Since the earliest years of the Festival’s life, the Church of St.Sebastian has been the space of choice for several well-known orchestras, such as Orchestre Philharmonique de Liège, Orchestre National de Lille, Antwerp Synphony Orchestra, Orchestres des Guides et de la Force Aérienne, and Harmonie St-Michael of Thorn. In addition, the church has also seen numerous performances of oratorios by the local Choeurs Mixtes de Stavelot, and other choral repertoire presented by ensembles such as the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, the World Youth Choir, the Choeur de Chambre de Namur and Vox Luminis.
But it is in the Abbey that the majority of our concerts are held, and where the Festival’s dedication to chamber music is to be seen and heard. Here our audiences are treated to performances of well-loved repertoire, from ensembles ranging from duos to octets to chamber orchestras, and where new or less familiar works are played, often programmed to fit with the annual theme of Les Festivals de Wallonie.
If the stringed instrument reigns supreme at Stavelot, there is still a warm welcome for wind ensembles, playing wonderful but often overlooked repertoire.
For those with a particular interest in our programming, as well as the mainstream repertoire of the classical and romantic periods, the Festival showcases work ranging from the Franckists to the twentieth century; and there is a home too for contemporary music, performed by specialised exponents, and both Belgian composers and performers have space here to perform the best in our own classical tradition.
It would be an oversight not to draw attention to the importance to the festival of music for the voice; song cycles, chansons, concert arias and cantatas. The finest of Schubert, Schumann, Brahms and Hugo Wolf can be heard at the festival; the songs of Faure, Duparc Chausson, Mussorgsky, Ravel, Debussy, Poulenc and Britten; and arias by Handel, Mozart and Beethoven, not to mention Bach’s and Pergolesi’s cantatas.
The above gives a flavour of the character and diversity of our programmes, in terms of choral, orchestral or vocal music, in diverse interpretations by our guest artists This search for variety has but one purpose: to give our audiences the joy of the experience.
Concerts are usually provided with introductions, appreciated by the experienced concert goer and the novice alike. The words of Jerome Lejeune, the festival’s artistic director, are renowned for their insight and accessibility. The musicologist Hans Reul of the Ostbelgien Festival also provides highly-valued input.
Finally, a word of thanks must be given to Musiq’3, the classical arm of RTBF, for the superb quality of their recordings and broadcasts.