The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (176): Angela’s my old Dutch

The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (176): Angela’s my old Dutch


norman lebrecht

September 07, 2020

It’s a milestone birthday for Romania’s finest, 55 today.

Did you know she sang Brel in both French and Dutch? One of my alltime favourite tracks.



  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    Brel was a very charismatic guy. His songs are not only best when he sang them, but watching him perform them to an audience is even more effective than just listening to him from studio recordings.

  • Distant Prommer says:

    Singing to Queen Beatrix.

  • Le Křenek du jour says:

    Listening to Angela Gheorghiu and Jeroen Willems side by side, interpreting Brel in French and in Dutch, I cannot help reflecting how much more adequate the Dutch ductus sounds, how much more germane the inflexions and the music. Without wanting to fuel the flames of yet another Wallon-Vlaams linguistic war, to my ear, the melody, indeed the entire phonology of Brel’s French, when sung, has a certain West Flemish ring to it, above and beyond the francophone Bruxellois. In Angela Gheorghiu’s impeccable operatic French, this layer is — inevitably — lost.
    Yes, Brel was that rare and now almost extinct species which extremists on both sides of the communal divide would want to expurgate from the cultural memory: ‘un Flamand francophone’.

    Poignant footnote: the video shows a notable figure in the audience, then-Queen Beatrix. She would have also been one of the guests of honor seven years later, at a gala in Amsterdam, equally featuring Jeroen Willems. But Willems suffered cardiac failure during rehearsals earlier that day and died hours later. The gala was cancelled. A random but tragic link with this reminder of Angela Gheorghiu’s birthday.

  • alan says:

    Romanians tend to be good linguists, so not surprised she takes this on. Thanks

  • with Jeroen Willems. Great actor and a good singer. Died only 50 years old

  • R. Brite says:

    This is one of Brel’s greatest songs, IMO – partly thanks to Gérard Jouannest, who co-composed it with Brel and whose piano work lent it such poignancy. His widow, Juliette Greco, recorded a cover of it.