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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 dozens of world premieres of works by Philippe Boesmans, Brian Ferneyhough, Betsy Jolas, Xavier Darasse, Jonathan Harvey and Pascal Dusapin, among others. In the 1980s, he was a member of the Ricercar Consort, an ensemble devoted mainly to German baroque music. Since then, he has made his name as an organist as well as a composer and artistic director of major musical institutions.
Bernard Foccroulle’s discography as a soloist includes more than forty CDs. He has won various awards, including a Diapason d’Or for his recording of Dietrich Buxtehude’s complete organ works for the Ricercar label, and for the complete organ works of Johann Sebastian Bach, which he recorded on beautifully preserved historic instruments. In 2014 he released a recording of the complete works of Matthias Weckmann on Ricercar and an album of his own organ works on Aeon.
As a soloist, Bernard Foccroulle regularly appears worldwide at the major concert halls of Tokyo, Seoul, New York, Sydney, Madrid, Torino, Oslo, Brussels, Paris, Luxembourg, Salzburg, Cologne, and Hamburg. In 2016, he inaugurated the new organ of the Paris Philharmonie together with other prominent organists.
In addition to solo organ recitals, he regularly plays with cornetto players such as Jean Tubéry and Lambert Colson, as well as with singers such as Palestinian singer and ‘Ud player Moneim Adwan. Another important aspect of Bernard Foccroulle’s work is the combination of music with other art forms, for example his collaboration with choreographers Jan Fabre (Preparatio mortis) and Salva Sanchis. One of his most outstanding current projects is Darkness and Light, in collaboration with Australian video artist Lynette Wallworth.
While continuing his career as organist, he became director of the Brussels opera house La Monnaie in 1992, holding this position until 2007. In 1993, he founded the "Culture and Democracy" association, which seeks to broaden participation in cultural life. From 2007 to 2018 he was Artistic Director of the Festival of Aix-en-Provence. In 2017, he received the Leadership Award at the International Opera Awards in London.
As composer, Bernard Foccroulle has written works for soprano and orchestra (Am Rande der Nacht after Rilke), for baritone and chamber music ensemble (Due after De Luca…), for soprano, baritone and chamber music ensemble (E vidi quattro stelle after Dante’s Purgatorio), soprano and piano (Quatre mélodies d’après Verlaine). Zauberland, a song cycle for soprano and piano based on poems by Martin Crimp, premiered in April 2019 at the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris under the direction of Katie Mitchell. He has also composed a cycle of pieces for historic organs (CD AEON, Diapason d’Or 2016).
Bernard Foccroulle is the author of La naissance de l'individu dans l 'art (Grasset, 2003), written in collaboration with Robert Legros and Tzvetan Todorov. He has also published two other books, which are based on interviews: Entre passion et résistance (Labor, 2005) and Faire vivre l'opéra, un art qui donne sens au monde (Actes Sud, 2018).
He is Doctor Honoris Causa of Montréal University and Aix-Marseille Université, and has been Professor of Organ at the Conservatoire Royal de Musique in Brussels since 2010.
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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’