Did you know that Belgium has a soft spot for classical music?
Tomorrowland, Graspop, Jazz Middelheim … Belgium is the Mecca for many a music lover. Classical music aficionados, however, will also enjoy themselves to their hearts' content in our country.
The many concert halls that Belgium is home to feature almost daily performances of chamber music, symphonies and recitals... The most famous classical venues are the Queen Elizabeth Hall in Antwerp, BOZAR/Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels and the Concertgebouw in Bruges. Arias, on the other hand, resound in the opera houses of Brussels, Ghent, Liège and Antwerp.
Throughout the year a number of festivals are on the agenda, such as the MAfestival of ancient music in Bruges, Laus Polyphoniae in Antwerp and the International Gregorian Festival of Watou. And every year the Queen Elisabeth Competition is held, an internationally renowned music competition for piano, violin, song and cello. In summer, a number of cities host free carillon concerts for your enjoyment. Don't feel like venturing out? Not to worry, the Klara and Musiq3 radio stations broadcast round-the-clock classical music.
Belgium is also home to several leading conductors. To classical music lovers, René Jacobs, Philippe Herreweghe, Paul Van Nevel and Jos Van Immerseel are resounding names. Belgian artistic leaders and managers have also received extensive international recognition, such as Gerard Mortier (the Paris Opera, the Salzburg festival, the Ruhrtriennale, the Royal Theatre in Madrid), Bernard Foccroulle (in addition to being a great organist also the manager of the Aix-en-Provence Festival) and Serge Dorny (director of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Opéra de Lyon and the Munich Opera House).
A number of Belgians have made a name for themselves in the world of opera. José Van Dam (bass-baritone), Rita Gorr (mezzo-soprano) and Jules Bastin (bass) let their voices ring out in the world's most famous concert halls. And several musicians have also been successful on the global stage: violinist Eugène Ysaÿe was nicknamed ‘the Belgian Paganini’ and Anneleen Lenaerts is one of the world's best harpists.
Belgium is also home to quite a few powerful ensembles, such as B’Rock, the Huelgas Ensemble, Collegium Vocale Gent, Il Gardellino and the Chœur de Chambre de Namur.
Less well-known is that Belgium has also produced a large number of composers. The Flemish polyphonists were radical innovators in 14th and 15th century music. Composers such as Jacob Obrecht, Johannes Ockeghem, Josquin des Prez and Orlandus Lassus all knew stellar careers and their music was played and lauded all across Europe. Other famous names are André Ernest Modeste Grétry, Peter Benoit, August De Boeck and Lodewijk Mortelmans as well as contemporary composers such as Philippe Boesmans, Luc Brewaeys, Henri Pousseur and Annelies Van Parys.
Did you know that several famous foreign composers had 'Belgian' roots? Ludwig van Beethoven's grandfather, for instance, was born in Mechelen and Eugene Aynsley Goossens' grandfather in Bruges. French composer César Franck first saw the light of day in Liège.