1935: Grand Symphonic Orchestra of the NIR
Brussels Philharmonic was founded in 1935 by the Belgian public broadcasting service (NIR), under the name Grand Symphonic Orchestra. The orchestra was charged with the important task of bringing the ‘serious’ repertoire to the Belgian public: Belgian and Flemish music, untapped music scores from the past, familiar 19th-century work and new, contemporary music. The focus lay mainly on the latter thanks to the former directors, Franz André and Paul Collaer.
Big names in Flagey
The orchestra was regularly placed in the hands of famous foreign conductors, such as Leonard Bernstein, Darius Milhaud, Paul Sacher, Albert Wolff and Benjamin Britten. Also, composers such as Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Hindermith, Bartók and later Messiaen were frequent visitors to Brussels and Flagey's Studio 4, as one the world’s best when it comes to acoustics, and they considered the Grand Symphonic Orchestra to be one of the best orchestras in the world.
CffOR: 21st-century focus
These days Brussels Philharmonic remains ‘true to its roots’ and performs a varied and diverse repertoire. Keeping this clear focus on today’s and tomorrow’s symphonic music, music director Stéphane Denève joined the orchestra to launch the new platform CffOR (Centre for Future Orchestral Repertoire) about symphonic compositions as from 2000.
Contemporary music is the common theme running through every project: “We are performing works that can become the repertoire of the 21st-century: we aim to find those pieces that musicians in the orchestra love to play and the public loves to hear, and launch a broad global dialogue.”
Brussels Philharmonic has always had its own spot on the international stage, with invitations right from early on to the most important European festivals and regular dates in the large European capitals (Paris, London, Berlin, Vienna, Salzburg). With IMG Touring as its international representative, the orchestra is extending to new stages, both in Europe and beyond. In 16-17 this included an extensive tour to Japan, and in 18-19 it was a tour to the east coast of the United States with a debut in Carnegie Hall, New York.
Something else that Brussels Philharmonic specialises in on an international scale is the performing and recording of soundtracks for films, series and games. Being a broadcasting orchestra there is a historic and genuine link with film music, which the orchestra has been conscious to develop since becoming independent in 1998.
The lasting partnership with Film Fest Gent took the orchestra to the studio and on stage with great names such as Howard Shore, Hans Zimmer, Angelo Badalamenti, Craig Armstrong, Alan Silvestri and many others. International fame followed with awards such as the Golden Globe for ‘The Aviator’ (music by Howard Shore) and the Oscar for ‘The Artist’ (music by Ludovic Bource).
In 2017 Brussels Philharmonic launched BOENK! Brussels Young Philharmonic, a new symphonic youth orchestra in Brussels run by and for young people between the ages of 15 and 25. With refreshing programmes and challenging performance options BOENK! is a hub for ensembles and enjoyment. Young music lovers are also given the opportunity to gain orchestral experience with professional guidance from Brussels Philharmonic.
For the professional musicians of the future there is the brand new Youth Orchestra Flanders. This aims to help promising musicians develop their talents in a professional environment by offering orchestral experience with the support of Brussels Philharmonic, Antwerp Symphony Orchestra and the Symphonic Orchestra of the Flemish Opera Ballet.