An orchestra for the 21st century
In synergy with its new general and musical management the Belgian National Orchestra is thinking about its identity and its artistic and social role in a country and society which are evolving at an alarming rate.
A mythical past
The Belgian National Orchestra was established immediately after the Centre for Fine Arts, with the Henry Le Bœuf Hall as its natural display window. It has inherited the Promethean energy which Victor Horta had imagined for this underground city, which forms the link between Brussels’ upper and lower town. From the outset the orchestra was an essential component of the Queen Elisabeth Competition, which can always count on enormous international interest and which every year paves the way for young international soloists who compete against one another on Belgium’s most important classical stage.
Despite that rich past the Belgian National Orchestra is once again making a considerable investment in its favourite temple of culture by forming closer links with its historical partners to offer young and promising talents a great future and a long term commitment. The symphonic orchestra of the capital of Europe also regularly plays host to the finest soloists and is the privileged partner of the Centre for Fine Arts (BOZAR).
In the middle of Europe, the country and the capital
From the very beginning the Belgian National Orchestra was to be the orchestra of Belgium and the European capital.
It consolidates and further strengthens its close links with Brussels. This can be seen in synergies with neighbouring institutions such as La Monnaie and BOZAR, with which it now takes to the streets to give concerts in stations and shopping centres on the occasion of the ‘Fête de la Musique’ and their joint city project ‘United Colors of Brussels’.
ReMuA and the joint project ‘El Sistema’ incorporate and give voice to the diversity of this small world city in the orchestra. These days the Belgian National Orchestra goes one step further and even organises musical happy hours in nightclubs!
Outside its Brussels epicentre the Belgian National Orchestra explores its historical links with the other two parts of the country and their communities, as demonstrated by the orchestra’s presence in every corner of these regions for the Festival of Flanders, the Festival of Wallonia and the Ostbelgien Festival.
Finally, the Belgian National Orchestra never fails to drum up enthusiasm amongst its members and defends the Belgian colours with the aid of a carefully defined policy for international tours. As a national orchestra it is present for key moments in Belgian life, be it in celebration of 21 July or in commemoration of the attacks of 22 March 2016.
From classic to contemporary
As of the 2017 season the Belgian National Orchestra is stepping out of its production house straightjacket and heading outdoors with a new vision for the spread of classical music. Classical pieces will still be central to the programme, but only if they were a milestone in musical history. They will be systematically placed alongside recent works which were composed after the symbolic boundary of the Second World War.
Contemporary music is all very well but only if the audience can experience its musical and emotional power. The American composer John Adams, on whom we will be focusing in the 2017-2018 season, is able to enthral a wide audience without taking anything away from the brilliance of a real creation. The Belgian National Orchestra will be putting together concert programmes with pieces selected from that broad repertoire, pieces which work well together and which form the common theme for the interpretation of the concert experience.
In this way the Belgian National Orchestra will constantly add to its repertoire, with recent and new works, such as the War Requiem by Flemish composer Annelies Van Parys, commissioned in commemoration of the First World War, but also works which are rarely performed but are no less striking. Such as Kodály’s Psalmus Hungaricus and Scriabin’s Mysterium, a multimedia piece before the advent of multimedia!
The orchestra of modern people
The Belgian National Orchestra is now a self-appointed, fully-fledged cultural institution, with a social vision and a mission for the group of musicians of which it is made.
Are the issues of cultural identities, excessive individualism and the complex relationship between the individual and the collective a constant re-examination of the social contract and humanistic values? The Belgian National Orchestra puts this at the heart of its programme and will delve deeper into the subject in coming seasons.
The 2017-2020 period promises a thrilling triptych which begins with the individual and cultural tradition. Afterwards the musicians focus on the unbridled passion which can drive humanity to excesses, both individually and collectively. Finally, there is the invocation, the fresh description and the triumph of a humanism that once again reconciles individual and society and transcends man’s bestial nature.
But first and foremost …
The musicians are reconnected with the energy from the time when the Belgian National Orchestra was first established, a time when modernism triumphed. They strive to give meaning to each concert and this speaks to the audience directly. With the aid of this innovative experience members of the audience are reminded of the power of masterpieces from the past and introduced to compositions that shed light on the present; a complete art, a reason to exist and a manifestation of faith in humanism: aspects which transcend words and were made entirely for the 21st century.