Classical music
from Flanders

To consider and to commemorate.

From ancient tradition to lively look at the future.

An online special by:

The importance that Flanders attaches to music is as old as the region itself. In historical retrospect, it is remarkable how, over the years, in Flanders knowing and practicing music has gained as prominent a place in society as listening to it. Since time immemorial, music has not only been used, created and savoured; it has also been developed, considered and studied.

How this came about is a far-reaching question. It may well be related to geographical conditions. Flanders is flat and centrally located and has a rather mild climate. So, it is not coincidental that it has seen its share of conflict. The people live close together, have a Burgundian lifestyle and must now and then suffer some rather drizzly weather: excellent reasons for a thriving social life.

Its historic crossroads function brought in a wide range of different influences and a sort of genetic wanderlust. Having to deal with several languages and significant traffic induced inventiveness and an unmistakable feeling for what state-of-the-art can signify, either literally or figuratively. The crossroads function facilitated an early humanistic disposition, a tendency toward intellectual curiosity and contemplation.

It is not too far-fetched to assume that this historic-geological-sociological cocktail lay at the basis of the evolution and status of classical music in Flanders. The long tradition of gathering together, eating, drinking, communicating ‒ and thus making music ‒ in a sometimes-ponderous manner, continues to leave its traces in what is, any way you look at it, a remarkable occupation with music still known to Flanders today.

Bart De Baere, curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp (M HKA) and a possibly unsuspected progressive voice, once said the following about the visual arts in Flanders: “In our country, we make art the way other countries make wine. It is something we have done for centuries. [...] The story began in the late Middle Ages, when well-organised workshops exported illuminated manuscripts, altar pieces and tapestries from our cities to all corners of Europe. Artists such as Van Eyck and later Rubens and Van Dyck worked for the most powerful courts of their time. Much of this history remains preserved in our churches, castles and museums. Young people growing up in historic cities such as Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, Mechelen, Leuven or Brussels see testimony of a rich artistic tradition everywhere. That can put some ideas into the heads of young people that are sensitive to this.”

These words can be paraphrased perfectly in connection with music in Flanders. It was specifically in the late Middle Ages that the Flemish polyphonists (from Dufay to Josquin and Obrecht to Willaert and Ockeghem), trained as vocalists and composers at our cathedral schools, who worked in the powerful courts of Italy, in particular, thus establishing the formal framework within which southern talent and inspiration was able to develop in the subsequent generations.

Later, from baroque to classical and romantic until the Second World War, Flanders was known more for its performing musicians than its composers ‒ one might say: more for its craftsmanship than for its enthusiasm. From the 1950s onward, Flanders once again experienced highly regarded compositional activity, albeit, as would thereafter prove the fate of the avant-garde everywhere, with a less broad resonance and with more attention to art itself than to its users and witnesses. Minimally flamboyant, with an almost scientific progressive ethic. It wasn't for nothing that popular music emerged during that time ‒ a laudable genre that generated great publicity and willingness to listen, but is not the topic of this text.

In any case, it does not seem illogical that Flemish musicians, ensembles and composers have earned high ranking in the most diverse disciplines of the realm of classical music. Nor does it seem coincidental that this applies all the more to the extremes of the musical realm: ‘early’ music and ‘new’ music, the domains of choice in which careful study and structured thinking are the order of the day.

Early Music

In the late 1950s and early 1960s arose the so-called movement of early music, representing the authentic practice of performance ‒ today referred to somewhat more modestly as Historically Informed Practice (HIP). It is no exaggeration to state that Flanders produced significant pioneers for this who continue to be part of the sector to this day. A clear example is the role of conductor Philippe Herreweghe. In 1970, he founded the Ghent choir Collegium Vocale, thus helping determine the sound of Bach in the 20th and 21st centuries. In recent decades, Herreweghe also focused his spirit of research on a more modern repertoire and instruments: in addition to being guest conductor of international orchestras he is also the head conductor of deFilharmonie (Royal Flemish Philharmonic). Even earlier pioneers were the brothers Kuijken (violinist Sigiswald, gambist Wieland and flutist Barthold), who continue to bravely lead their La Petite Bande, originally established at the request of Gustav Leonhardt.

