Orchestras and conductors
 
National Orchestra of Belgium
Ever since it was founded in 1936, the National Orchestra of Belgium has been a fervent advocate of symphonic music, both traditional and modern, under a succession of creative, inspired Music Directors. These have included André Cluytens, Michael Gielen, Mikko Franck, and Walter Weller - and, since September 2013, the Russian-born conductor Andrey Boreyko, whose wealth of experience has included collaborations with a number of renowned ensembles in Europe and the United States.

The orchestra’s expressive and refined playing, together with the discernment of its programming choices, enables it to reach a broad public in concerts throughout Belgium and in the course of its foreign tours. The NOB plays particularly frequently in the prestigious concert hall of the Brussels Centre for Fine Arts, where it presents its own concert series in collaboration with Bozar Music. In addition to its own Music Director, Andrey Boreyko, the NOB welcomes outstanding guest conductors, who make it possible to explore other perspectives.

The orchestra has accompanied internationally celebrated soloists such as Hélène Grimaud, Vadim Repin, and Gidon Kremer, as well as operatic stars such as Roberto Alagna, Jonas Kaufmann, Rolando Villazón, Anna Netrebko, and Juan Diego Flórez. But the orchestra is also developing lasting bonds with young musicians such as Plamena Mangova, Lorenzo Gatto, and Yossif Ivanov, thanks to its excellent collaborative relationship with the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel and the Queen Elisabeth Competition.

The NOB is very much part of a society in constant evolution and regularly commissions new work from talented composers, who may well be the creators of tomorrow’s masterpieces ; it offers opportunities to young talent, while also rediscovering less well-known works and opening up to film music and the best popular music. Through a wide range of projects for children and young people, contact is established with future generations of listeners. Through its active involvement in all these activities, the NOB takes its place at the heart of an ever-changing society and considerably extends its own field of operation.

Between 2007 and 2012, recordings conducted by Walter Weller were released annually on Fuga Libera ; many of these were recognised as outstanding by the international music press. A number of them, including those of Josef Suk’s Asrael Symphony, Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben, and Johannes Brahms’s First Piano Concerto (with Plamena Mangova) have attracted international attention. In recent years, moreover, the NOB has continued to reinforce and expand its reputation outside Belgium, particularly in Japan, Spain, and Switzerland - and, more recently, in Germany and central Europe.
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Gilbert Varga
Gilbert Varga, son of the celebrated Hungarian violinist Tibor Varga, studied under three very different and distinctive maestros : Franco Ferrara, Sergiu Celibidache, and Charles Bruck. A commanding and authoritative figure on the podium, he is renowned for his elegant baton technique, and has held positions with and guest-conducted many of the major orchestras throughout the world. In North America, he regularly conducts the Houston Symphony, the St Louis Symphony, the Atlanta Symphony, the Milwaukee Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Utah Symphony, and the Nashville Symphony ; this season sees him make his debut with the Oregon Symphony and the orchestra of the Colburn Conservatory of Music (Los Angeles). He works frequently with Europe’s leading orchestras, in Berlin, Leipzig, Frankfurt, Cologne, Madrid, Budapest, Brussels, and Glasgow and this year makes his debut with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2013, Varga was appointed Principal Conductor of the Taipei Symphony Orchestra. In the earlier part of his conducting career Varga concentrated on work with chamber orchestras, and in particular the Tibor Varga Chamber Orchestra. From 2001 to 2012 he conducted often the final round of the Queen Elisabeth Competition. Varga’s discography includes recordings on various labels, including ASV, Koch International, and Claves Records. His latest recording, released in January 2011, of concertos by Ravel and Prokofiev with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and Anna Vinnitskaya on Naïve Records was given five stars by BBC Music Magazine.
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Orchestre Royal de Chambre de Wallonie
In 1958, Lola Bobesco created “Les Solistes de Bruxelles” [Brussels Soloists], renamed “Ensemble d’archets Eugène Ysaÿe” [Eugène Ysaÿe String Ensemble], now known as the Orchestre Royal de Chambre de Wallonie [Royal Chamber Orchestra of Wallonia].
The orchestra has worked together regularly with the biggest names in music on the most important international stages : José Van Dam, Mstislav Rostropovitch, Aldo Ciccolini, Mischa Maïski, Maurice André, Arthur Grumiaux, Philippe Hirschhorn, Georges Octors, Jean-Pierre Wallez, Gidon Kremer, Louis Lortie, Jian Wang, Ivry Gitlis, Antoine Tamestit, Henri Demarquette, Richard Galliano, the Modigliani Quartet, Jean-Philippe Collard, Gérard Caussé, Renaud and Gautier Capuçon, Augustin Dumay, Maria João Pires ; in Paris, Beijing, Abu Dhabi, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Bucharest, Bayreuth, Munich, Luxembourg, Zurich, Geneva, Saint Petersburg, Brussels, etc.
Following the last Music Directors, Augustin Dumay (2003-2013) and Frank Braley (2014-2019), Vahan Mardirossian took the baton to continue their work of excellence.
The orchestra is a regular partner of the Queen Elisabeth Competition since more than twenty years, the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel, and many Belgian and international music festivals. The Royal Chamber Orchestra of Wallonia performs often under the direction of Jean-François Chamberlan, its principal violinist.
In Mons, its city of residence, with Mars (Mons Arts de la Scène) [Mons Performing Arts], and the support of the City of Mons, the orchestra gives concerts with a diversified and original repertoire, with musicians of great renown, Belgian and foreign. It presents concerts for young audiences and offers services to young artists from the Mons Academy of Music and ARTS2 (École Supérieure des Arts).

