Laus Polyphoniae

Laus Polyphoniae 2019: 16 - 25 augustus


Mary of Burgundy was one of the most powerful women in Western Europe in the late Middle Ages. When the duchess came to power in the Netherlands in 1477, at the age of 20, she did not face an easy task. Her warmongering father Charles the Bold had left her with an empty state treasury, hostile neighbouring countries and domestic revolts. Thanks to her diplomatic approach, the young woman succeeded in calming the situation, in Flanders at least. Her position made her the most sought-after bride in Europe. Various candidates were eager for the chance to marry her, and ultimately Maximilian of Austria had the honour. Their marriage linked the House of Burgundy to that of the powerful Habsburgs. Sadly, Mary’s fate was not a happy one. She died in 1482 after an unfortunate fall from her horse whilst out hunting with her falcon. She was only 25 years old.

The 26th edition of Laus Polyphoniae explores the flourishing cultural scene in the time of Mary of Burgundy. Her favourite city, Bruges, was not just an economic hub, but an artistic centre as well. So it is particularly fitting for Sollazzo Ensemble to open the festival with a concert dedicated to three key moments in Mary’s life. In turn, the Belgian ClubMediéval has drawn inspiration from a portrait that the artist Hans Memling painted of the singer and composer Gilles Joye. Memling’s studio was in Bruges, where he worked on panels that became famous under the name Christ with Singing and Music-Making Angels. These panels now take pride of place at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp. In partnership with the museum, Oltremontano has reconstructed the instruments depicted on the panels. They will be presented to the public for the first time during Laus Polyphoniae.

The summer festival will feature both secular and religious music performed by ensembles from Belgium and abroad, including Stile Antico, Ensemble Leones, Comet Musicke, Utopia and Huelgas Ensemble. A striking feature of religious life in Mary of Burgundy’s time was the ‘Golden Masses’, sung to celebrate the Annunciation. Three different ensembles will proclaim the joyful news on three successive days, with works by Guillaume Du Fay (Cappella Pratensis), Johannes Ockeghem (Cappella Mariana) and Johannes Regis (Stile Antico). The renowned musicologist Jennifer Bloxam will discuss her research into this fascinating form of Marian devotion.

However the late Middle Ages also suffered their share of poverty, misery and disease. The singers of graindelavoix will banish the demons that bring suffering and sorrow in a concert dedicated to St. Anthony.

And what was going on beyond the borders of the Burgundian Empire? Micrologus takes us to Italy, where the Florentine preacher Girolamo Savonarola was beginning to disseminate his ideas. The Binchois Consort brings us the best of English music and Ratas del Viejo Mundo travels even further, into the uncharted territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

Besides the dozens of concerts with musicians who have already earned their spurs, Laus Polyphoniae welcomes upcoming talent to the stage every year in the form of the highly praised IYAP walks. Educational activities for people of all ages offer more insight into Mary of Burgundy’s world, such as the Musica music holiday, the summer school for advanced musicians and the lectures in partnership with the Davidsfonds.

Once again, Antwerp is the meeting place this summer for everyone who loves polyphony, performed in the city’s most beautiful venues: AMUZ, the historic churches in the city centre and the Rubens House. We look forward to seeing you!

 In 2014 the Klara award was presented to AMUZ for the Laus Polyphoniae | Elisabeth I festival, in 2015 Laus Polyphoniae has been awarded the EFFE label for 2015-2016 by the international EFFE (Europe for Festivals, Festivals for Europe) jury, in April 2017 with the EFFE-label 2017-2018 and in February 2019 with the the EFFE-label 2019-2020.