The origins of the Music Chapel rest on two strong personalities: Queen Elisabeth, a violinist keen to help young talent, and Eugène Ysaÿe, one of the greatest violinists and composers of his time. Both wanted to support emerging artists through a highly specialized school and an international competition. The competition has been known from the start and was to become the Queen Elisabeth Competition. The Music Chapel was inaugurated on 12 July 1939. It is known for teaching exceptionally talented young musicians. On that occasion, the famous critic of the day, Emile Vuillermoz, described the Music Chapel as a sort of “modern Villa Medici”.
The Music Chapel brings talented musicians from Belgium into contact with young musicians from around the world whilst strengthening these ties through various national and international institutions of the highest level. An offshoot of ideas about musical training initiated by Eugène Ysaÿe 20 years earlier, the Music Chapel was inaugurated on 12 July 1939 by Queen Elisabeth. After the Second World War, the Music Chapel resumed its role as an educational institution in 1956. Up to 2004, it welcomed a dozen young musicians and composers in residence, each supervised by a professor of their choice, for three-year cycles. Several generations of elite musicians were to stay in the Music Chapel, occupying an eminent place on stage or in higher education.
In 2004, the Music Chapel was thoroughly restructured. Its artistic training is based on three pillars:
Openness: though embedded in the Belgian landscape, the Music Chapel has an international vocation;
Flexibility: the Music Chapel tries to adapt to the profile of each young musician by offering a customized program (variable cycles of study carefully adapted to the actual needs of the most promising young and very young musicians);
Excellence: The Music Chapel offers its students the best educational environment with three Masters in Residence, surrounded by eminent colleagues:
- Augustin Dumay for violin, Louis Lortie for piano, Miguel da Silva for viola and Gary Hoffman for cello.
- A Voice Department, headed by José van Dam, and guest master Sophie Koch offers singers intensive training and concrete professional experience.
- In addition to the individual disciplines, the Music Chapel provides intensive training in chamber music under the direction of the Artemis Quartet.
Lastly, as part of its mission to supervise and support the students to the fullest, the Music Chapel organizes 250 concerts per year, both on the premises and at various music centers in cooperation with other cultural partners.