Salon Branoul: Anna Akhmatova, Prokofiev, Shostakovich

This time, it was not a hurricane which caused my bike to swerve (see: WWII poems.) In one of the small alleyways, two young men needed all the space it offered. The two musicians, instrument cases on their backs, staggered from left to right and back – not synchronously nor together. They were very the worse for drink. They were undoubtedly heading for their next party or pub. The evening had just started.

“I LLLLOOOOVE you!” cried one. Doubt he meant me and my bike. Though we managed to squeeze between him and his mate without hitting either. Suspect he addressed his mate and was counting the ways. His slurred declarations grew less distinct, as I peddled further down the medieval street.

At the end of it, I found a place to secure my bike and walked back to Branoul, a small Parisian-like theatre. The hallway after the ticket counter was already full of waiting people. It was impossible to move back or forth. Fortunately, five minutes later, the door opened.

Actress Lindertje Mans read poetry by Russian poetess Anna Akhmatova. Recitals of the selected poems were interspersed with music by contemporary Russian composers. Two members of the New European Ensemble started the evening with the introduction from Prokofiev‘s “Romeo and Julia”. More excerpts from “Romeo and Julia” followed.

The previous evening of music and poetry from the WWI-period had already been extremely moving. This performance was even more so. Anna Akhmatova’s poetry was at times quite upsetting, even in translation. The selected pieces from “Romeo and Julia” matched her poetry perfectly.

As the recital continued, Dimitri Sjostakovitch’ Sonata for violin and piano, Opus 147, echoed the intense desperation, suffering, and other emotions of Anna Akhmatova’s “Requiem” cycle. After this cycle’s last few poems, Sjostakovitch’s Adagio concluded the performance.

A Salon Branoul is “Pay what you want”. As the theatre is small, tickets for seats need to be booked in advance through the Branoul or NEUE website. Tickets are free. At the end of each Salon performance, a member of staff or one of the performers stands ready with a top-hat. The public can donate money in it. Like last time, the audience was generous.

At the impromptu table with drinks, I added my donation towards last time’s drink in the box. Then I slipped through the mix of actress, musicians, volunteers, staff, members of the public, towards the exit. After such haunting poems and impressive music, the quiet autumn night seemed the best companion to slowly adapt to ordinary life again.

In 2015, Salon Branoul continues with Dutch and English events. These are planned to take place each third Tuesday evening of the month. For up-to-date information about performances at the Branoul Theatre, check the Branoul website.
For information about the New European Ensemble’s performances: NEUE.
For poetry by and biographies of Anna Akhmatova try the Amazon website.