René Jacobs, who began his career as countertenor and today is one of the most lauded conductors for opera and other vocal works, comes from the same artistic lineage. Oboist Marcel Ponseele and flutist Jan De Winne, as well, first worked in various groups before establishing their ensemble Il Gardellino in the mid-1980s.

It is no exaggeration to state that Flanders produced significant pioneers for this who continue to be part of the sector to this day.

In terms of the baroque sector, incidentally, the changing of the guard is assured. In recent years, there has been a steep rise for the colourfully named baroque orchestra B’Rock, led by harpsichordist, conductor and composer Frank Agsteribbe, as well as a top-notch Belle Epoque band that has also regularly been part of productions involving new music. In business terms, B’Rock is run by Hendrik Storme ‒ also director of the Klarafestival in Brussels ‒ and Tomas Bishop ‒ who, in his turn, runs the MAfestival ‒ the former Musica Antiqua, with its competition in which so many highly regarded HIP musicians began their careers.

Among them, the well-known harpsichordist, pianist and conductor Jos van Immerseel. In 1987, he established an orchestra, Anima Eterna (today Anima Eterna Brugge), to play Bach concerts which, after the necessary expansion, today also plays a classical, romantic and modern repertoire, meaning: to provide them as well as possible with original instruments and stylistics.

In the run-up to the creation of Anima Eterna, cellist Roel Dieltiens was a valued partner of Van Immerseel. He remains one of Flanders’ leading soloists and chambrists.

From Jos van Immerseel, it is only a small step to his good friend and fellow traveller Paul Van Nevel, founder of the famous Huelgas Ensemble, due to Van Nevel’s field of study with a strong vocal orientation and continuing to be one of the world’s most leading Medieval and Renaissance specialists.

In the vocal realm, we also encounter the much younger, more holistic and experimental-minded ‒ and thus more flamboyant ‒ Graindelavoix that is directed by vocalist, musicologist and anthropologist Björn Schmelzer. They focus particularly on the still fairly undeveloped area of what was once Flanders' most famous export product: Medieval music. The not only scientific but also anthropological and phenomenological nature of Schmelzer means that Graindelavoix regularly enters into partnerships with other traditions and styles.

Equally open-minded is the vocal and instrumental ensemble Zefiro Torna, formed in 1996 from HIP, but having grown just as vigorously into a highly interdisciplinary and poly-stylistic group for whom making music is not a purely artistic one but also a humanistic-social activity. Dialogue with other cultures and collaboration with contemporary groups plays an important role in their operation and philosophy.

(c) Mirjam Devriendt
(c) Mirjam Devriendt

New music

All early music was once new, and no artistic discipline remains alive without new forms of expression. Péter Eötvös once made the astute observation that HIP is simultaneously ‘a sort of avant-garde’. In this sense, it is not surprising that Flanders is also represented in the artistic vanguard.

A good starting point for the current situation at the executional level is the legendary group Maximalist! formed in the 1980s in Brussels as a reaction to minimalism. The group was inspired by just about everything, but not in the last place by Arte Povera, in a short but powerful lifespan laying the groundwork for what must still be called Flanders’ best known ambassadors of new music.

For example, choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and her company Rosas come from this movement ‒ they are not specifically musicians, but have 'provoked' a great deal of music in co-productions. Also coming from Maximalist! was the no longer existing but nonetheless legendary group X-Legged Sally with clarinetist-composer Peter Vermeersch; today he directs the Flat Earth Society, a wondrous brass band that cannot absolutely be categorised as classical music, but that does not matter ‒ in what category do you think they would indeed fit?

