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Klarafestival: Classical music with a positive message for communities

11:11 10/03/2018

Klarafestival is renowned for pushing the boundaries of classical music performance and bringing centuries old European compositions to 21st century to audiences in innovative ways. It comes together each year 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, Alles wieder gut, comes from a Mahler song cycle. Translated literally from German, it can mean both ‘All is well again’ and ‘All will be well again’.

"After concentrating on migration and exile last year, we wanted to give out a more overtly optimistic message with the theme and bring together music that speaks of human imagination," explains Sophie Detremmerie, managing director of Klarafestival.  It ties in with the 50th anniversary of the Festival of Flanders that gave birth to Klarafestival, and the 50th anniversary of the global 1968 protests, that carried the slogan L'imagination au pouvoir, ‘The imagination to power’.

According to Hendrik Storme, the artistic director of Klarafestival, the protests in 1968 were all reactions against the hypocrisy of authorities. They have become legendary for their message, he says. "The myth of a makable world: everything is possible, everything is in our hands." 

The festival’s poster campaign is already proclaiming Alles wieder gut from bus stands and billboards across the capital. "We like the idea that we are reaching out into the greater community with this message, to those who may not be familiar with classical music," says Detremmerie.

The most imaginative performance may well be the Mysterium, an unfinished composition of Russian composer, Alexander Scriabin, at the time of his death in 1915. Scriabin dreamed of a magical world with spiritual transformations from the power of "synthetic art" – orchestral music, song, dance, lights, and ritual smoke. His music was realised posthumously, by Alexander Nemetin, who, impressed by the 53 pages Scriabin left behind, spent a quarter of his life finishing the Mysterium in the spirit of its author. "It will be an experience that you’ve never had before in a concert hall," says Detremmerie. "There'll be a lot of people on stage, a light show and mist machines creating the atmosphere, so during the performance, you will really ask yourself the question, am I in heaven or am I in hell? I think Scriabin's idea of how his world should look is there," she adds. 

But then again, vying for that place are two minimalist pieces by Steve Reich (Music for Pieces of Wood) and Terry Riley (In C Mali), at the Autoworld Museum. Performed by the British collective Africa Express, Berlin ensemble Stargaze and New York indie band Poliça, they will feature the classical African instruments of the kora, ngoni and balafon.   

Detremmerie's personal highlight will be 300 people together on stage at the Bozar, with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, performing Mahler's powerful choral 8th symphony. "They will be a little bit squashed, but this is really innovative as Mahler’s 8th is not really performed much," she says.

For the first time, the annual Klara classical music awards will be presented during the festival, in  "a ceremony at Flagey with red carpets and limousines," says Detremmerie. "We thought it was high time that classical music awards get the glamour they deserve."   

The Klarafestival is one of the numerous cultural highlights of the Brussels region; a perfect opportunity for its cosmopolitan citizens and visitors to enjoy music and inspirational performances.

When: Until 30 March

▪ Where: Across Brussels and Flanders

▪ Full programme and tickets at

Written by The Bulletin



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