Second edition Antwerp Spring Festival brings spring-fresh classical music and more

24 March 2023

Antwerp celebrates spring from 14 to 21 May at Antwerp Spring Festival. In the unique architectural setting of the Handelsbeurs, audiences can enjoy the best of classical music, the finest of international contemporary dance and today's fado star, each with a modern and innovative touch. After the resounding success of the first edition, the Antwerp Spring Festival is here again this year with even more concerts for everyone who loves classical music with a spring-fresh edge.

Antwerp has always been a vibrant cultural hotspot, but for the past year the port city has added its own classical music festival: the Antwerp Spring Festival. “Classical” should be understood broadly here; the programme features fado alongside Mahler symphonic works and a jazz pianist performs a surprising piano concerto. Classical with a twist, in other words. "This is not surprising because innovation is part of the city's DNA," says artistic director Benjamin Haemhouts, who ensures that modern and original elements are always present. Particular attention is paid to new work and emerging talent. Antwerp Spring Festival is not tied to any particular genre or era and therefore aims to complement existing traditional offerings. After a successful kick-off in 2022, the course will continue in Antwerp's fairy-tale Handelsbeurs and the number of concerts will be further expanded. Clara Cleymans will host this edition and provides explanations and accompaniment for each concert.

The festival opens festively on Sunday 14 May with The Sinatra Concerto for orchestra and piano by Jef Neve. Day to day 25 years after 'The Voice' Frank Sinatra died, this world creation, for which Sinatra songs are the starting point, sees the light of day. Neve himself takes his place behind the piano and performs his new work together with Casco Phil, conducted by Benjamin Haemhouts. Next up is Simon Van Hoecke for Dmitri Shostakovich's Concerto for piano and trumpet.

Just as much innovation but a lot more stillness can be found on Monday 15 May during The Four Seasons Recomposed. The Bruges string orchestra BRYGGEN, conducted by Jolente De Maeyer and together with up-and-coming violin talent Emmanuel Coppey, performs a subdued, meditative concert starring Vivaldi's Four Seasons. For the occasion, the famous violin concerto wears composer Max Richter's minimalist jacket, titled The New Four Seasons - Vivaldi Recomposed. The masterpiece is accompanied by Company by Philip Glass and Summa by Arvo Pärt.

Marco Rodrigues also knows how to link tradition and innovation like no other. On Tuesday 16 May, today's fado sensation will perform traditional fado songs and his own songs with his enchanting voice, pumping new life into a musical practice dominated by female vocalists. For his passage at Antwerp Spring Festival, he invites up-and-coming talent as mystery guest.

After the choreographic part of the festival was enthusiastically received during the first edition, a dance double bill is now planned with no less than two premieres in one evening. On Wednesday 17 May, Panamanian dance company COCO (COMPAÑIA DE DANZA CONTEMPORÁEA DE PANAMA) dances Ash (short for Ashly), a quiet but haunting choreography by Marlyn Attiethat that explores the borderland between life and eternal rest. Afterwards, the company performs 55, in which 5 dancers explore the meaning of identity and the essence of being human.

The festival closes on Sunday 21 May with Gustav Mahler's masterly Fourth Symphony, a work brimming with emotion and romance. And who better to interpret this passion than the Symphonic Orchestra Opera Ballet Vlaanderen conducted by Alejo Pérez?

In short, Antwerp Spring Festival promises to be a spring festival of stature with an unforgettable programme that shifts between breathtaking stillness and exuberant ecstasy.

Full programme and tickets: