70-year-old conductor has no thought of retirement

Belgian conductor Philippe Herreweghe turned 70 this month.

After a life devoted to music, he says, for him, music is life.

“For me this is not work, it’s just life, my life is music so stopping with music would mean in a way dying, so I want to postpone it a little bit,” he says.

In 1970, Herreweghe founded Collegium Vocale Gent, and ensemble dedicated to early classical music.

This group pioneered playing classical music as it was performed when it was written—on older instruments and with smaller orchestras. Herreweghe focused on the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and other baroque composers.

He has since expanded beyond that steady diet of Bach.

“Bach is of course fantastic, perhaps like Shakespeare or Beethoven or others, but being an actor and only play Shakespeare would be a little bit difficult or impossible” Herreweghe said.

“Eating lobster everyday would be terrible, I think, and even Bach, you can’t play Bach all the time.”

Herreweghe moved on to explore Romantic and modern composers. These new influences have changed how he conducts his old favorites.

As he prepared to perform Bach’s Mass in B Minor in his home town of Ghent on  May 11, Herreweghe said his approach to the piece, which he conducted some 150 times and recorded three times, had changed over the years.

“My approach is changing again—more and more—and we play it now very differently than, let’s say, 40 years ago,” Herreweghe said.

“40 years ago, we played it very strict in the new baroque way and I’m changing again, so you can always discover things.”

Herreweghe’s schedule includes performances in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy. He has no plan to slow down.

“I’ll go on till I die, till I fall,” Herreweghe said.

“Some conductors die while conducting,  that is nice to die so.

 
 
 
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