[ELGAR & FRIENDS | Ensor festival]

Benjamin Haemhouts © Koen Broos

Benjamin Haemhouts conductor

La Mer: an endless source of inspiration for artists from Claude Debussy to Charles Trenet. It really doesn’t have to be the Côte d’Azur or the Mediterranean coasts. Ostend was Europe’s leading seaside town in the late 19th century. A place where you could enjoy sun, sea and beach. Where one could parade among the beau monde. Where you could simultaneously listen and be seen at the Kursaal’s renowned concerts and recitals. They had the very greatest conductors and composers on the rostrum and the largest stars in classical music were visiting… and one James Sidney Edouard Ensor was in the loyal audience. The quirky painter was a loyal guest at the Théâtre Royale d’Ostende.

Over three days, we revive the glory days of yesteryear, with the native of Ostend as guide and signpost. There is a whole year’s worth of events coming up: Kurt Van Eeghem launches a new book on the period, fine musical moments are planned at the Ensor church and Casco Phil briefly becomes the famous Kursaalorkest, the orchestra of the Kursaal. We zoom in on three aspects of these miracle years in as many concerts.

We dedicate a first evening to the composers who came to conduct their own works at the Kursaal. Thanks in part to the British high society that in large numbers took the waters in Ostend, Edward Elgar became a phenomenon in the seaside town. We combine his Cello Concerto with music by Camille Saint-Saëns (who was there twice) and numerous other works that refer to this glorious period.

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