Oltremontano Antwerpen

The wind ensemble Oltremontano Antwerpen studies the history of wind instruments and brings forgotten musical heritage to life. It recently created a soundtrack for Hans Memling’s triptych God the Father with Singing and Music-making Angels, which included reconstructing the depicted instruments. Wim Becu explains how the idea came about.

  • Historical wind ensemble from Antwerp
  • Musical director Wim Becu
  • Plays music from the Renaissance to the 17th century
  • Tracks down forgotten musical heritage
  • Played many concerts in Europe and in the US, recorded more than 15 CDs


Discovering Memling

‘My earliest memories of the KMSKA go back to my childhood. I always found it an impressive building, with a beautiful entrance lobby and large, stately galleries. I can still remember visiting the old masters with the family when I was a kid. I came back when I was at secondary school, armed with a handout of questions to fill in and tasks to complete. I was already passionate about early music, so all my attention was focused on Hans Memling’s huge altarpiece, God the Father with Singing and Music-making Angels.’

City of Culture

Those big posters in 1993 when Antwerp was European Capital of Culture with questions like: “Can art save the world?”. They resonated with me for a long time and got me thinking. It gave me the idea of looking at works of art from the collection for longer and from different angles. The KMSKA was all in favour, which is how the Artist in Residence thing came about!’

New sonic world

‘My great dream was to add a new dimension to Memling’s altarpiece. To allow the work literally to resound. We felt privileged to get so close to the original painting. It meant we could study the meticulous depiction of the instruments in immense detail and then reconstruct them as accurately as possible. The moment we were first able to try out the music on the newly rebuilt instruments was truly special. Our musicians had to learn new playing techniques to rediscover that sonic world.’

Creative milestone

‘A major creative milestone, of course, was the Memling project. That’s how our Paradisi Porte project came about. A series of essays have been published on it in the Brepols book Harmony in Bright Colours. The reopening of the KMSKA will obviously be another milestone. But I can’t give anything away about that! Let’s just say it will be yet another reason to visit the refurbished museum!’