The Centre for Future Orchestral Repertoire is set to create an extensive online database during 2014-15. This will stand as Cffor’s global platform for the Brussels Philharmonic’s ground-breaking enterprise, which is uniquely dedicated to promoting the finest 21st-century orchestral compositions to repertoire status. Cffor will gather key information about symphonic works created since 2000 and begin the great debate about those compositions most likely to endure for decades to come.
The Centre for Future Orchestral Repertoire will begin by gathering information on works premiered since January 2000 by professional symphonic ensembles of 60 players and above. Its findings will be published on Cffor’s website, complete with links to audio files, publishers’ and composers’ websites, and other background data.
“I will programme at least one 21st-century piece in each of my concerts with the Brussels Philharmonic,” says Stéphane Denève. “But always in conjunction with past repertoire: we won’t become a specialist modern music ensemble. The new repertoire needs to engage with and confront what is already there. No other symphonic orchestra, to my knowledge, has committed to programming the best music of today in every concert of its chief conductor. The Brussels Philharmonic will set out the works that could become the repertoire of the 21st century, which I believe is a very exciting and important project. We want to identify the pieces of today that orchestras want to play and audiences want to come and hear.”
For Stéphane Denève, the case for Cffor is compelling. He points to the standard orchestral repertoire and to its dependence on works written before 1970. “Every year I travel the world and notice that, while every orchestra has its own involvement with new music, it is almost always at the periphery of its work. I do not want orchestras to reduce their repertoire to a few ‘blockbusters’ from the past. Of course I want and will continue to perform the established repertoire of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. But all is a question of balance. Many of the world’s orchestras, in my view, follow an unhealthy repertoire diet: 21st-century music amounts to less than five percent of their activity. This is a worrying statistic! At the same time I notice how there is a lot of very good music being composed, music that I want to perform and that I believe audiences want to hear and hear again. And I believe that the Brussels Philharmonic and Cffor can help turn present dreams about a vital and living orchestral repertoire to future reality.”
Gunther Broucke, General Manager of the Brussels Philharmonic, points to Denève’s creative energy and strong personal commitment to the Brussels Philharmonic’s Cffor initiative. The orchestra, he observes, once played a part in bringing major works into the 20th-century canon, not least through its close and formative relations with composers such as Bartók, Stravinsky and Messiaen. “I am convinced that symphony orchestras, if they are to survive, need to be reinvented,” says Broucke. “Of course this must be done with the utmost respect for our particular identities and traditions as artistic institutions. But we will disappear if we only function as museums for past work. It was miraculous to meet a conductor who shares that belief and was ready to work here in Brussels to refresh the orchestral repertoire. Stéphane and I are both passionate about this mission and look forward to seeing what we can achieve with Cffor. Music of today and the search for new repertoire pieces will be at the heart of Stéphane’s work with the Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra.”