Salon Libeer

A case for musical storytelling

Years of studying scales prepare you for many things, but being asked to present a TV show is not one of them. In 2016, Belgian TV channel Canvas approached me with a simple idea: three musicians sit in a studio, and talk about their most influential musical experiences – concerts, artists…

We called it Studio Flagey: eight Sunday evenings, two ever-changing colleagues and myself got all worked up about music we love. Sergio Tiempo came along, so did Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Pieter Wispelwey… Although it only ran for one season, it was great fun.

The show seemed to make a case for musical storytelling. Unsurprisingly so: enthusiasm is contagious, and if someone tells you what a piece means to him and why, it’ll intrigue you more than if it’s just thrown into your lap.

With musical storytelling in mind, the Bruges Concertgebouw and myself started a series called Salon Libeer: twice a season, I join a fellow musician and a speaker (philosopher, historian, author, you name it) in the chamber music hall. We try to explore, through music and conversation, a particular theme – Beethoven, the links between folk and art music, composing under Stalin… you name it. And we try to do it in such a way that our discussion actually enhances the audience’s musical experience.

‘Julien Libeer is convinced about “the transformative power of music for anyone willing to listen”. His engagement shows in this delightful, incredibly interesting and sometimes hilarious talkshow.’


Salon Libeer – 13 October 2017

From craftsman to genius: the transformation of the artist

Unlike Mozart 20 years earlier, Ludwig van Beethoven managed to make ends meet without any official position or patron. This freedom contributed to the idealised image of the artist as a brilliant independent creator – a theme that pianist Julien Libeer and cultural historian Tom Verschaffel examine closely. With the help of Lorenzo Gatto, Libeer illustrates this transformation by playing both Beethoven’s first violin sonata and his last.

Ludwig van Beethoven – Violin Sonatas Nos. 1 and 10

Lorenzo Gatto, violin
Julien Libeer, piano

Salon Libeer – 8 June 2018

Folk roots in the music of Bartók & Kodály

The debate about high and low art can sometimes get rather heated. In his second salon, Julien Libeer and philosopher Alicja Gescinska search for answers and nuances. And what music can better accompany their quest that of Béla Bartók? In Bartók’s work, the ‘high’ Viennese tradition goes hand in hand with the miniature works of art of ‘low’ folk music. And it’s precisely those multiple layers that make his music so fascinating. 

Béla Bartók –
Out of Doors, BB89
Suite op. 14
Extracts from Microcosm
Hungarian Folk Music (written down by Zoltán Kodály)
Gólya gólya gilice
Lence Borso Kasa
A Leyanika Szotalan
Furdo Utan
Mikor Mentem Misere
Ajde Jano

Singing Molenbeek, children’s choir
Alicja Gescinska, philosopher
Julien Libeer, piano

Salon Libeer – 1 December 2018

Camille Thomas plays Prokofiev and Shostakovich

Throughout their lives, Russian composers Shostakovich and Prokofiev both had to walk a tricky tightrope between their artistic freedom and the authoritarian Russian regime. Shostakovich became expert at writing music in which the watchdogs wouldn’t recognise the darker and sometimes bitter undertone. Completely exhausted by the constant threat and by constantly being called to account, Prokofiev even stopped composing. It was the young Mstislav Rostropovich who inspired him to compose his brilliant Cello Sonata. Material enough for a compelling conversation with the expert on the subject, Francis Maes.

Sergey Prokofiev – Cello Sonata in C, opus 119
Dmitry Shostakovich – Cello Sonata, opus 40

Camille Thomas, cello
Francis Maes, musicologist
Julien Libeer, piano

Salon Libeer – 20 March 2019

Satie & Messiaen

Music and mysticism, for Satie and Messiaen that is familiar territory. As official composer of the enigmatic French order of the Rosicrucians, Satie composed works he described as white and immobile, pale and sacred. What a contrast with Messiaen’s warm harmonies, which colour in life and death in Harawi. Julien Libeer unravels the mysterious alchemy of music and mysticism. 

Erik Satie – Selection from Le fils des étoiles
Olivier Messiaen – Selection from Harawi

Sarah Laulan, mezzo-soprano
Julien Libeer, piano