Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam

Erna Hennicot-Schoepges

 

Essays

An De Bisschop

Amparo Serrano de Haro

Dave Sinardet

Erna Hennicot-Schoepges

Lasha Bugadze

 

Erna HENNICOT SCHOEPGES

Erna HENNICOT SCHOEPGES was born in Luxemburg. She started her piano studies at the age of 6 in Dudelange. André Dumortier was her piano teacher at the Brussels Conservatory, Walter Klien in Salzburg and Magda Tagliaferro in Paris.

When she was appointed piano teacher at the Conservatory of the city of Luxemburg she started her carreer as a politician. As a MP from Luxemburg she was member of the Council of Europe and in 1989 she was elected president of the Luxemburg Parliament. In 1995 she was minister of Culture and Education. During her political carreer the cultural infrastructure was increased in quality and quantity with la Philharmonie, la Rockhal, Le Centre Neïmenster, le Mudam and others. In 2003 she signed the bill creating the first University in Luxemburg.

In 2004 Erna Hennicot became Member of the European Parliament. She had an important responsabilty in 2008, the Year of the intercultural dialogue. Nowadays she is member of the board of de universities of Luxemburg, Sibiu and the Sacred Heart University and the Miami University. Erna Hennicot Schoepges lives and works in Luxemburg.

Alle Menschen werden Brüder

Erna Hennicot-Schoepges
Erna Hennicot-Schoepges

 

The RCO, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, has embarked on a visionary project to play concerts in all the Member States of the European Union over the next three years.

It is a good moment, therefore, to offer some thoughts on European music, whose heritage stretches back to ancient times, and above all on the symphony orchestra and its role in society. 

The beginnings 

Sound was Neanderthal man's first means of communication. A team of archaeologists has discovered that, 2 million years ago, the hominids communicated by emitting sounds. The first musical instrument, a flute made from swan bones, dates from 35 000 years ago. Foetuses already have a sense of hearing, one which has not yet been subjected to the aural assault of modern life. Even before they are born, babies can distinguish sounds and recognise the comforting voice of their mother. A baby first interacts with others by listening and vocalising. Education systems make too little use of the abilities of a well-trained, attentive ear. We also learn languages by listening - before we have any grasp of grammar, the brain memorises words. Hearing problems are becoming one of the defining ailments of our age, as young people become deaf before their time as a result of constant exposure to over-amplified music and loud noises.

Recent research has shown that studying music alters the structure of the brain and the way it functions.

Anthropological phenomenon 

Music and sounds are anthropological phenomena, fundamental to our biology, our nervous system, our ability to experience emotions. A comparative study of two primary school classes carried out by Hans Günther Bastian over six years (1992 to 1998) in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin demonstrated the influence which making music can have on children's behaviour. The children who played an instrument together every day differed in terms of their cognitive abilities and behaviour from those who had only one hour of musical education each week: the 'budding musicians' scored better marks, were less aggressive towards other children and were more disciplined in general. Despite these positive results, however, the project remained a one-off experiment.

The history of music in ancient times...

goes back more than 5000 years. Representations of five- and seven-stringed instruments have been discovered in the region between China and Babylon (modern-day Iran and Iraq). Greek mythology presents musical instruments as gifts from the Gods: Hermes, the messenger, for the lyre, Athena for the trumpet, Pan for the flute which bears his name to this day. The Greek philosopher Plato had already expounded the theory that music has a bearing on human behaviour. He postulated that music, based on seven scales and divided into tones and semi-tones and different modes, affects people's moods. Plato, the philosopher, and Pythagoras, the mathematician, saw the teaching of music as one of the best ways of cultivating intelligence.

Religious culture

was fostered in the sixth century by Pope Gregory, through the chant to which he gave his name, and the musical notation invented following the work of Guido d'Arezzo around 1100 laid the foundations for works bequeathed to us by the monks in their cloisters. The Echternach antiphonary is a remarkable example of just such a work.

