Early Music Festival Utrecht 2015 part 13: fabulous fringe

Fabulous fringe concert: Jean-Christophe Dijoux and English virginal and harpsichord music

After the first fringe concert of the day, it was back to Tivoli-Vredenburg and its great hall. A crowd was standing in front of the entrance. An even larger crowd was filing into the hall. There was to be another fabulous fringe concert. This time by musician Jean-Christophe Dijoux. The stage was held by two instruments, waiting for the concert to start.

So contrary to the earlier fabulous fringe concert, where there had been two harpsichords and two musicians, it was now a virginal and harpsichord with one musician. The reason mr Dijoux used two related but different instruments was, that he focussed on the differences, similarities, and developments of English keyboard music influenced by Italian music. A subject which tied in well with this festival’s theme.

He performed 16th century pieces by English composers on either the harpsichord or virginal, depending on what instrument was most suitable to the piece. The influence on the composer could of course be either through music brought to England, a journey to Italy, or in some cases: an emigration. For when Henry VIII divorced Catherine and married Anne, catholics started to find life in England less comfortable. Things did not improve till the 19th century, so settling in Rome became an option.

Grown wise from previous concert experiences in this immense hall, I now made sure I sat facing the stage, yet at such an angle that I could still see a bit of the keyboards. As for sound: both instruments had a lovely timbre. The problems with sound during a few earlier concerts were less noticeable. Both instruments sounded as good as the fortepiano used in the Tuesday fabulous fringe concert.

Mr Dijoux started with Giles Farnaby’s Lachrimae pavane and Fantasia in d on the harpsichord. This was followed by music by Thomas Morley. His Pavane en Galliarde was really nice. There was also the contrast with Farnaby’s Lachirmae pavane.

There followed Peter Philips’ Amarilli di Juli Romano. This was followed by a Toccata in C SwWv 282 by the Dutch composer and musician Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck. The musical keyboard journey ended with another Pavane lachrimae, as well as a Fantasia in A by William Byrd.

All in all, a very interesting concert illustrating differences and similarities between composers, influenced by different environments, using different instruments. It was also especially nice, that mr Dijoux had taken much trouble to investigate this theme which went so well with this festival’s focus on “England, my England”. Many fringe musicians seem not to have overly bothered tailoring the content of their concerts to this festival’s theme. Mr Dijoux showed just one of the many possibilities to play with, and the broad scope of the theme “England, my England”.

Mr Dijoux had taken much trouble and this is of course a characteristic of the true professional. Contrary to the smaller fringe venues, the large hall at Tivoli-Vredenburg does not foster a close contact between musicians, instruments, and public. In this concert hall, the public does not have a chance to ask musicians questions about chosen music, instruments, composers. In the case of mr Dijoux, this was a shame, for he not only gave a brilliant performance but also gave the strong impression of being willing and capable to interact with and instruct an interested lay-public.

Jean-Christopher Dijoux, from England and beyond, Tivoli-Vredenburg great hall, Utrecht, 3rd of September 2015
Jean-Christopher harpsichord and virginal

Youtube Jean-Christopher Dijoux “Essence de temps”

There are facsimili available of
My Ladye Nevells Booke
Fitzwilliam Virginal Book

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