Philippe Herreweghe, Conductor
Published: May 2009
'We play on instruments that Bach and Beethoven knew when they lived, so people can hear the music as it was then'
HOME BASE Brussels
BAROQUE ORIGINS As the founder in 1970 of the Collegium Vocale Gent, Herreweghe, now 57, revolutionized the performance of Bach's cantatas and other vocal works by hewing to the musical style of the period in which they were composed. "We were interested in going back to the way the music of the eighteenth century was played in the eighteenth century—Bach not on the piano but on the harpsichord, and so on. We also decided to perform with a very small choir, as in the time of Bach."
TRUE TO LIFE "The result is that the music sounds more authentic. You know how they restored the Sistine Chapel in Rome?Well, it's the same with music—it's as if there's dust on the painting, accumulated over the centuries, and you clear it away, and suddenly you hear the music and the bright colors. It's more honest."
MAN ABOUT TOWN "Antwerp is fantastic!" Herreweghe knows the city well: it's where he recently kicked off another world tour (he's always touring) with both his choral and his orchestral groups. "We Flemish, we like to live, and there are great restaurants here." A favorite is Dôme, housed in a beautiful Art Nouveau building (2 Grote Hondstraat; 32/3239-9003; dinner for two $135).
NEXT UP "At the moment I'm concentrating on nineteenth-century music. My orchestra, the Orchestre des Champs-Élysées, has begun recording all the symphonies of Anton Bruckner." For future concert dates, see www.collegiumvocale.com.
Herreweghe's three favorite concert halls in Europe
1. Vienna's Musikverein 2. Amsterdam's Concertgebouw 3. Zurich's Tonhalle