Face of Flanders: Dirk Brossé


Composer and conductor Dirk Brossé took to the stage of the most prestigious concert hall in the US last week

"A dream come true"

It’s not often that a Belgian artist gets to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York: Only Jacques Brel, Toots Thielemans and Rocco Granata have done so previously. So it’s not surprising that the event was announced on Twitter by Flemish minister-president Geert Bourgeois himself: Composer and conductor Dirk Brossé last week took to the stage of the prestigious venue for the American premiere of Black, White and In Between, a work for violin.

Brossé was invited to Carnegie Hall by Salvatore Di Vittorio, the music director of the Chamber Orchestra of New York. Black, melancholy and dramatic by turns, is usually programmed with piano accompaniment, but for this occasion solo violinist Irene Abrigo was accompanied by the full orchestra. It’s a setting Brossé knows all too well: He is the musical director of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia.

Brossé, 56, was born in Ghent and studied trumpet and piano at the local conservatory. He went on to study counterpoint and fugue in Brussels and later conducted in Maastricht, Nice and Vienna, as well as composition under no lesser figure than Leonard Bernstein.

As musician and conductor, Brossé has stood on the stages of top concert halls across the world. Here at home, he’s the musical director of the Ghent Film Festival and house conductor for the World Soundtrack Awards. He also composed the music for Flemish films Koko Flanel and Daens and the First World War TV series Parade’s End, as well as for stage musicals Sacco & Vanzetti, ’14-’18 and Kuifje: De Zonnetempel.

And, remaining close to his roots (his first trumpet teacher Georges Vanhoute was a trombonist with the Belgian Guides brass), he has also composed a long list of works for brass band.

“Fantastic. It’s a boyhood dream come true,” he told VRT as he stepped out of a yellow cab to enter Carnegie Hall last Thursday. “This is the most prestigious concert hall in the US, maybe even the world.”

Brossé was knighted in 2013 and awarded the medal of honour from the Flemish parliament in 2014 for his services to music. He is married to Claire Tillekaerts, CEO of Flanders Investment & Trade.

Photo courtesy dirkbrosse.be