so that this operation [the office] can run without me, and I think within the next year we may be able to do that.
Was Holt ready to die, or would he have loved to be able to live several more years? George Dennison, who died of cancer himself two years after Holt did, wrote in a piece that was read at Holt's memorial service:
In the last weeks of his life John spent eight days with us at our home in Maine. Something happened one day that gave me a glimpse of the very heart of his life. He was so weak he could walk only a few steps at a time and with canes. It was beautiful weather. I took him driving to see the views from certain hills—long views of wooded slopes, fields, streams, our large river, and several ponds. Again and again he said, "How beautiful it is!" He was sitting beside me in the front seat. We drove on and he began to talk about his work. "It could be such a wonderful world," he said, "such a wonderful place." His body began to shake and he dropped his head, crying uncontrollably—but he kept talking through the sobs, his voice strained and thin. "It's not as if we don't know what to do," he said. "We know exactly what do to, and it would work, it would work. They're going to wreck it."
We do all have feelings of this kind, but not many people, at the end of life, would feel this heartbroken passion for the world itself. It seemed to me that the deepest and most sustaining things in John's character had been revealed in that moment. And like so much in his work they were rare and fine.
Excellent books to use in conjunction with the Suzuki materials. My first private teacher, Joseph Pizinger, had me use these books and I always loved them. I was then surprised not to find any mention of the composer in Groves, Wikipedia, Google, or any other place. I posted a request and inquiry about him on the string forums, and luckily, a distant relative of his saw the post
and contacted me. (See photos and text, below). Apparently there is no material about him, to speak of. Which is a shame, given how useful and beautiful his books are. I find them to be extremely useful teaching material.
The open string approach at the beginning of the first book is very effective in teaching good sound production, proper bow alignment and rhythmic accuracy in reading.
I ordered the Supplement to Part II, and the Part IV, from the publisher, as these two books were not available for sale online
anywhere that I could locate. The print-outs may be purchased directly from the publisher,
$29.00 plus Shipping. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Schirmers sent them in book form;
in other words, I thought they might send me an array of
printed sheets that I would need to three-hole punch and put in a notebook, but instead, they sent printed copies in book form
which are like the actual other books, just clearly printed out but beautifully
put together. Part 3 also available for download: Part 3.
It's nice to have the complete set to examine.
We received the following email Jan. 17, 2014:
Let me introduce myself: I am Matthias (Mathy) Becker. (Hasselt - Belgium) The sister of my paternal grandmother, Marguerite De Guchtenaere was married to Marcel Laoureux, son of Nicolas Laoureux. They were both piano professors at Le Conservatoire de Gand (in French) or Het Conservatorium van Gent (in Dutch). Marguerite was Marcel's second wife.
A few weeks ago, I received an email from a grandson of Marcel Laoureux's first marriage, Robert Vrydagh. He knew very little about his second wife, so I sent him some information about Marguerite De Guchtenaere. In return, he gave me some information about Marcel and his father Nicolas Laoureux. I read your post, so here is what I know about Nicolas Laoureux (it's not very much).
Nicolas was born in Dolhain-Limbourg near Verviers in Belgium. Robert Vrydagh, writes: Nicolas, qui était violoniste, était professeur de violon au Conservatoire de Musique de Bruxelles, premier violon à La Monnaie et auteur d’une méthode de violon.
The following two photographs were sent to Mr. Becker by Robert Vrydagh; the third one is Mr. Becker's:
Nicolas et son fils Marcel, lors de l’attribution du prix de virtuosité en 1905
De gauche à droite, Marguerite De Guchtenaere, Marcel Laoureux, Stana Laoureux, fille de Marcel, Jeanne Laoureux, sœur de Nicolas, Nicolas et Marguerite (Boune), femme de Nicolas
From left to right: Nicolas Laoureux, Marguerite Tasnier (sitting, Nicolas' wife), Jeanne Laoureux, sister of Nicolas, Louise Van den Heede, an aunt of Marguerite De Guchtenaere, Marguerite De Guchtenaere (sitting) and Marcel Laoureux
Nicolas Laoureux died in 1945; Belgium was liberated in September 1944. Only in the Ardennes during The Battle of the Bulge, a small piece of Belgium was reoccupied by the Germans. There was no famine in Belgium; most Belgians were able to survive. I think you refer to the north of The Netherlands that remained occupied by the Germans until the end of the war. They suffered from a great famine in the winter of 1944 (hongerwinter) and many Dutch citizens died.
So, I don't think Nicolas Laoureux died because of the war.
