Classical Music Review: a lovely viola da gamba concert!

I had done the unforgivable. I arrived late for a concert. I arrived while it had already started!

Fortunately, it was one of the many free classical music concerts organised throughout the country. Fortunately I knew, provided I’d do it quietly, I’d be able to sneak in. So I sneaked in – and was handed the program at the main entrance door. So much, for trying to sneak in undiscovered.

Ralph Rousseau Meulenbroeks had already started his viola da gamba concert. Actually, the sound of the instrument was so deep, that when I sneaked through the small hallway leading into the large church, I thought: “Hey? It’s not an organ concert is it?!”

The viola da gamba was very popular from the 16th century till the 18th century. Then this instrument which looks very much like an early cello, was forgotten. Thanks to the rediscovery of early music and the many Early Music Festivals which became popular from the second half of the 20th century, it has made a kind of come-back. If you read my  blog posts during the Utrecht Early Music Festival 2014, you know I kind of complained about too much viola da gamba music.

While I sneaked to my seat, mr Meulenbroeks was playing his second piece. He had selected music from the 16th right up to our century, to give a short introduction to the viola da gamba.

So I had missed Diego Ortiz‘ “Recercada”. I landed in my seat right in the middle of the Spanish sounding “Allegro” by Louis de Caix d’Hervelois.

The nice thing about mr Meulenbroeks is, that he is totally barmy about the viola da gamba and viola da gamba music. This ensured not only a beautiful selection of music crammed in just thirty to forty-five minutes the concerts last. It also ensured a brilliant rendering of this music and a very enthusiastic explanation of the instrument, history, and pieces. In short: how I prefer many Fringe Concerts or short lunch concerts to be.

From Johan Schenk‘s “Allemande“, the public was lead to Marin Marais “Le Badinage”. Marin Marais nearly seemed to be the focus of the Utrecht Early Music Festival 2014. I did grumble about this in my posts. However, mr Meulenbroeks rendering of “Le Badinage” beat all earlier interpretations I have heard so far.

Mr Meulenbroeks not only graduated “cum laude” from university and Conservatorium. He won many prizes and has many fans. Some of these fans are composers. So we were treated to a piece written especially for mr Meulenbroeks and his viola da gamba, by Dutch composer Daan Manneke. It was a “Tombeau” composed in 2010 and shows influences from Marin Marais’ music.

The last piece of this far too short concert was a Sonata by Karl Friedrich Abel. Mr Meulenbroeks specifically asked the audience to listen to the Fugue. It is the second part, after the Introduction. I liked the Introduction, but the Fugue sounded indeed as if several members of a choir were singing. The Adagio was of course quite serious and followed by a cute and playful Allegro. In short: an interesting composition well worth listening to, or having a look at.

I was really sorry this concert had finished but … Ralph Rousseau Meulenbroeks had a treat for you and me! The good news is, that his new CD “Confluentes” can be downloaded from YouTube for free! Interested in hearing how a viola da gamba sounds while being played by a master? Click here to find his website: Ralph Rousseau Meulenbroeks.

Was I glad I’d done the unforgivable and sneaked in – and so should you!

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