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History / 75 years of shared music
75 years of shared music
Michel Stockhem, 2012 (updated January 2015)

H.M. Queen Elisabeth at the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel in 1959
Competitions are for horses,’
said Debussy. That was more than a century ago, but his remark is still popular today (especially with musicians who have been unsuccessful in competitions). The question is, it must be admitted, a complex one that can be approached from a variety of angles. It is permissible, moreover, to see it simply from the point of view of those music-lovers to whom the Queen Elisabeth Competition has - for 75 years now - offered such a wide range of emotions. Passion, joy, sadness, identification, dissent, and more, as well as an opportunity to share the experience of ‘great’ music, in a world that has changed so much and in which this ‘great’ music occupies a less prominent position in the everyday world of the media and thus of people generally. The Queen Elisabeth Competition is, for many, a slice of life, an enchanted interlude in which culture seems to make some slight inroads into the gloom cast by crises, rationalisation, epidemics, rain, and conflict.

The audience, like the participants and their repertoire, defies generalisation: it is not a single audience, but thousands of individual audience members and tens of thousands of others watching television or listening to the radio. There is no single group of laureates/racehorses, either, but young people, each of whom has come with his or her own past, present state, and potential - still fragile and dependent on an infinite variety of factors. Finally, it is not the same concerto again and again, but a repertoire that, overall, is rich and varied, open both to its own century and to the intimacy of the sonata and the lied.

Photo Eugène Ysaÿe (Liège 1858 - Brussels 1931)
Of course, it has not always been a ‘calm sea and prosperous voyage’, every year, every day. A look back at the past, however, reminds us - whatever our generation - of deep-rooted and happy memories:
Leonid Kogan, Leon Fleisher, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Jaime Laredo, Malcolm Frager, Elisabeth Leonskaya, Mitsuko Uchida, Miriam Fried, Pierre-Alain Volondat, Vadim Repin, Akiko Suwanai, Nikolaj Znaider, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Baiba Skride, Severin von Eckardstein, Sergey Khachatryan, Anna Vinnitskaya, Ray Chen, Denis Kozhukhin, Andrey Baranov, Boris Giltburg … Let us stop there: the list is a long one, all the more so as local pride - national or regional, and that is a debate we do not intend to get involved in - swells as we recall the achievements of Jean-Claude Vanden Eynden, Shadi Torbey, Yossif Ivanov, Lorenzo Gatto, Thomas Blondelle, Jodie Devos, and others.
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