The legendary Wiener Philharmoniker swings by Brussels' quite-as-legendary Henry Le Boeuf Hall. But don't expect carefree waltzing. The cultural behemoth is using their repertoire to stir up a conversation about the world it performs in today.
Do you spend every first of January in front of the television, captivated by the pomp and circumstance of the New Year's Concert by the renowned Wiener Philharmoniker? Maybe you even dance along to Johann Strauss' earworm An der schönen blauen Donau. Then going to see this iconic orchestra live at work in Bozar should be a no-brainer. But even if you're less of a diehard fan, there is something uniquely captivating about seeing one of the most prestigious musical ensembles in the world play right before your eyes.
Do not, however, expect their stereotypical oom-pah-pah. With the Latvian guest conductor Andris Nelsons at the helm, the Wiener takes a more modern turn, as the programme is centred around two composers who both grew up in the USSR: Dmitri Shostakovich and the now ninety-year-old Sofia Gubaidulina. In her Fairy-Tale Poem, the orchestra takes on the role of a small piece of chalk, dreaming of etching impressive castles and fantastical worlds – only to meet its own end as more and more of the fairy-tale appears.
This wondrous piece is linked to Shostakovich' Ninth Symphony. Meant as a celebration of the victory over Nazi Germany, the symphony is often considered to contain a hidden agenda. A subtextual dig at the Russian despot of his day and age.
Sounds surprisingly contemporary, doesn't it? Well, the Sixth Symphony by Antonín Dvorák adds a final dose of historic insight, as it was originally conceived for the chief conductor of the Wiener in the late nineteenth century. The premiere was moved to Dvorák's native Czechia though, following a surge in nationalism in the Austrian capital. In short, an intriguing selection of compositions that can still be enlightening in the 21st century.
WIENER PHILHARMONIKER & ANDRIS NELSONS
10/6, 20.00, Bozar, www.bozar.be