As it so happens, Monsieur Croche is Claude Debussy! Or at least Debussy’s nom de plume for when he wrote music critiques. We want to celebrate his life, his music and French music from his time. Our first edition took place in 2018 to mark the 100th anniversary of his passing. We will continue doing him homage in our own way by organizing a multi-event project that will bear his name, Monsieur Croche.
Monsieur Croche’s Series of Concert & Masterclasses has an easy concept: we organise concerts, each focusing on one influential French composer from the 19th and 20th centuries, each taking place in a unique location in Antwerp. And on top of that there are also masterclasses.
One of the most important figures in the development of French music was the composer Camille Saint-Saëns. Among his students was Gabriel Fauré, who together with Ravel praised him as a genius. He composed some of the most popular pieces in French music such as the Danse Macabre and The Carnival of the Animals.
Nevertheless, Saint-Saëns was not enthusiastic for modernism in music. He referred to Stravinsky as insane, to Debussy as cubist and to “Les Six” as lunatics. Holding these conservative views, Saint-Saëns was considered old fashioned, and lost his popularity within the Parisian musical scene of the early 20th century.
As probably the biggest rival of Monsieur Croche (Debussy), and one of the most influential French composers, we have decided to bring to you the music of controversial Camille Saint Saëns. Join us in the impressive Maagdenhuis and listen to the virtuoso Nuno Cernadas and Tal Walker on the piano, to the enchanting voice of soprano singer Ëloise Mabille and the hypnotic sound of the clarinet played by Veronika Giesen. Our concert will be guided by our devoted narrator Sam Verlinden.
Debussy was probably one of the most imaginative French composers of his time. His music is considered by later musicians and French composers, such as Messiaen and Boulez, as innovative, original and creative – as the awakening of modern music. His music is described often through light and colors, sometimes charming, mysterious, and other times as powerful as the forces of nature. Indeed Debussy was influenced by the elements of nature, but also other forms of art and literature, and by antiquity.
Towards the end of his life, Debussy’s health was declining, and he has developed a fierce rivalry with Camille Saint-Saëns. Under his Pen name “Monsieur Croche”, Debussy criticized in La Revue blanche Saint-Saëns as a musician and his compositions. Saint-Saëns himself condemned Debussy’s pieces: “It’s incredible, and the door of the Institut must at all costs be barred against a man capable of such atrocities.” Saint-Saëns had been a member of the Institut, he tried to prevent Debussy from becoming a member, and indeed Debussy never became one.
One of Debussy’s late pieces was his Études for piano (1915). Lesure, writing eighty years later rates them among Debussy’s greatest late works: “Behind a pedagogic exterior, these 12 pieces explore abstract intervals, or – in the last five – the sonorities and timbres peculiar to the piano.” During our concert, prize winning acclaimed French pianist Delphine Bardin will perform the integral of Debussy’s Etudes. Our other participants Misael Meija Rondo, Tal Walker (both pianists) and Veronika Giesen (clarinetist) will perform other imaginative pieces by the composer at the beautiful and inspiring art gallery Valerie Traan. Our devoted narrator Sam Verlinden will guide us through Debussy’s story and music.
During our masterclasses, young pianists are able to play in front of audience, providing them with an experience of live performance. Afterwards the artist/professor gives them a lesson in public and work with them on the performance of the piece. The main goal of the lesson is to communicate with the students on interpretative ideas, improve their playing technique and inspire them. During the masterclasses, the audience is in fact attending a lesson as “passive participants”.
How are these masterclasses different?
The students don’t pay! Monsieur Croche believes that young musicians should be given an opportunity to develop their talent based on their motivation, ambition and hard work and not based on their financial abilities. We are doing our utmost best to fund our project through different channels such as ticket sales, fundraising events etc.
Tal Walker is a concert pianist from Israel who performs internationally. He graduated with a master from the Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp with high distinction and continues to study at the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris – Alfred Cortot. He recently won the 3rd prize winner at the Osaka international music competition (Japan), and has been selected as artist in residency for Villa Lena in Toscany (Italy). Tal is Monsieur Croche’s artistic director and, lucky for us, he will perform in all of the concerts.
Gabriel Nahoum is a performing arts aficionado who works in technical production in the theatrical venue Les Halles de Schaerbeek (Brussels) and collaborates regularly with the performing arts company Loop-s (Belgium). He holds masters in Arts & Heritage (Maastricht University, Netherlands) and in Management (Edhec Business School, France). He has worked for various organisations such as Lille’s European Film Festival (France) and the Fashionclash Festival (Netherlands). Gabriel is Monsieur Croche’s producer and, as such, crunched all the numbers!