It was nice to have as last concert of the day, a performance by Mr. Belogurov. He may nearly be dubbed “an old hand”. He regularly performs in the Netherlands and it was not the first time I had the good fortune, to hear him at the Utrecht Early Music Festival.
As usual, I had planned to obtain tickets for a fringe concert at a small venue. Concerto Valiante was going to perform at the period house Huize Molenaar. As had been the case on several days of this Early Music Festival 2016, the fringe ticket boot had opened at 09:00 and within 30 minutes, all tickets for the Concerto Valiante fringe concert had evaporated – while plenty people interested in this particular concert were still on their way to Utrecht.
The two volunteers welcoming everybody at RASA told us we were not going to hear the fringe concert for which we had come. The duo Double Entendre had had to cancel at the last moment, due to sad family circumstances. So there was not going to be a concert with two harpsichords and works by Vivaldi, Mozart, le Roux .
They were having fun. The audience was having fun. What more is needed for an enjoyable concert? The venue was the large concert hall of Tivoli-Vredenburg and its sound-system did not play up. So like last year, the duo Ranganathan – Fernández gave an enjoyable concert.
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.
About ten friends decided to join me and attend another literary salon at the small Branoul theatre. Though not all these recitals are in English, Leonard Cohen’s poetry was of course not read in translation.
At first, I hadn’t been that enthusiastic. I’m no great fan of modern or contemporary poetry. I only knew a few of Leonard Cohan’s world-famous songs, like “Suzanne”.
On the other hand, I’ve grown fond of these literary events and especially of the NEUE. So our bunch met under the porch with me still kind of moping and not sure, this event would go down well with the group. A few arrived early, a few late – so we managed to spread out over three different rows in this intimate theatre.
Of course, I’d worried for naught. In fact, a few of us were so bowled over, they couldn’t thank Branoul staff enough. I have to admit that this evening was quite an impressive mix of excellent poems and music.
The selected music kind of mirrored phases in Leonard Cohen’s life. What worked extremely well, or at least according to us, was the excellent guitar performance by mr Kellerman in combination with the violin players ms Ovcharova and mr Stam of the NEUE. I especially loved the Danza Ritual del Fuego. Others preferred the Mozart Adagio from KV423. A few voted Toru Takemitsu’s “The International” the most unusual and impressive musical piece of this evening.
As for the selected Leonard Cohen poems, recited by Graham Flett … At times, the complete audience was sniggering, or laughing. Then there were moving and very touching moments. It was difficult to decide which poem was the best piece and best rendered.
A friend I met at the theatre, who got to know these recitals through an earlier visit I had organised, had taken along colleagues. After the event, our groups mixed and mingled. She mentioned she’d noticed a book of poems by Leonard Cohen lying somewhere on a table.
But as the corridor is small and people were having a drink, while discussing the evening’s performance, I decided any book could wait. This recital had completely won me over and I was interested in reading more poems by Leonard Cohen, but I could check the web later for anthologies.
Of the recited poems, a few can be found on the UK Telegraph website. The complete list of this evening:
The Party was over then too
If you knew
Who do you really remember
First of all
Disturbed this morning
How could I have doubted
On the path
A life of errands
Report to R.S.B.
His Master’s Voice
You’d sing too
Duskos Taverna 1967
Looking through my dreams
The NEUE had selected Maurice Ravel’s Sonatine and Kaddish, Toru Takemitsu’s The International and Equinox, Manuel da Falla’s Danza Ritual del Fuego and Cancion, Joseph Achron’s Improvisation opus 65, Mozart’s Adagio from KV 423 to accompany this recital.
The Kloosterkerk was quite full. It is the only remnant left of what was once a fourteenth century cloister (Dutch klooster) built with money provided by Margareth of Cleve, wife of the then Bavarian count who owned The Hague. The cloister church regularly hosts short lunch concerts with a focus on early music.
Word must have gone round that today’s concert would be special. The ensemble “Symphonie Atlantique” from The Hague were going to perform. They are not just any early music group. The musicians play on replicas of or actual period instruments. Members research playing and performance techniques, as well as notation of the 19th century. Earlier this year, they performed in a rendering of a Gluck opera in the old library of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. In 2015, they will participate in a pioneering performance of Handel’s Giulio Cesare in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw.
So it goes without saying, that a short lunch concert by such an important ensemble is a real treat and draws a large crowd. After a short introduction to the three composers and the selected pieces, the Symphonie Atlantique started their concert.
One of my guests was impressed by the number of musicians on stage for Louis Spohr’s Nonet. Of this piece, the allegro and finale were performed. It was followed by the Rondo Allegretto from Mozart’s Symphony Concertante KV 452. The concert concluded with the Adagio and Andante from von Beethoven’s Septet Opus 20.
All pieces were of course brilliantly and perfectly performed. I would have loved to have used the opportunity to ask the musicians about the playing techniques they are researching and the role of the concertmaster. Before the concert started, the audience had specifically been invited to meet the musicians after their concert to ask them questions. It is always so nice that musicians are willing to make time for their audience and not trot off and disappear the moment the applause stops.
But as I feared none of my guests would be fascinated by early music technicalities or even the instruments, I reluctantly left the church with my friends in search of a café.
If you are in Amsterdam on Sunday the 12th of April 2015, Händel’s Gulio Cesare will be performed in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw from 13:15. Tickets start at 35 Euro.
Kloosterkerk The Hague, Wednesday 15th October 2014, concert Symphonie Atlantique:
Spohr Nonet Op 31
W.A. Mozart Symphony Concertante arr KV 452
L. von Beethoven Septet Op 20