A riot of colours

2021 will be a year of celebration for Festival 20·21.

With a name derived from our very own Festival, what else could it be? Even more abundantly than in previous years, we will be bringing the sounds of the 20th and 21st centuries to Leuven’s concert spaces. Diverse and daring, full of conviction that our ears can handle more than the usual musical diet. 

The performers we work with are often from very close by. That’s not surprising, since Belgium is an incredibly fertile breeding ground for young musicians, who are enthusiastic about new music and are bubbling over with talent and vision.
This year’s concerts go in all directions, like fireworks: from New York to Paris and Vienna to Moscow. We’ll stay in Russia a bit longer. On the all-day mini-festival we’ll dive deep into the work of Dmitri Shostakovich, especially his later works: from the sometimes stark and terribly haunting songs and chamber music to his moving Symphony no. 14. He’ll have a presence in other concerts too. His  autobiographical Quartet no. 8 appears in a programme whose central composer is another Russian, Alfred Schnittke. And the performance of Honegger’s Symphonie Liturgique is only possible thanks to the wonderful transcription for two pianos that Shostakovich made of it . He’ll make a brief appearance in the ‘bells’ recital that Anthony Romaniuk put together for Festival 20·21. Quite a lot of Shostakovich then, not the all-determining theme, but rather an ever-present ‘red (!) thread’ connecting the jumble of other colours.
We look forward to welcoming you to Festival 20·21, and to celebrating the old classics and putting some new ones on the map together. The future of music is something we’ll have to do together, and with all our hearts!

Pieter Bergé

Live music in the age of technological reproduction

It’s striking how more and more performers and composers are embracing electronic and multimedia elements as natural ingredients of their music or performance practice. Exploratory talks about potential Transit concerts easily turn into discussions of more pragmatic questions, such as how much time they need to set up all the technical aspects and what kind of projector they want. 

The ubiquity of technology has rarely been more tangible than in the last year, when virtually no cultural experiences were possible without hi-tech means. All the good intentions of live streaming notwithstanding, there was still something missing – the intensity of the live experience.

Remarkably enough, this is still seen best in those contemporary works – and there are a lot of them in this year’s Transit – that feature a dialogue between live performers and electronic or multimedia elements that become their opponent or their extension. The virtual turns out not to be ideal for a computer screen, but to get its real power from a confrontation with living musicians and with the physical experience of being able to share that with an audience.

 The poetic electronic sounds of Osvaldo Coluccino need the pianistic finesse of Jan Michiels to really dazzle; the breath of Apsara’s recorder players is what breathes life into the electronics of Hanna Eimermacher; the sighing, creaking bellows of Andreas Borregaard’s accordion is a necessary counterpoint to the video images used by Simon Steen-Andersen, and Zwerm reminds us that the physical experience of sound should happen in the lively listening experience of an equally live audience.

Scale also plays a part: musicians of Nemø, who literally become a part of the projections; the massive energy in Chaya Czernowin’s music with the Riot Ensemble: it doesn’t work on a computer screen, but all the more so on (Transit‘s) stage.

Transit 2021 will not only be a festival edition full of discoveries (with Riot, Nemø, and Explore making their Transit debuts in addition to the numerous new composers) but hopefully, also one of the passionate rediscovery of the live concert experience.

 Maarten Beirens


The Flanders Festival in Flemish Brabant is a subsidiary of vzw Samenwerkende vereniging Festival van Vlaanderen. It was founded in 1995 under the leadership of the new province of Flemish Brabant, the city of Leuven, the KU Leuven and several corporations.

Profile 1995 - 2005

In the first few years in Leuven, the programme consisted of polyphony, 20th-century and classical/romantic music. This choice was motivated by the intention to give superb music ‘on the margins’ a more prominent place. In 2000 a festival for contemporary music called TRANSIT was started. In Flemish Brabant the classical concerts had a mixed programme inspired by the Leuven programmes.

Profile change 2006

In 2006 some drastic artistic choices were made. The concerts in Leuven would focus on music of the 20th (NOVECENTO) and 21st century (TRANSIT).

New name 2015

In 2015, the Flanders Festival in Flemish Brabant took on a new name: ‘Festival 20·21’. The focus will remain on the inexhaustible wealth of music of the 20th (Novecento) and 21st centuries (Transit).

More than ever Festival 20·21

From 2018, the festival’s name is simply Festival 20·21 – a festival that puts the repertoire of the not-so-distant past at centre stage, while looking forward fearlessly to what the musical future has in store. Transit will continue to play its very special role as a premiere festival for new music.

Festival 20·21 is a member of: 

  • Festival van Vlaanderen festival.be
  • European Festivals Association (EFA) efa-aef.eu
  • Sounds Now. A network of 9 European music festivals and cultural/music centers that promote contemporary music, experimental music and sound art  sounds-now.eu

Festival 20·21  with the support of: 

  • The Creative Europe programme of the European Union ec.europa.eu

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