Fringe concert: Olga Witthauer’s “Retour á Paris”
From Utrecht’s Museum Catharijne Convent it is only a few steps to one of the most enchanting and fabulous gems, used to host fringe concerts: “Zuylenspiegel”. It is a period home with a fabulous and enchanting garden. It is not only used to host fringe concerts during the Early Music Festival. Its owner mentioned concerts are regularly hosted in one of the rooms on its ground floor.
This does not mean the garden is always open to the public. So it was a real treat, “Zuylenspiegel”s owner allowed the public of this concert to not only admire the few period rooms on the ground floor, but also the spectacular garden. Everybody certainly appreciated this very, very much.
As for ms Witthauer: she has performed at the Utrecht Early Music Festival before. So it was a treat to hear her again this year. Her performance was as delightful and impressive as the previous time she graced this festival. It was a bit of a disappointment, she did not give an introduction and some background information, before starting to play. .
Nevertheless, the concert was brilliant. As it took place in the usual ground floor period room at the back of the house, it is a very intimate setting. This works extremely well with instruments like lute, early violin, harpsichord, and the fortepiano.
Ms Witthauer played a fortepiano, but probably a late one. Or the acoustics and sound system at Tivoli-Vredenburg’s great hall must have really had tantrums during Tuesday’s fabulous fringe concert, when another fortepiano sounded truly muted. The fortepiano ms Witthauer used, certainly managed to produce a sound which was quite close to a modern concert piano and would have impressed Beethoven.
Ms Witthauer started her concert with Mozart’s variations on “Je suis Lindor” KV 354. A piece which certainly is technically challenging. It was followed by an impressively played Fantasia en Fuga in F Opus 55 by Jan Ladislav Dussek, which was another difficult piece to play. The concert ended with Jan Ladislav Dussek’s Sonata in C opus 35 – which ms Witthauer seemed to give her all.
Fortunately, this fortepiano was no feeble museum piece. Ms Witthauer played like a modern Beethoven, demanding a lot of the instrument. During the last two pieces, it regularly shook and trembled – but then: Dussek’s pieces are full of feeling; deep emotions and changing moods.
Both Mozart and Dussek were of course virtuosi and visited London. Dussek actually helped develop the fortepiano into our modern version, during his stay in England. Mozart and Dussek also visited Paris. Mozart performed at court, of course. Dussek was a favourite musician of Marie Antoinette, who herself was a talented harpist. As for the title of this concert: Dussek’s sonata op 64, C221 is called “Le Retour á Paris” – or return to Paris. Let’s hope ms Witthauer will continue to return to Utrecht each year.
All in all: a challenging concert brilliantly performed and a delight to listen to. The babbling fountains and lovely greenery in the garden helped the public slowly regain more earthly spheres.
Le retour á Paris, Zuylenspiegel, Utrecht, 3rd of September 2015
Olga Witthauer fortepiano