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Bernard Foccroulle was born in Liège (Belgium) in 1953. He began his international career as an organist in the mid-70s, playing a wide range of repertoire from Renaissance to Contemporary Music. He has performed several dozen world premieres by Philippe Boesmans, Brian Ferneyhough, Betsy Jolas, Xavier Darasse, Jonathan Harvey and Pascal Dusapin, among others. He is also considered a specialist of the Northern German School, interpreting works by composers such as Scheidemann, Buxtehude, Tunder, Weckmann, Böhm, Reincken and Bruhns.
His discography as a soloist includes more than forty CDs. In November 2006, his recording of Dietrich Buxtehude’s complete organ works was released on the Ricercar label, winning the Diapason d’Or and the Grand Prix de l'Académie Charles Cros among other prizes in 2007. Between 1982 and 1997, he recorded the complete organ works of Johann Sebastian Bach for Ricercar. For these recordings, which were awarded a Diapason d'Or in 2009, he carefully chose the most beautifully preserved historic instruments. His recording of the complete works of Matthias Weckmann was released in 2014 on the same label. In demand as an international soloist, last season he inaugurated the new organ of the Paris Philharmonie together with other prominent organists.
An important aspect of Bernard Foccroulle’s work is the combination of music with other art forms. In March 2014 an ambitious project in collaboration with the Australian video artist Lynette Wallworth was premiered at the Klarafestival in Brussels, entitled Darkness and Light. This international coproduction was shown in London, Aix-en-Provence, Luxembourg, Sydney, Hamburg and Japan to critical acclaim. Further performances will take place in Stavanger in autumn 2016, as well as in New York and Oslo in the coming years. In 2008, he gave the premiere performance of a project in collaboration with the Catalonian choreographer and dancer Salva Sanchis in Toulouse. He regularly performs with the Palestinian oud performer and composer Moneim Adwan. Together with his daughter, soprano Alice Foccroulle, and Moneim Adwan, he will present a trio programme in 2017 at the Cologne Philharmonie and in 2018 at the Heidelberg Spring Festival, performing Arabic and European music from the Baroque to the present. In May 2017, he can be heard at the Mozarteum in Salzburg with the cornet virtuoso Jean Tubéry.
As a composer, Bernard Foccroulle has written works for organ and chamber ensembles. In June 2007, his lieder cycle Am Rande der Nacht (after Rainer Maria Rilke) for soprano, choir and orchestra was premiered at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. In autumn 2014, a recording of his original organ works was released on Aeon.
In the 1980s, he was a member of the Ricercar Consort, an ensemble devoted mainly to German baroque music. While continuing his career as an organist, he became director of the Brussels opera La Monnaie in 1992, holding this position until 2007. Bernard Foccroulle has been Artistic Director of the Festival Aix-en-Provence since 2007.
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Foccroulle more than deserved the privilege of presenting such a homogeneous programme. (…) The melody of a Lutheran choir, which Foccroulle consistently highlighted, conceals itself in the preludes, (…) he performed as if he was playing the Silbermann organ in Freiberg Cathedral, one of Johann Sebastian Bach’s preferred organ makers. It was unbelievable how he played as if his hands and feet moved independently, he performed real miracles that one could follow on the screen underneath the organ.
EL PAIS, Luis Gago, 01/03/2015 –Concert at Auditorio Nacional, Madrid
Darkness and Light is an artistic meeting of opposites in every sense. Sound and vision, black and white, life and death, movement and stasis, flood and drought, hopes and fears…(…) give yourself to these two artists and your attention will be held for an unbroken 70 minutes – and it’s not that often one can say that.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE, Clive Paget, 10/01/2015 – about the performance of Darkness and Light in Sydney
Bernard Foccroulle, who is also the director of the Festival International de musique et d'Art Lyrique d'Aix-en-Provence, is a man with multiple lives since he is also one of the best organists in the world and one of the recognised specialists of Johann Sebastian Bach. (…) He performs works for organ masterfully, the instrument on which he excels. (…) This is without a doubt the most amazing performance at this Easter Festival, a real spectacle of the festival, a mystery which invites one to see, listen and… meditate.
DESTIMED, Michel Egea, 23/04/2014 – about the performance of Darkness and Light at the Festival de Pâques Aix-en-Provence
Dreams of darkness behind the mirror. – The video images were as majestic as the organ sounds. (...) Under, between and through the images you could feel a deep sense of wonder at the invisible laws that bind the cosmos. (...) The video images entered into an intuitive dialogue with Foccroulles organ sounds and this allowed for new listening experiences. In such collaborations, the visual part has often the upper hand, but this was clearly not the case here. (...) Also for those who shut their eyes it was a sublime experience. Foccroulle let the magnificent Grenzing organ resound with an unequalled richness of colours, which you could feel shimmering in your whole body. Whereas churches remain empty nowadays, for this concert the cathedral filled up completely. And rightly so, as these were sounds that left a profound impression (...).
DE STANDAARD, Annemarie Peeters, 19/03/2014 – about the World Premiere of Darkness and Light in Brussels
The organist is a mystery who reveals the secrets of his sometimes inaccessible universe.
LE SOIR, Serge Martin, 17/03/2014
Bernard Foccroulle, the excellent Belgian organist and renowned arts manager surprised his audience by suddenly placing Messiaen between Bach and Buxtehude. (…) In the Fantasy and Fuge g-minor BWV 542 he presented his deep understanding of polyphonic structure as well as his technical skills – both manual and pedal – in an overwhelming way. A unique concert in every respect.
DIARIO DE LAS PALMAS, November 2009 – Concert in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
An ecstasy of Baroque - the organ comes to life under the fingers of Bernard Foccroulle, who takes us with him on a fascinating voyage of initiation. On average, 650 listeners crowd into the nave of Brussels Cathedral for each concert in the cycle of Buxtehude's complete works. The sexton rings the bells. Silence spreads through the cathedral. And suddenly, soaring, comes the sound of the organ: wise, jolly, majestic and dizzying by turns.
LE SOIR, 8/5/2007 – about the recording ‘Dietrich Buxtehude. The Organ Works’