SLSO Untold: Former SLSO Music Director Honored with Belgium’s Highest Honor

By Mary Hopkins


In this 1960 newspaper photo, then-SLSO Music Director Eduard van Remoortel receives the Order of King Leopold II from Prince Albert of Belgium while he was in St. Louis.

In 1960, the Music Director of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Eduard Van Remoortel, was awarded the Order of King Leopold II by Prince Albert of Belgium. The award is among the highest to be offered by the nation and is historically bestowed upon both Belgians and foreigners for extensive military or civil service to the crown. In this case, Van Remoortel received the order in honor of his dedication to the field of art.


When the young Belgian Eduard van Remoortel was announced as the next Music Director of the SLSO in 1958, he represented the start of a new era of great popularity and success for the orchestra. Van Remoortel studied cello and conducting at the illustrious Brussels Conservatory, but at the time of his appointment, he had little real-world experience. Still, with his handsome features and his youth, his appointment brought attention to the orchestra and a sense of excitement.



Van Remoortel debuted to favorable reviews. His first concert featured Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 4, Béla Bártok’s Dance Suite, and Paul Dukas’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, as well as violinist Isaac Stern performing Sergei Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2.


Van Remoortel’s tenure was comparatively short-lived—while some SLSO Music Directors stayed with the orchestra for nearly two decades, Van Remoortel only conducted four seasons from 1958-1962. During his time, he led the orchestra in a repertoire that varied from W.A. Mozart and Joseph Haydn, to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, to George Gershwin and Aaron Copland.


Van Remoortel was deemed worthy of the hig


hest order of Belgium by Prince Albert, who would later go on to become King Albert II. During a business trip to St. Louis in 1960, Prince Albert and his wife, Princess (later Queen) Paola held a ceremony at the Sheraton-Jefferson Hotel to bestow the award upon Van Remoortel. Though his tenure ended just two years later, Van Remoortel’s time with the SLSO is marked by this unique connection.

Mary Hopkins is a member of the SLSO Communications Team.