Johann Sebastian Bach left behind an extraordinary body of music, genuine masterworks, composed for the liturgical calendar. Today, even atheists sing God's praises in Bach's Passions. The troubadours played music in castles,

the first love songs were written, musicians travelled around, inventing new forms, choral singing, opera, ballet and baroque music. 

The symphony orchestra ...

which grew out of baroque groups and was developed by composers in subsequent centuries, made its appearance in palaces and concert halls. Is there any need to cite the names of Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms and all the others to demonstrate that the orchestra is a European invention? Today, as a symbol of globalised culture without borders, which brings together musicians of all nationalities, men and women, the orchestra interprets these composers' messages.

Alle Menschen werden Brüder

Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, the theme of the fourth movement of which has become the European anthem, reflects the desire of the peoples of Europe for peace, as expressed by the German poet Friedrich Schiller in 1785 in his Ode to Joy. Beethoven first had the idea of setting this text, which became his political manifesto, to music in 1792. In composing this plea for friendship and cooperation between peoples, in the wake of the Thirty Years War, the Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna, which in 1815 drew the borders of the nation states, Beethoven broke with the tradition of the classical symphony. He composed the last movement as a heartfelt appeal for unity among peoples, putting the choir and soloists together with the orchestra. Performed for the first time on 7 May 1824, at the Theater an der Wien, his political appeal went unheeded at the time. The old forces in the nation states reasserted themselves in the aftermath of fratricidal wars to do battle against one another again one century later.

A Union without brotherhood

The European Union, a response to the suffering caused by the Second World War, has for 70 years been the guarantor of peace among the peoples on our continent.

The Ode to Joy remains its watchword, even though that piece's adoption as the 'supranational' anthem for a new era has not been matched by agreement on a common constitution. Born out of a shared need for economic cooperation, the EU is keen to promote culture, but also keen to safeguard national cultural identities - common projects which are developed from national proposals are supported from the common budget.

No joint projects, therefore, except perhaps the selection of ... three European Capitals of Culture, which are now chosen by means of national (!) competitions supervised by a 'European' panel of experts. The RCO project comes at a time when the European Youth Orchestra, a British initiative supported by the European Parliament in its resolution of 8 March 1976, has been facing a struggle to survive. On 1 June, in response to letters and petitions and a heartfelt appeal from Simon Rattle, the President of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, announced that the European Youth Orchestra had been saved. Its survival is not guaranteed, however: a pilot project will provide funding for one year and after 2017 it remains to be seen what will happen.

The symbolic importance of the message the RCO has sent by inviting young musicians to share the stage with it, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra is showing the way. If we want a united Europe, peace between peoples, we have to commit ourselves to bringing it about, not just talking about it!

Music teaches us how to live together

Orchestras play together under a single leader, after each musician has prepared assiduously; the music they play demonstrates the power of a shared endeavour, the deep satisfaction which comes of having an important task to carry out. Unfortunately, many listeners simply do not understand just how many years of unrelenting work and discipline go into making an orchestral musician. The fact that musicians 'play' gives the impression that everything is easy, that they have an innate gift, whereas in fact talent in itself is no guarantee of excellence. Musical education, which has been a fundamental part of general education since Bach's time and well before, is increasingly seen as an optional extra in schools. What profession would playing a musical instrument or singing prepare a child for? Ignoring factors such as personal and emotional development and the ability to listen is to categorise young people solely on the basis of their employability, at a time when no-one knows what the world of work will look like in 10 years' time. What is certain is that a rigorous approach to work, discipline and emotional intelligence will be the most sought-after qualities - or qualifications(?). And all this can be learnt by playing an instrument or singing. An orchestra is also a celebration of living together. Despite differences of nationality and culture, musicians must respond to what their neighbours are doing, catch every nuance of what is being said and played and concentrate intensively for long periods. Following the baton of a single conductor, they achieve perfection together.

The project to invite a number of young essay writers to RCO's home town at the end of the tourcan perhaps be said to symbolise this new Union, which must safeguard its values and its culture by combining the efforts of all persons of good will. Let us hope that, when the RCO completes its project in 2018, it does so against the backdrop of a stronger, forward-looking EU!