Europe's spirit is rooted in antiquity and the name of our continent has been associated with the mythological figure of Europa since ancient times. According to legend, the Phoenician king's daughter lived on the Mediterranean coast of what is now Lebanon. Zeus, father of the gods, fell in love with the beautiful woman and kidnapped her to Crete disguised as a bull. Once there, Zeus and Europa fathered three children, including Minos, who would become ruler of the island, while his mother gave the entire continent its name. One of the most important ideas spread around the world in connection to the "myth of Europe" is that of democracy. But when it comes to a European cultural identity, the arts and in this context music in particular have played a central role since the late Middle Ages. The power of music transcends language and borders, becoming lived reality. The nobility and clergy as well as prosperous trading cities used music to signal their power and wealth and many composers travelled across Europe as musical nomads. Under the title »Mythos Europa - Sounds of Europe«, the festival has decided to put a neighbouring country under the musical spotlight each year, beginning in 2021. The starting point of this journey will be the home country of the European Union’s headquarters in Brussels: Belgium.
Belgium only became an independent state in 1830, but in the late Middle Ages and Early Renaissance, a seed was sown in what is today the border area between France and Belgium, which at that time belonged to the Duchy of Burgundy. This culminated in the field of sacred music with a style that has shaped the whole of Europe: Franco-Flemish polyphony. The 500th anniversary of the death of its most important exponent, the composer Josquin Desprez, is the perfect occasion for a night of Franco-Flemish vocal music. The vocal ensemble The Tallis Scholars will fill the three inner-city churches of Unser Lieben Frauen, St. Johann and the St. Petri Dom with chants by the greatest European composers of Belgian origin from the 15th and 16th centuries in three successive concerts - a musical cloud of voices covering the inner city.
But we don’t just look back at the past: The festival will focus on today’s influential personalities in Belgian musical life. With the tenor Reinoud Van Mechelen, who was born in Leuven, and his ensemble a nocte temporis, we present one of the most sought-after Bach interpreters of our time. Lionel Meunier and his ensemble Vox Luminis, which he founded in Namur, continue to excel in performing the sacred repertoire of the Baroque, this time taking on Bach’s St. John Passion. Philippe Herreweghe in turn has played a decisive role in shaping the programmatic profile of the festival since his first appearance at the Musikfest 25 years ago. For this, the Ghent-born conductor will be awarded the Musikfest prize this year. With the Collegium Vocale Gent he will perform madrigals by Carlo Gesualdo on two evenings, while the Orchestre des Champs-Elysées will present two symphonic masterpieces by Mozart and Beethoven under his baton.
Sa 04 Sept / 8 h pm
So 05 Sept / 7 h pm
Do 09 Sept / 8 h pm, Fr 10 Sept / 8 h pm
Do 16 Sept / 8 h pm
The third central project that casts a musical perspective on Belgium is interdisciplinary and focuses on Hans Memling. Born around 1440 in Seligenstadt am Main, the painter became one of the most important Flemish masters in the flourishing trading city of Bruges from 1465. Wim Becu from the ensemble Oltremontano Antwerp had the instruments shown on Memling’s triptych "God the Father with singing and music-making angels" reproduced in painstaking detail by specialists and made a selection of music to match the painting. With Gregorian music from liturgical books and polyphonic compositions from Bruges around the year 1500, the heavenly music depicted on Memling's painting can now be experienced live in concert!