Bl!ndman ‒ the exclamation mark is a tribute to Maximalist! ‒ was founded as a saxophone quartet in 1988 by Eric Sleichim. It followed a path of absolute avant-garde via crossover productions (involving, for example, improvised film soundtracks), to remarkable projects involving Baroque (Bach’s organ music), Renaissance (in cooperation with Paul Van Nevel) or Medieval (in cooperation with Pedro Memelsdorff). Today, Bl!ndman is a music lab consisting of four quartets: sax, strings, brass and drums, and topped off with a hybrid line-up.

All early music was once new, and no artistic discipline remains alive without new forms of expression.

Another derivative of Maximalist! is the renowned ensemble Ictus, led, since its conception in the late 1980s, by George-Elie Octors that maintains privileged contacts with a great number of leading composers (including Harvey, Ferneyhough, Reich and Aperghis), foreign musicians and concert halls.

Quite a few musicians of Ictus can also be named separately in this summary. Great figures include, for example, oboist Piet Van Bockstal, also soloist with the deFilharmonie and much-sought-after chambrist and ensemble player, and Tom Pauwels, a gifted guitarist as well as being conceptually and programmatically very strong.

Also from Brussels, but of an entirely different nature, is Het Collectief. The basis of this group is a chamber music quintet that took the Second Viennese School as a starting point in 1998. Meanwhile, it has become a more flexible ‒ expandable ‒ ensemble of absolute world class. Recently, productions with Collegium Vocale and Reinbert de Leeuw have caught the eye; through the leading French magazine Diapason, its nevertheless already older recording of Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire was rediscovered and praised as an absolute benchmark.

Contemporary music is also well represented in Antwerp. ChampdAction was founded in 1988 by the strongly electronics-oriented composer Serge Verstockt. While the ensemble initially focused exclusively on contemporary music, today it calls itself a ‘production company for new music, multidisciplinary music projects and audio art.’ ChampdAction maintains the strong bond formed at its creation with the cultural centre deSingel, literally and figuratively the home base of the company.

Still in Antwerp, pianist-conductor Koen Kessels ‒ once conductor of ChampdAction ‒ directs his own HERMESensemble since 1999. Over the course of time, this has considerably expanded its field of work from what one could call the classic avant-garde of the 1950s and 1960s to crossover productions with other styles, genres and disciplines.

Somewhere between Antwerp, Ghent and the Netherlands, we find the still young, brave guitar quartet that can basically not be compared to anything known as Zwerm, which worked under the wings of ChampdAction for a few years. Avant-garde in its most light-hearted and spirited form. This season, Zwerm enjoyed a smooth collaboration with one of its heroes, guitar legend Fred Frith.

A very important figure in the Flemish new music scene is the cellist Arne Deforce. Once connected to both Ictus as ChampdAction ‒ not only as a performer but also as a developer of artistic trends ‒ he started flying a more distinctive solo course several years ago. Several composers have written for him, among others, Richard Barrett, Alvin Curran and Phil Niblock.

One of Deforce’s regular musical partners is Daan Vandewalle, trained by such people as pianist, composer and professional intellectual Claude Coppens and Alvin Curran. His work in contemporary music has been inescapable for over 20 years. This applies no less to his fellow pianist Jan Michiels, professor at the Brussels Conservatory who, however, rather than being dedicated to the most contemporary music, focuses on the avant-garde gradually becoming classical (including Ligeti, Kurtág and Boulez). Incidentally, Michiels is also very active in traditional repertoire, from Bach to Bartók.

In Ghent, we meet the ensemble Spectra, led by pianist, conductor and composer Filip Rathé and established by himself and the late Alvaro Guimaraes. The ensemble is named after the Spectra Group, which together with the IPEM (Institute for Psycho-Acoustics and Electronic Music) gave form to the electronic avant-garde in Ghent starting in the 1960s. Both institutions are closely linked with such illustrious names of deceased masters as Karel Goeyvaerts, Norbert Rosseau, Louis De Meester and Lucien Goethals, as well as Philippe Boesmans, today house composer of De Munt in Brussels, musicologist Herman Sabbe and Claude Coppens.

