The Belgian violinist, conductor and arranger, Henri Verbrugghen made his first appearance as a violinist when only 8 years old, and was a successful student at the Brussels Conservatorium under Jenő Hubay and Ysaÿe, winning many prizes.
Henri Verbrugghen visited England with Ysaye in 1888, and in 1893 settled in Scotland as a member of the Scottish Orchestra in Galsgow. During the summer he led the orchestra at Llandudno under Jules Riviere. For a time he was a member of the Lamoureux Orchestra at Paris and then for 3 years was deputy-conductor at Llandudno. In 1899 he played in Berlin with the Berliner Philharmoniker, conducted by Henry J. Wood. Then he went to Dublin as principal professor of the violin at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. A year later, however, he resigned the position, as the tutorial duties interfered with his solo playing. About the same time he became the founder and leader of a string quartet which was extremely successful throughout the country. He was director of music for 4 years at Colwyn Bay, and then returned to the Scottish Orchestra.
In 1904 Henri Verbrugghen was appointed leader and assistant conductor of the Scottish Orchestra under Frederic Cowen. He held for 3 years, until 1908, a similar position in the Queens Hall Orchestra in London during the exacting Promenade season. In 1907, he was the soloist in the first performance in England of the Violin Concerto in D minor by Jean Sibelius. However, he has to give this up as it was too great a strain upon his health. He was also chief violin professor (Chief of Staff) at Glasgow's Athenaeum School of Music, where his special work is with the classes in orchestral playing, chamber music, and opera. Alike as a player, a professor, and a conductor, Verbrugghen's work in Glasgow has been constantly successful. The press has been unanimous in praise of the splendid performances of his pupils, both in their concerts of chamber and orchestral music, and in such operas as Faust, Carmen, The Daughter of the Regiment, and L'Arlesienne. In 1911 he succeeded Dr Coward as conductor of the Glasgow Choral Union. In April 1914 he enhanced his growing reputation when a Beethoven Festival was held at London, Verbrugghen "conducting throughout the festival with insight and masterly ability" (The Musical Times, June 1, 1914).
Early in 1915 Henri Verbrugghen was appointed director of the New South Wales State Conservatorium in Australia..He arrived in Sydney in the same year full of enthusiasm. He had a great admiration for English people but did not like the methods of their schools of music, and decided that the conservatorium at Sydney should be based on continental models. He got together a remarkably fine orchestra, including the other members of his excellent string quartet who had come with him. For 6 years Verbrugghen's influence on the musical life of Sydney was of outstanding importance, but the politicians had not realized that it is impossible to carry on work of this nature without financial loss. The orchestra was disbanded in 1921 and Verbrugghen, who had suffered much from worry, went to America for health reasons.
In 1922 Henri Verbrugghen was a guest conductor of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, and had such a brilliant success that in 1923 he was given the position of permanent conductor, succeeding Emil Oberhoffer. Efforts were made in Australia to persuade him to return without success. In 1931 he collapsed at a rehearsal of his orchestra, and never completely recovered his health. Eugene Ormandy succeeded him as Music Director of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra . From September 1933 Verbrugghen was chairman of the Department of Music at Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota, and he died in 1934. He married Alice Gordon Beaumont who survived him with three sons and a daughter.
There is a Verbrugghen St in the suburb of Melba in the Australian capital, Canberra. All the streets in the suburb are named after significant figures in Australian music.
The Musical Times, London, June 1914, with an interesting statement of his methods as a conductor, pp. 369-70
The Australian Musical News, December 1934
The New York Times, November 13, 1934
The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 November 1934
The Argus, Melbourne, November 14, 1934
Who's Who in America, 1934-5
Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 5th edition, 1954.