I used mostly my ears

a blog about music by Marc Haegeman


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Isabelle Faust shines in German early romantics programme from Gardiner and the LSO

Carl Maria von Weber: Euryanthe, Overture
Ludwig van Beethoven: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61
Robert Schumann: Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major ‘Rhenish’, Op. 97

Isabelle Faust, violin
London Symphony Orchestra, John Eliot Gardiner

Antwerp, Queen Elisabeth Hall, 30 January 2019

© Felix Broede

Isabelle Faust (© Felix Broede)

Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the London Symphony Orchestra visited Antwerp with a splendid programme of German early Romantic music. They captured the exalted homages from Weber and Schumann to the Germany of olden times in vivid and dramatic readings that made a good case – barring some rough edges – for traditional orchestras adopting period-style influences. Eventually it was a stellar performance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D major by Isabelle Faust that made the evening really memorable.

Read the full review on Bachtrack.


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Magnificent Mendelssohn and Brahms from Blomstedt and the Concertgebouw

Felix Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, “Scottish”, Op. 56
Wilhelm Stenhammar: Sången (cantata), Op. 44 (Intermezzo)
Johannes Brahms: Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Herbert Blomstedt
Brussels, Centre for Fine Arts, 11 January 2019

© Martin U.K. Lengemann

Herbert Blomstedt (© Martin U.K. Lengemann)

Orchestras stay, while conductors come and go – so it normally goes. However, in the case of maestro Herbert Blomstedt you might think differently. He is 91, very active, and carries some 65 years of conducting experience with him. That’s more candles than many orchestras have to blow, including most of the period-instrument ensembles. Blomstedt brings a communicative sense of joy to music-making and his conducting seems alien to any sign of routine or tiredness. Returning to Brussels with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (RCO), Blomstedt treated us to a magnificent concert with utterly compelling readings of symphonies from Mendelssohn and Brahms.

Read the full review on Bachtrack.


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A manifesto against war: Dubugnon première impresses in Brussels, but Beethoven disappoints

Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 1 in C Major, Op. 21
Richard Dubugnon: Le Tombeau de Napoléon
Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55 “Eroica”

Jan Smets, trombone
Orchestre Symphonique de la Monnaie, Alain Altinoglu
Brussels, Centre for Fine Arts, 25 November 2018

Part of an ongoing cycle of Beethoven symphonies from the Symphony Orchestra of La Monnaie under their music director Alain Altinoglu, this concert offset Nos. 1 and 3 with a world premiere by the Swiss composer Richard Dubugnon, called Tombeau de Napoléon. The spirit of the French emperor was, in effect, hovering over much of the proceedings, not only as a direct inspiration for two of the works but, in a less flattering sense, also in the martial approach of some of the music-making.

Read the full review on Bachtrack.


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Devastating and dark Pathétique from Gergiev and the Mariinsky on tour in Brussels

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov: The Tale of Tsar Saltan, Suite, Op. 57
Igor Stravinsky: Symphony in C
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Symphony no. 6 in B Minor, Op. 74 “Pathétique”
Mariinsky Orchestra, Valery Gergiev
Brussels, Centre for Fine Arts, 18 November 2018

Valery Gergiev and his Mariinsky forces have been frequent guests in Brussels over the last 25 years: quite an extraordinary feat in itself, if you think about it. Several visits were memorable events, yet this all-Russian programme ranks as one of the finest I heard them perform in a long time and easily tops my list of favourite concerts this year. An absolutely thrilling journey with privileged guides, encompassing the mysterious fantasy world of Rimsky-Korsakov, Stravinsky’s neoclassical outings as well as Tchaikovsky’s crushing emotional outpourings. Familiar repertoire it may be, but it emerged here with astonishing freshness and impact, reconfirming that old cliché that it takes Russians to play their own music.

Read the full review on Bachtrack.


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Beguiling Tchaikovsky from Alban Gerhardt and Klaus Mäkelä in Antwerp

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme in A major, Op. 33
Jean Sibelius: Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 43

Alban Gerhardt, cello
Antwerp Symphony Orchestra, Klaus Mäkelä
Antwerp, Queen Elisabeth Hall, 28 October 2018

Judging by the many empty seats in the Elisabeth Centre, Antwerp concertgoers may not be very matinal, in spite of the alluring programme – and the pre-concert coffee and croissants generously included with the tickets. Yet those who braved the Sunday morning start were in for a treat. This matinée by the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra (ASO) was dubbed “Alban Gerhardt plays Tchaikovsky”. In retrospect, the performance by the German cellist of Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme proved an absolute highlight, but at the same time we were introduced to a promising newcomer, the highly-touted Finnish conductor Klaus Mäkelä, only 22 years old, currently Principal guest conductor with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and soon-to-be Chief conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic.

Read the full review on Bachtrack.


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Superb Dvořák 7 from Blomstedt and Vienna Philharmonic in Brussels

Franz Berwald: Symphony No. 3 in C Major “Sinfonie Singulière”
Antonin Dvořák: Symphony No. 7 in D Minor, Op. 70

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Herbert Blomstedt
Brussels, Center for Fine Arts, 25 September 2018

This concert by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under Herbert Blomstedt was part of several events in Brussels focusing on Austrian culture and coinciding with the Austrian presidency of the Council of the European Union. Incidentally, we weren’t treated to an all-Austrian programme, but rather to the current opener of the Viennese subscription concerts which combines a rarity from Swedish composer Franz Berwald and a well-known symphony from Antonin Dvořák, the magnificent Seventh. The Brussels Centre for Fine Arts (Bozar) was transformed into a tiny turf of Austrian Heimat for the occasion by the presence of its most illustrious cultural ambassador on stage, a large number of Austrian patrons attending, and even the unavoidable Mozartkugeln distributed in the interval.

Read the full review on Bachtrack.


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Radiant Vilde Frang opens Antwerp season

Ludwig van Beethoven: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61
Antonín Dvořák: Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, “From the New World,” Op. 95

Vilde Frang, violin
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Robin Ticciati
Antwerp, Queen Elisabeth Hall, 9 September 2018

While not exactly a model of risky or unconventional programming, this season opener did include a rare visit by the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, an orchestra with a rich pedigree, and had two of the most in-demand young artists of the day – British conductor Robin Ticciati and Norwegian violinist Vilde Frang – sharing the bill.

Read the full review on Bachtrack.