- Daily & Weekly newsletters
- Buy & download The Bulletin
- Comment on our articles
Klarafestival: Music to lift spirits in events across Brussels, including mini free concerts in glass box
Each spring, Klarafestival – Belgium’s most innovative classical music festival, comes together in Brussels and Flanders under a theme that reflects the current state of the world, and the power of music to lift us up and beyond it. This year’s theme is Libera Me (Liberate me). It’s inspired by redemption, the battle of good over evil and the mythical character of Faust who made a pact with the devil for his soul, only to realise what a foolish mistake it had been.
It’s an especially poignant theme given Britain’s departure from the European Union, and Klarafestival will mark the occasion with a special Brexit concert at Bozar on 29 March, the night of the island’s intended departure. With the British Aurora Orchestra conducted by Nicolas Altstaedt, it will feature readings by British authors Ali Smith, Jonathan Coe and Sulaiman Addonia between John Taverener’s The Protecting Veil and Les Illuminations by Benjamin Britten. The night will close with Haydn’s Farewell Symphony where each musician, having played their part, leaves ceremoniously, one by one, leaving two mute violins on the stage.
“It was the first piece that came to mind for the Brexit concert which is also the closing concert of the season, and it was hotly debated,” admits Klarafestival’s managing director Sophie Detremmerie. “Throughout the ages political co-operation between Britain and the continent has always been up and down but there has constantly been great cultural co-operation. We want to show this bigger picture, that we will continue collaborating together, Brexit or not.”
One of Detremmerie's personal highlights will take place on 23 March when composer and musician John Zorn is unleashed on the Bozar’s monumental organ, which was restored to all its bellowing glory in 2017 after decades of silence. Zorn’s compositions are known for encompassing dissonant elements of punk, metal and klezmer. “Zorn is going to improvise jazz on the Bozar organ. It’s not going to be the easiest music to listen to but I want to be there, it’s going to be very special,” she says.
The festival is a highlight of the busy cultural calendar of Brussels-Capital Region. Once again, it will be holding a series of intimate, free 15-minute concerts given outdoors in a specially constructed glass box, big enough only to house a grand piano, a couple of musicians and a maximum audience of three. “We wanted to bring classical music to new 21st century audiences in an innovative way, and it was a good, much needed first stage for conservatory student musicians to learn to play with the public at such close proximity,” says Detremmerie.
The success of the glass box concerts in Place Flagey last year has led to the festival to place the box in three different areas of the city this year to attract three different crowds. The box will appear at Place de la Monnaie in the centre from 14 March with a nod to tourists, in the predominantly French-speaking commune of Schaerbeek from 19 March and the predominantly Dutch-speaking commune of Jette from 25 March – which was voted for in a competition run on the Klarafestival Facebook site. Grab a seat online before they all disappear.
When: 14-29 March
Where: Place de la Monnaie (Brussels), Avenue Louis Bertrand (Schaerbeek), Place Cardinal Mercier (Jette)
How: Reserve online here