Nicolas Laoureux was a French [or possibly Belgian?] violinist and composer who lived from 1863-1945 (link). He is best known as the author of a method of violin instruction, A Practical Method for Violin, that seems to have been first published (or at least copyrighted) by G. Schirmer in 1907; the preface notes that it was recommended for use for violin instruction at the Royal Conservatory at Brussels
(link) Parts 1 and 2 of this method are available online at the aforementioned IMSLP link; however, the method seems to be comprised of four parts and two supplements overall
Laoureux is also mentioned on different websites as the author of various other works for violin or violin and piano, including the following:
Rêverie for violin and piano; Principes fondamentaux de la technique de l'archet et de la main gauche; Des cinq positions et de leur emploi. Etude pratique du démanché; 28 Etudes complémentaires aux 5 positions, précedées d'exercices préparatoires (link), Petite Berceuse, Chanson Vénitienne and Danse Bretonne and A travers champs, Légende suédoise, and Saltarella
The Rêverie as well as a Serenade are mentioned in an article called "Violin Solos with Piano Accompaniment" by Otto Merz in the Music Supervisors' Journal [1928, 15: 96]
(link) with the following commentary:
Rêverie, by Nicolas Laoureux. A melodious Andante number that is not difficult, yet affords
many opportunities for artistic interpretation. A good number for concert or recital.
Serenade, by Nicolas Laoureux. A bright, cheerful Allegretto Moderato, that can be played
with satisfaction by the performer, and will be enjoyed by any audience
Relatively little is known about the life of Nicolas Laoureux; major sources such as Grove Music Online or Oxford Music Online do not include him at all. There are a few books in French that have been digitized on Google Books that mention him in passing: apparently he was a first-prize winner in the class of Jenó Hubay at the Brussels Conservatory (1886) and shortly afterwards played in the newly-founded Thomson Quartet from 1898 to 1900. There are also mentions of chamber music performances he gave in Brussels in 1902 and 1909. He may have had a sibling or other family member who was a pianist, as there is mention of a concert he played with a Marcel Laoureux. These facts are documented in the following excerpts (originally in French at the URLs cited; translations are by Lynn Wallisch).
From Euègne Ysaýe et la musique de chambre by Michel Stockhem [Liège: Editions Mardaga, 1990]:
(p. 127) Lèon Van Hout was immediately drawn into an adventure, albeit rather short: the Thomson Quartet. César Thomson, always the slightly unfortunate rival of Ysaýe…had given notice from the Liége Conservatory in August 1897. Relocating to Brussels, he immediately founded a quartet with Nicolas Laoureux (first prize in the class of Jenó Hubay in 1886), Van Hout and Edouard Jacobs, cello professor at the Conservatory.
From Correspondance by Guillaume Lekeu [Liège: Editions Mardaga, 1993]:
(p. 40) César Thomson…formed from 1898 to 1900 a string quartet with Nicolas Laoureux (2nd violin), Léon Van Hout (viola) and Edouard Jacobs (cello).
From Le Guide musical, Vol. 48 [Brussels: Th. Lombaerts, 1902]:
(p. 831) Mademoiselle Palmyre Buyst, pianist, Monsieur Nicolas Laoureux, violinist, and Monsieur Maurice Delfosse, cellist, will present two performances of chamber music, with the participation of singers Mesdemoiselles C. Fichefet and Fanny Collet, in Ravenstein Hall, Tuesday, November 25 and Thursday, December 11 [listed under the heading of events in Brussels].
From L'Art moderne, Volume 17, 1897 [a Sunday paper reviewing art and literature published in Brussels]:
(p. 419) We have learned that Monsieur César Thomson has just formed, with Messieurs Laoureux, Van Hout and E. Jacobs, a quartet that will present several concerts this winter in Brussels. Considering the individual qualities of each of these artists, we can predict that, under the careful and efficient direction of the master violinist, this quartet will produce remarkable results. We will publish the dates, programs and subscription information for these concerts at a later time.
From Le Guide musical: revue international de la musique et des théâtres, 1909:
(p. 145) Nicolas and Marcel Laoureux will perform two concerts of sonatas for piano and violin on Thursday, February 11 and 18, in the hall of the German School. On the program: Bach, Beethoven and Grieg—Mozart, Brahms and Franck.
From these few references, as well as the fact of his relatively important violin method—still in use today—and intriguing-sounding pieces for violin and piano, it seems a shame that more is not known about Monsieur Laoureux. The most recent of the references cited above mention a performance in 1909, when he would have been 46; however, he lived until the age of 82, so presumably there is more to his musical life beyond that currently documented on the web. Perhaps a trip to Belgian or French musical archives is in order!
He may actually have been born in the French-speaking Belgian city of Verviers, near Liège, since there is a book called A Virtuoso from Verviers: Nicolas Laoureux (see citation below).
Bisschop, Herr. Un virtuose verviétois: Nicolas Laoureux. B. du Cercle verviétois, 1907, No. 71. [Listing in a book called Bibliographie de Belgique, Volume 33, Parts 2-3]
Note that Verviers was also the birthplace of composers Henri Vieuxtemps and Guillaume Lekeu, whose dates overlap partially with Laoureux's. Euègne Ysaýe, also a contemporary, was born nearby in Liège. I'll bet they all ran in the same musical circles.
There is also apparently a Laoureux street in Verviers, but unclear whether it was named after our guy, since there was also an industrialist and senator from Verviers named Laoureux - old enough to be Nic's grandfather. Who knows whether they were related?