I used mostly my ears

a blog about music by Marc Haegeman


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Abdel Rahman El Bacha Saves the Day

Francis Poulenc: Orchestral Suite “Les Biches”
Maurice Ravel: Piano Concerto in G major
Piotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker, Op. 71, Act II

Abdel Rahman El Bacha, piano
Belgian National Orchestra/Andrew Litton
Brussels, Centre for Fine Arts, 2 October 2013

With ballet music – Poulenc’s Les Biches and Act 2 from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker – framing the Piano concerto from Ravel, the Belgian National Orchestra under American guest conductor Andrew Litton promised an evening full of elegance, color and sophistication. Soloist for the Ravel was the Franco-Lebanese pianist Abdel Rahman El Bacha, laureate of the Queen Elisabeth Competition in this very same place in 1978, then a mere 19-year old. The present concert was in aid of CAP 48, a fundraising initiative of the Belgian TV network working hard for the integration of disabled people – though sad to see in this respect that the concert hall was only two thirds filled this evening.
Read the full review on Classical Net


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Loud, louder, loudest

Jean Sibelius: The Swan of Tuonela (from Lemminkäinen Suite, Op. 22/2)
Edvard Grieg: Piano Concerto, Op. 16
Piotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky: Symphony #5, Op. 64

Alice Sara Ott, piano
National Orchestra of Belgium/Stefan Blunier
Brussels, Centre for Fine Arts, 23 November 2012

In the Meet & Greet that preceded the performance, Swiss-born conductor Stefan Blunier pointed out how difficult it is to start a concert with Sibelius’ Swan of Tuonela. That was unfortunately proven true in this concert with the National Orchestra of Belgium on the next to the last day of the Brussels Bozar Marathon Week. The program was dubbed “Strong musical stories”. Strong they may have been, but the stories sounded surprisingly similar in Blunier’s hands. Leading a massive orchestra for Sibelius’ Swan, Blunier opted for a slow pace but remained more analytical than atmospheric and allowed far too outspoken contrasts and brusque interruptions of orchestral sections (especially brass and bass drum). The cor anglais made a commendable contribution but he was too prominent as if it was his concerto and a swifter tempo would have saved him from some uncomfortable moments. The violins, massed to the left, sounded rather cold, yet the lower strings created an impressive sonority.
Read the full review on Classical Net


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Rafał Blechacz plays Liszt

Henryk Górecki: Kleines Requiem für eine Polka, Op. 66
Franz Liszt: Piano Concerto #2 in A Major
Witold Lutosławski: Concerto for Orchestra

Rafał Blechacz, piano
National Orchestra of Belgium/Antoni Wit
Brussels, Centre for Fine Arts, 15 September 2011

Belgium may be finding it increasingly more difficult to preserve its national unity, yet some institutions in the country continue to remind us that a fruitful cooperation across language and other barriers is viable. The Belgian National Orchestra, for example, celebrates its 75th anniversary this year and remains alive and kicking. Founded in 1936, the orchestra has acquired an excellent reputation over the years, guided by inspired conductors like André Cluytens (1958-67), Michael Gielen (1968-75), Mikko Franck (2002-07), and, since 2007, Walter Weller, interpreting the standard symphonic repertoire as well as championing new work.
Read the full review on Classical Net