In Ghent, there’s always room for more when it comes to originality, stubbornness and contrariness, and this is one of the reasons why it's the home base of Logos Foundation of Godfried-Willem Raes, ingenious builder of musical automata and unconditional musical progressive thinker, constantly engaged in a relentless struggle for the emancipation of music vis-à-vis virtuoso performers. The description that Logos gives of his mission that is just as precise as assertive needs no explanation: “The Logos Foundation is Flanders' unique professional organization for the promotion of new music and audio-related arts by means of new music production, concerts, performances, composition, technological research and other activities related to contemporary music.”

Still in the Ghent area, we find the vocal ensemble Aquarius, named after (and dedicated to) musical and humanistic thought, interpreted in the eponymous opera of Karel Goeyvaerts. Aquarius is led by its founder, cellist, composer and conductor Marc Michael De Smet, who as leader of the New Music Group conducted more than 100 Belgian premieres in the 1980s.

(c) Mirjam Devriendt
(c) Mirjam Devriendt

Composers

‘New music’ must be written before it can be performed. Here, we will list the most prominent composers in Flanders, from familiar standbys and deans to somewhat younger ones.

Luc Brewaeys, who died in December 2015 but by way of honouring him cannot be left off this list, was a student of such masters as André Laporte, Iannis Xenakis and Franco Donatoni. He was our greatest symphonic composer, with such accomplishments as nine symphonies, unforgettable ensembles and brilliant orchestrations of Debussy's Préludes for piano in his name. Of his students, here we must certainly mention Annelies van Parys, a very original voice that couples metier with fine intuition.

Luc Van Hove, teacher of composition at the Antwerp Conservatory, is still a fixture: a constructivist holding the professional banner high. His colleague Wim Henderickx, in a previous life percussionist, creates particularly ragas inspired by Hindustani music for orchestra and musical theatre. He works closely with HERMESensemble and deFilharmonie, focusing most recently on music pedagogy.

Ghent resident and professor at the Ghent Conservatory Lucien Posman cannot be compared to anything or anyone. Himself almost retirement age ‒ though you wouldn’t think so ‒ he studied with Roland Coryn, the still active head doyen of modern Flemish choral music. Posman is a self-proclaimed (post) mannerist and a great fan and connoisseur of William Blake, to whose texts he has often composed, with an unmistakable emphasis on love for vocality.

Of course, the Ghent connection also includes guitarist and composer Petra Vermote. She studied under such masters as the already mentioned Roland Coryn and Luc van Hove, as well as Frank Nuyts ‒ another such invincible magician with notes that has certainly earned a place on this list. Vermote has written in virtually all genres for ensemble, but choral music holds a special place in her heart.

Speaking of choral music, we cannot ignore the person of Kurt Bikkembergs. He is first and foremost choral conductor, professor at the Lemmens Institute in Leuven and a great connoisseur of the choral repertoire from the past to today, who also regularly makes contributions that are as clever as they are heartfelt.

A special place in vocal music is held by the much younger pianist, conductor, singer and composer Maarten Van Ingelgem ‒ son of composer Kristiaan van Ingelgem ‒ who has long been one of Flanders’ leading organists.

Kris Defoort comes from a completely different direction. He was once a classical recorder player, but became a celebrated jazz pianist and composer (in the artistic lineage of Gil Evans). Subsequently, he was inducted into ‘classical’ composition and orchestration by Philippe Boesmans. Today, he is one of our leading composers, his most outstanding achievements to date being the opera The Woman Who Walked into Doors and the cycle Conservations / Conversations.

Joachim Brackx is formally a student of Godfried-Willem Raes, but stylistically emancipated from virtually any influence. As a vocalist, he is a lover of Baroque and Renaissance music, from which he derives a great sense of rhetoric and subtle gesture.

