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Belgium celebrates 150 years since the birth of its illustrious son, violinist, composer, pedagogue and conductor this year.

The Royal Library of Belgium in Brussels commemorates this exceptional musician through four initiatives:

1. A temporary exhibition revealing a selection of scores, letters, photographs, and audio-visual files from its archives, as well as his instruments and other articles owned by him. Entry free

 2. A publication with illustrations, accompanied by an audio CD, charting his life and career.

3. An excellent online exhibition at http://ysaye.kbr.be. Do visit it. It is just as comprehensive as the actual exhibition, perhaps more so. There are audio clips and video clips on the website, and a wealth of information. The caveat that it isn’t in English; you have a choice of French or Dutch. 

(Incidentally this was also the case in the Musical Instruments Museum (http://www.mim.fgov.be/), just a stone’s throw away from the Library. At 5 Euros entry, you get access to the whole spectrum of musical instruments from around the world, from Jew’s harps to ancient viols to tam-tams to sitars, with audio guides playing excerpts from compositions featuring the instruments on display. Wonderful value for money; however the only concession to the English language is the provision of laminated pamphlets in English on each level, listing the composition excerpts you hear on your audio guides, and the names of the instruments. All other information in French or Dutch).     

4. A midday concert was held on 16 May, featuring works by Ysaÿe or dedicated to him (Eliot Lawson, violin; Jill Lawson, piano).

My wife and I stumbled upon the exhibiton quite by chance, on a short break to Brussels. Well worth a visit if you happen to be in Brussels this year. For the rest, the website is a very good alternative if you are interested in the life of this musician’s musician.