Since 2012, the first public rounds of the Queen Elisabeth Competition have taken place in Studio 4 at Flagey
, the former national radio premises designed by Joseph Diongre that have hosted the great names of the musical history of the 20th century. The semi-finals of the Competition, like the first round, take place here in a packed auditorium; they are often more like a concert than a competition round. And yet the semi-finals were long handicapped in the eyes of true music-lovers by programmes that set too great a store on technical difficulty, especially as far as the violin was concerned. A notable change took place in the 1970s and today the semi-finals are seen as a highlight of the competition in many ways.
|The Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel|
The second venue is the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel
. This functional and elegant building was inaugurated in 1939 in Waterloo as a higher institute for music teaching, in which resident pupils would study the piano, the violin, the viola, the cello, and composition with their chosen teacher in exceptional comfort and tranquillity. The Chapel was given a complete revamp in 2004 and began to operate with masters in residence. Ten years later, its premises were considerably extended, with the addition of studios with excellent acoustics and a new concert hall. For each instrumental edition of the Queen Elisabeth Competition, the Chapel gives its pupils leave and places itself at the disposal of the Competition for the period of seclusion of the twelve finalists. The purpose of this seclusion, which lasts one week, is to allow the candidates to master the unpublished compulsory concerto, without any assistance from outside. Warm and convivial despite the tension of the ordeal, the Chapel usually leaves an indelible impression on the finalists.
|The Palais des Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles|
The third location is the Brussels Centre for Fine Arts (Palais des Beaux-Arts)
. One of Queen Elisabeth’s great artistic projects, it was opened in 1928 and was designed by the architect Victor Horta. Its great concert hall (which seats 2,052), with its unsurpassed acoustics, is the venue for all the finals and for the first singing competitions also hosted the semi-final recitals and performances with orchestra. Seats are almost impossible to obtain for a final, for despite the live broadcasts on television, radio, and the Internet, it is, without doubt, ‘the place to be’. In order to be up to date? No: in order to be sure not to miss the kind of musical event only ‘the Queen Elisabeth’ has the secret of.
These prestigious venues should not, however, lead us to overlook the ‘beehive’, the Competition’s offices, where a dynamic and efficient team beavers away, under the presidency these days of Jan Huyghebaert, with Yvan de Launoit as Vice-president, and under the leadership of Michel-Etienne Van Neste, the Competition’s Secretary General. And if you also overlook one of the Competition's distinctive characteristics, one greatly appreciated by the candidates: the host families that offer ideal, welcoming accommodation to young men and women who find themselves in terra incognita, sometimes at a distance of ten hours by plane from home.
|The Royal Conservatory of Brussels|
From 1951 until 2011, the first public rounds of the Competition were organised at the Royal Brussels Conservatory
. Its Grande Salle, inaugurated in 1876, bears its name uneasily: it is in fact small, though this is one of its great qualities. This Italian-style concert hall, designed for pure music with a stage rising in tiers up to the Cavaillé-Coll organ, is a dream venue for a chamber music concert or a recital. Unfortunately, the Competition had to leave this building that awaits a thorough renovation.