From the environment of ChampdAction ‒ regarding which we must also certainly mention the founder and inspirer Serge Verstockt ‒ we regularly hear interesting soundsmiths, two of whom particularly spring to mind: Stefan Prins, as engineer, pianist, composer, technologist and improviser with live electronics as universal as a contemporary musician could be, and Stefan Van Eycken, musicologist and composer with a strong phenomenological approach and interest, who has lived and worked in Tokyo since 2000.

Finally, we will mention here ‒ in the full awareness that we cannot present an exhaustive list ‒ pianist-composer Frederik Neyrinck, still a young man in his thirties that lives and works in Vienna. As a composer, he uses somewhat more traditional means and instrumentation than his aforementioned colleagues. With a great deal of success, as witnessed by the many collaborations and contracts he has in the pipeline.  

(c) Mirjam Devriendt
(c) Mirjam Devriendt

Repertoire

Between very old and hot off the press is of course the regular, more traditional repertoire. In that area Flanders keeps its end up as well. Partly supported by a widespread, highly accessible and still rather elite Part-time Artistic Education (DKO), musicians of a high level regularly make their way to professional stages at home and abroad. At the risk of not mentioning every one of them, here is a bird’s-eye view.

Flanders has a rich tradition of chamber music. This is undoubtedly presented at the highest level by the aforementioned quintet Het Collectief. Also from Brussels, and from its history associated with Het Collectief, is the larger ensemble Oxalys, established in Flanders’ rather magical cultural year 1993. In terms of spirit and notes, Oxalys had the French chamber repertoire of the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a starting point, but expanded its range of activity in a sensitive manner.

Still very young as an ensemble, but equally promising, is the Taurus String Quartet. Four seasoned chambrists who, after having experienced almost all other repertoires, decided to extensively explore the royal genre of chamber music.

The Goeyvaerts String Trio, with home base in Sint-Niklaas, has charted an impressive course in recent years. It focuses on the large repertoire of mainly the late 20th century.

I Solisti del Vento, the brainchild of top bassoonist Francis Pollet, was originally a woodwind formation that is at home in virtually every style. They have many creations to their name and have been occupied to no small extent with musical theatre in recent years. Most Flemish woodwinds of any significance once worked with I Solisti one way or another. Among them the excellent soloists Piet Van Bockstal (oboe; see also Ictus, deFilharmonie, and many other ensembles) and clarinetist Vlad Weverbergh ‒ founder of the Antwerp ensemble Terra Nova and more recently, often in the company of the Prague Collegium 1704. An exception to that rule is Benjamin Dieltjens, once a founding member of Het Collectief and one of the most well-rounded musicians in his discipline ‒ he plays baroque on basset horn to avant-garde on modern clarinet, from concertos for orchestral pieces (at deFilharmonie) to chamber music. He forms a duo together with his brother Thomas Dieltjens, and is without a doubt one of the most remarkable and respected pianists of his generation.

Having arrived at the pianist front, here we will certainly mention Julien Libeer, one of those rare young people that appear to be succeeding in the world of pianos without participating in competitions. He can call himself a protege of the great Maria João Pires.

A few years older are Nicolas Callot and Lucas Blondeel, who, incidentally, form the aptly named Pianoduo Callot-Blondeel. Both pianists are also fervent accompanists and have been increasingly interested in historic pianos in recent years.

From the same, let’s call it Antwerp, vibe comes Nikolaas Kende, son of the Hungarian-Belgian doyen Levente Kende, and professor at the Antwerp Conservatory. He forms a chamber music duo with the excellent violinist Jolente De Maeyer.

With all this emphasis on exponents of the younger generation, we must not forget the more established ones ‒ not seldom the instructors of the former: the already mentioned Jan Michiels; Piet Kuijken, according to his family tradition above all interested in historic pianos; the international Schumann and Brahms authority and fantastic accompanist Jozef de Beenhouwer.

