Fifty years of silence have come to an end: the organ at Bozar Centre for Fine Arts, will be re-inaugurated. On the fifteenth of September 2017, the walls of the Henry Le Boeuf Hall will reverberate as they once did, the audience entranced and delighted, their whole bodies feeling the sounds, high and low registers, the power of the music produced by the new organ.
“This is an historic moment,” said Ulrich Hauschild, Director of Bozar Music. “This organ is something really special for the people in Brussels. It’s the only organ in the city where the player is actually on stage. We can’t wait for the inauguration day.”
The organ, whose façade or buffet was designed by Victor Horta, saw its first concert in 1930. Designed by Joseph Stevens, of the Duffel organ makers, the instrument functioned for more than thirty years until a fire in 1967 damaged the structure and a smaller Dutch organ was used as a replacement. In 1988, Belgian composer and organist, Bernard Foccroulle began the laborious endeavor that has resulted in an instrument that adheres to the canon, yet versatile, and whose functionalities will allow for a wide array of possibilities for the music of today, and into the future.
“Besides having the player on stage, there are two additional new functionalities,” said Mr. Hauschild. “When you touch the key on a traditional organ, it doesn’t matter how soft or hard you touch it. It’s not like a piano. With this organ, it will matter how hard you press the key. The intensity of the sound will change. And the second one is that the organ could be used as an electronic device. This means we can merge the organ into different styles like Jazz, Klezmer, etc. There’s a software (Musical Instrument Digital Interface, MIDI) that will give us a lot of possibilities for the years to come.”
When asked why the project took so long, Mr. Hauschild said, “We had a lot of problems with the elements, namely the rain. Three times the water filtered in and there were serious damages. Those were obstacles that delayed the project and everyone’s morale took a hit, it’s natural, but Bernard Foccroulle and Benoit Mernier persisted. And here we are. It paid off.”
The concerts celebrating the new organ will run from the 15th until the 22nd of September. For this event, called InOrguration, Bozar commissioned organ pieces to the composers Benoit Mernier and Bernard Foccroulle. Mernier’s concerto for organ and orchestra will be performed on the 15th, while Foccroulle’s E vidi quattro stelle, will be premiered on the 18th.
“Benoit Mernier’s concerto is, you could say, a more conventional piece. Three movements,” said Mr. Hauschild. “Bernard’s piece is based on Dante’s Purgatorio. You could say it contains ancient influences, but it has Bernard’s own stamp as well. The piece blends the sounds of the organ, the ancient instruments and the voices. And there is a big climax towards the end.”
On September 17th, the Monnaie Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Alain Altinoglu, will perform works by Francis Poulenc, Claude Debussy, Samuel Barber, as well as a vocal piece commissioned by La Monnaie for this event and composed by Benoit Mernier called Dickinson Songs.