Have I mentioned that it is the 175th anniversary of the foundation of the Belgian state? To celebrate this, let me tell you a little anecdote which gives a flavour of life among the linguistically fractious Belgians. During the week I met my friend the orchestra director for lunch. She used to do policing in Albania but she turned to orchestra directing when work there dried up – now there’s a woman with a second string to her bow (no pun intended, she plays the French horn, since you ask).
Anyhow, her orchestra has been doing a bit of work for the conservatoire – helping them out with their conducting exams. The session is run like a real rehearsal and the student conducts, stops, offers advice and suggestions and conducts some more. The conservatoire used to use the Belgian National Orchestra for this important work but they found my friend’s orchestra more satisfactory. Picture the following scene, if you will. Nervous student conducts BNO. Pauses and makes comments on playing. Trumpeter raises his hand and asks coldly “Can you repeat that in Flemish please?” You can see why the poor students might be put off.