Flanders has a rich tradition of chamber music.

As far as songs are concerned, we will now focus on the Flemish vocalists with some renown. First, we must certainly name soprano Ilse Eerens (long the protégée of the Dutch contralto Jard van Nes) who is slowly and wisely working on a great career. Also much in demand is the stylistically very versatile soprano Liesbeth Devos ‒ who also teaches at the Antwerp Conservatory. Let us mention of the up-and-comers, as well, the exquisitely tuned soprano Hendrickje van Kerckhove, who appears to most certainly be on the road to fulfilling the expectations that she awakened as Rising Star 2008.

Incidentally, Van Kerckhove is laureate of the International Opera Academy (IOA) in Ghent, artistically led by our international opera director Guy Joosten.

One small and one large generation earlier, we find respectively the tenor Yves Saelens and the still active international bass-baritone Werner van Mechelen. The two are both dedicated opera, concert and lied singers.

A regular partner of Jan Michiels, Jozef De Beenhouwer and others is the violinist Guido De Neve, for decades an unconventional and major figure in the Flemish music scene. The multitude of international violin soloists includes Yossif Ivanov, who in 2005 took second place in the Queen Elisabeth International Music Competition and in 2010 was the youngest violin teacher ever at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels.

Quite a few of our great musicians are somewhat hidden in orchestras. We have already mentioned clarinettist Benjamin Dieltjens. His fellow clarinettist Jaan Bossier is a founding member of the renowned Mahler Chamber Orchestra and a member of Ensemble Modern. Harpist Anneleen Lenaerts progressed a few years ago to become a permanent member of the Vienna Philharmonic, while in addition also often playing in the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. We must not forget to mention the unforgettable trumpet player Manu Mellaerts, soloist in the Symphony Orchestra of De Munt since as far back as we can remember. Here, he represents an entire school of excellent, Flemish brass players, who usually do their perfect work somewhat in the background.

Of the Flemish orchestras we must, of course, mention deFilharmonie (Royal Flemish Philharmonic) under Herreweghe and Edo de Waart, whose work will soon be heard in the soon to be completely redesigned Elisabethzaal in Antwerp's city center; Brussels Philharmonic under Stéphane Denève ‒ the former radio orchestra that continued to be connected with former radio choir CRC (Flemish Radio Choir) and makes its home in the legendary boat-shaped Flagey building in Brussels Elsene; the Flanders Symphony Orchestra under Jan Latham-König, which in addition to such large venues as deSingel in Antwerp and Concertgebouw Brugge also serves the Flemish hinterland; strictly historically inspired Anima Eterna Brugge under Jos van Immerseel, with permanent residence in Concertgebouw Brugge; the chamber orchestra Le Concert Olympique under Jan Caeyers and smaller Casco Philharmonic under Benjamin Haemhouts.

Conductor and composer Dirk Brossé must definitely be mentioned here; he is a professor at the Ghent Conservatory, musical director of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia and a much sought-after guest conductor, not least of all for recording film music.

(c) Mirjam Devriendt
(c) Mirjam Devriendt

Organisers

All that musical beauty must also be properly organised and given a place to shine in the most suitable space available.

The largest concert halls in Flanders do their own programming: Bozar in the Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels; Flagey, also in Brussels, that houses the legendary Studio 4, world famous for its flawless acoustics; deSingel (Blauwe Zaal) in Antwerp; De Bijloke in Ghent; Concertgebouw Brugge. An exception is the already mentioned Elizabeth Hall in the new Elisabeth Congress Center, that opened its doors in November of 2016. deFilharmonie (Royal Flemish Philharmonic) will be in residence, but the room will not establish its own programming.

A smaller ‒ in the spirit of its predecessor, the de Gele Zaal ‒ somewhat riskier but very high-quality programme can be found in Ghent’s Handelsbeurs, managed by the Noordstar Fonds, which has a pop and world music programme in the same space. Handelsbeurs was in the spotlight in recent years with such events as its blind date concerts, where the public did not know exactly who would be appearing on the stage.