www.orcw.be
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Michael Hofstetter
Germany
Born in Munich, Michael Hofstetter taught orchestral conducting and early music at the Johannes Gutenberg University before emerging as one of the most eminent conductors of performance on period instruments.

He has been music director of the Ludwigsburg Castle Festival (Ludwigsburger Schlossfestspiele) since 2005 and of the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra since 2006, where he has kept alive the tradition of baroque interpretation initiated by Karl Münchinger. Since a few months, he occupies the post of music director of ‘Recreation-Grosses Orchester Graz’ and of the Staatstheater Gießen, where he made his debut as an orchestral conductor.

Michael Hofstetter has worked closely with Herbert Wernicke ; together they have had great success with now celebrated productions such as those of Handel’s Alcina and Giulio Cesare. Their last project together, Actus Tragicus, based on Bach cantatas, has been performed all over the world over the last ten years (including at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2009). Hofstetter attaches great importance to his annual collaboration, since 1999, with the Handel Festival in Karlsruhe. He has made a particular impression with productions of neglected operas by Salieri, Gluck, Cimarosa, Hasse, and E.T.A. Hoffmann with the Ludwigsburg festival orchestra, with which he has made a number of recordings.

He has also explored other repertoires and has performed many programmes of contemporary music with the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, including the world premieres of works by Moritz Eggert and Helmut Oehring. At the Ludwigsburg Castle Festival both audiences and critics have appreciated his performances of Schumann, Berlioz, and Verdi on period instruments. In January 2012 OehmsClassics released a live recording of the performance of Verdi’s Il Trovatore.

He has been nominated for Opernwelt magazine’s Conductor of the Year award on a number of occasions, most recently for his surprising production of J. A. Hasse’s Didone Abbandonata at the Prinzregententheater in Munich. He was awarded the Robert Stolz Medal for his commitment to operetta and for his work at the Ludwigsburg Castle Festival he was honoured with the Horst Stein Prize.

Michael Hofstetter is a frequent guest at international opera houses and festivals, for example, in Hamburg, Munich, and Berlin, at the Royal Opera in Copenhagen and the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, at Welsh National Opera and Houston Grand Opera, as well as at the Salzburg Festival.

Works conducted by him have been released on numerous CDs and DVDs by OehmsClassics, CPO, Orfeo, Deutsche Grammophon, Sony, and Virgin Records.

Michael Hofstetter’s 2013 engagements include the Staatsoper Stuttgart, the Opéra Royal de Versailles, the Styriarte Festival and a new production of La Traviata at the ENO in London.
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