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Visiting the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, Belgium: Neo-Renaissance building where Adolphe Sax studied music

Updated on March 9, 2012
Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
Royal Conservatory of Music of Brussels; architect: Jean-Pierre Cluysenaer
Royal Conservatory of Music of Brussels; architect: Jean-Pierre Cluysenaer | Source
Adolphe Sax (1814-1894), inventor of the saxophone
Adolphe Sax (1814-1894), inventor of the saxophone | Source
Map location of Brussels, Belgium
Map location of Brussels, Belgium | Source

Sedate seat of learning associated with the inventor of the saxophone

This elegant 19th century building in Downtown Brussels, Belgium, houses the Royal Conservatory of Brussels (French: Conservatoire Royal de Bruxelles; Dutch: Koninklijk Conservatorium Brussel ), the country's foremost school of music (1). Drama is also studied.

Some history and features

The building's architect was Jean-Pierre Cluysenaer (1811-1880), who executed it in Neo-Renaissance style. Architect Cluysenaer was also responsible for the Royal Saint-Hubert Galleries (Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert ; Dutch: Koninklijke Sint-Hubertusgalerijen ), and many other prominent buildings.The architect was assisted by various sculptors, who collaborated with allegorical figures displayed on the three-sided frontage of the main courtyard.

Work on the Conservatory building began in 1872 and was completed in 1876. The building is situated at rue de la Régence , / Regentschapsstraat , 30A, (2) within sight of the imposing Palace of Justice.

Following the independence of the Kingdom of Belgium, the Conservatory was formally founded under royal patronage in 1832 (although the Conservatory had been active since 1813).

Some alumni

One of the Conservatory's famous alumni is Adolphe Sax (1814-1894), the inventor of the saxophone. Adolphe Sax patented the instrument in 1846; in the early days, his invention particularly received the support of composer Hector Berlioz. Adolphe Sax also inherited a musical instrument manufacturing business from his father, Charles-Joseph Sax (1790-1865), and although his business went through repeated periods of bankruptcy in the course of Adolphe Sax's active career, it is for the success of his legacy of having developed the saxophone that he is undoubtedly best known. (Interestingly, on a visit to Belgium, former US President Bill Clinton, a saxophone enthusiast, made a point of visiting Dinant, Belgium, where Adolphe Sax was born.)

Other noted alumni of the Conservatory include: American composer and violinist Edwin Grasse (1884-1954); Belgian composer and violinist Eugène Ysaÿe (1858-1931), and many others.


(1) Now for a clarification regarding a genuinely Belgian, institutional development. Technically there are two Conservatories, one French-speaking and the Dutch-speaking. These, however, are housed in the same building and collaborate with each other. This official division of the Conservatory into two separate parts occurred in 1967. Basically this occurred because Flemish political representatives were unhappy with the idea of taxpayers in Flanders contributing to a national institution in Brussels where the French language might be seen to predominate.

(2) There has been some dispute as to the proper Dutch translation of the name of the street, which forms part of the Conservatory's address. It is claimed that Regentschapstraat wrongly implies a reference to a body of magistrates in Dutch, while some people also deny that the road refers to Regent Surlet de Chokier, who served as temporary, Belgian head of state for four months in 1831. Previously the Dutch equivalent of rue de la Régence was given as Regentiestraat . However, for many years, the form Regentschapstraat has stuck, leaving aside the moot point whether citizens of Brussels are thereby honouring the memory of worthy, brief Regent Surlet de Chokier.

Also worth seeing

The visitor attractions of Brussels are numerous, but a few of these include the Royal Palace and BELvue museum, the Grand' Place, St Michael's Cathedral, the Atomium and the Erasmus House museum, Anderlecht.


How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ), from where car rental is available. However, the Metro is a very convenient way of getting around Brussels. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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