The relatively numerous festivals in Flanders also organise concerts. A number of these are bundled under the name Flanders Festival, still a strong name to far beyond the national borders. Flanders Festival International and the Klara Festival offer a programme of international favourites in collaboration with Bozar and Klara, public classical radio.

Laus Polyphoniae in Antwerp is a well-regarded festival of early music. It is organised by AMUZ, which presents a not very large but definitely ambitious seasonal programme in the prestigious Augustinuskerk ‒ with HIP still the norm in that programme as well.

MA Festival, formerly Musica Antiqua, is the Bruges branch of the Flanders Festival and also a renowned early music festival. Special repute is enjoyed by the competition that is associated with it and has brought many a future international star into the spotlight over the last few decades.

In Leuven, we find Novecento, a festival with a standard repertoire that does not, however, go back beyond the year 1900 and Transmit, a three-day event which is comprised almost exclusively of premieres.

In Limburg, there were the Basilica Concerts, a modest little festival that originated in Tongeren ‒ at least chronologically the first city in Flanders. In recent years, it developed under artistic manager Bob Permentier into the more ambitious, much acclaimed B-Classic, which as befits a contemporary festival also wants to be a lab and an artistic breeding-ground. Explicitly in that context, it organises its Pressure Cooking Festival, the name of which speaks for itself.

The particularly glorious one-day festival Day of Early Music in the beautiful setting of the Grand Commandery Alden Biezen, also from Limburg, became Alba Nova in 2014, still a one-day festival which ‒ still with early music as its inspiration ‒ nonetheless focuses explicitly on the future and new music. It is not without reason that it is directed by composer, conceptualist, pianist and musicologist Paul Craenen.

Craenen also directs Musica, the Limburg-based organisation involving music education that organises wonderful projects throughout Flanders.

Whereas Musica is not exclusively, but certainly not least of all, focused on children, on the other side of the educational spectrum we find the training institution the Orpheus Institute, established in the Ghent urban centre and directed by conductor-jurist Peter Dejans and Luc Vaes, pianist-musicologist in the style and spirit of Claude Coppens. Orpheus Institute is home to the very unique docARTES, a veritable doctoral programme for musical performers in collaboration with universities in Flanders and the Netherlands.

In relation to educational projects, here we must also mention Zonzo Compagnie, the production company for children's performances of music theatre-maker Wouter Van Looy, of whom the highly original, interactive, child-sized but invariably outstanding artistic presentation festival BIG BANG (continuation of Oorsmeer Festival) is certainly the best known.

Van Looy is also co-director of Muziektheater Transparant, a production company that provides the great vocal works of Opera Vlaanderen ‒ with facilities in Ghent and Antwerp ‒ and De Munt ‒ the internationally renowned, Brussels opera house under intendant Peter de Caluwe ‒ with a smaller, more flexible counterpoint.

Finally: the Flemish do not programme and organise classical music in Flanders alone. Our expertise is also sought after abroad. In that context, we can mention Serge Dorny, who leads the Lyon Opera and works closely with Festival d'Aix-en-Provence (led by compatriot Bernard Foccroulle); Xavier Vandamme, who manages the Utrecht Early Music Festival; Jan Raes, managing director of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam; Marc Clémeur, director of the Opéra National du Rhin in Strasbourg; and Lieven Bertels, who after his fourth and final Sydney Festival 2016 became artistic director of Leeuwarden 2018 ‒ the festivities celebrating the Frisian city as cultural capital of Europe in that year.

And although we must stop writing now, dear reader: this is definitely not all. L’embarras de choix.

Author:
Rudy Tambuyser
Rudy Tambuyser studied physics, music theory and singing. He is a mathematics teacher and works as a music journalist for the weekly magazine Knack. He also wrote for the magazine Staalkaart.
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