Utrecht Early Music Festival 2016 part 18: Duo Ranganathan – Fernández

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.

Continue reading

Utrecht Early Music Festival 2016 part 6: La Vaghezza

The last fringe concert of the day was certainly one totally in tune with the festival’s “Serenissima” or Venetian music theme. However, the mood outside the so-called “Polman’s Huis” was anything but serene. A very long queue had formed very early. It was sheer luck everybody was waiting in the shade, as it must have been one of the hottest summer days. A few men started to complain about needing a cool beer.

Continue reading

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!

Early Music Festival Utrecht 2014: part 19

Fabulous fringe concert: Duo Frey & la Rotta

CarlaAfter the delightful concert by Ensemble Afflato (see part 18), I walked back towards the Dom church. At Achter de Dom 6, a corner house, you will find Carla’s. A “Konditorei” where everything is made on the premises. If the weather is fine, there is nothing nicer than sitting on its terrace with a coffee or tea and a delicious cookie or slice of cake. Enter the café, and you are in what used to be the living and dining rooms of an ordinary house. It is all quite small but very cozy and full of bric-a-brac.

But I did not have time to sit down for a coffee and Jitterbug. I was on my way to the Grote Zaal at Tivoli-Vredenburg, for the fabulous fringe concert by the duo Frey & La Rotta. Thanks to their brilliant performance at last year’s Early Music Festival, they had won the Audience Fringe Award. This means among other things, that the musician or musicians are promoted from fringe artist(s) to fabulous fringe performers.

When I took my seat, I wondered if the theorbe’s sound would reach all the auditorium’s nooks and crannies. In the end, it turned out that both instruments, whether being played solo or together, could be heard very well. Also, the quite extensive explanations by Elinor Frey could be heard quite well. So I presume that the problems with the harpsichord concert of Alexandra Nepomnyashchaya (see part 6), may have had nothing to do with the harpsichord, but may have been a technical sound issue. Especially, as in Leeuwenburgh last year – another fairly big auditorium, there had not been the same issue with the harpsichord when ms Nepomnyashchaya had played there.

Regardless, the 16th and 17th century pieces performed by Elinor Frey and Esteban La Rotta certainly illustrated the range and possibilities of the cello. The concert started off fairly ordinarily with Trattenimento nr 11 by Angelo Maria Fiorè, followed by sonata in D by Francesco Alborea detto “Franciscello”. These were followed by an Arpeggiata by Bellerofonte Castaldi and a sonata by Fiorè again. But then, the pace increased tremendously with a brilliantly performed toccata nr 10 by Francesco Paolo Supriani, trattenimento nr 12 by Fiorè and finally, the piece I liked most: sonata nr 6 by jean-Baptiste Barrière.

However, I am pretty sure that last year, when I heard Elinor Frey play, the concert probably took more than 60 minutes. The timing was better this time around, but the balance between talking and playing could have been better. It is not that I dislike being told lots of information about composers, the history and development of instruments, influences upon music and composer and more. But like the majority of the audience, I come for the music.

The cloggies sitting right next to me, started to bleat through ms Frey’s introduction, wondering aloud if she was lecturing or going to play at all. What did not help was, that they belonged to a large part of the people who do not understand anything but their own language.

When I asked them to shut up, they kindly did. But actually, they did have a point: too much talk and not enough music.

Duo Frey and la Rotta
Elinor Frey, cello
Esteban la Rotta, theorbe

At the moment of publishing, I was unable to find a webpage for this duo. Elinor Frey is on Facebook.
Carla’s Kondittorei: Carla’s

Early Music Festival Utrecht 2014: part 18

Fringe concert: Ensemble Afflato

Kuub exists two and a half years now. It’s one of Utrecht’s culture hubs. I only learned this just before this fringe concert started. I knew it had hosted fringe concerts last year, but I had not visited that concert. With two to four fringe concerts taking place at 11:00, one at 12:30, another two to four at 14:00 and another two to four at 15:30 you are bound to miss out on some excitement.

When the doors of Kuub opened, volunteers rigorously checked tickets. No ticket meant no access and the only alternative was to join the other queue and wait and see if there were any chairs left after those with a ticket had claimed a chair.

So when a man tried to get in by jumping the queue, the volunteers unkindly started:  “What’s that? Where’s your ticket?”
Roughly forty pairs of eyes burnt into the man’s back as well.
Plenty willing hands to help him out.
“I’m the owner!” he squeaked.
Flustered, the volunteers let him in. It definitely is a step too far, to kick the owner out of his premises, because he doesn’t have a ticket to the fringe concert he’s hosting in his cultural hub. But hey – you can’t be careful enough these days. (See part 17)

Later, when all seats were taken and the concert was about to begin, he welcomed the audience. He also took the opportunity to tell us about the modern art exhibition of work by 50 Utrecht artists  – “but – oh yes, you are of course here for the concert “ – and the book that went with this exhibition,” – oh yes, you’re here for the concert – “ when his Kuub had started, what kind of cultural events took place in his Kuub,  what pieces were on show, that the audience was free to wander through the exhibition, yes that another statue of that person could be found in Tivoli-Vredenburg, that …  This went on for over 10 minutes. When he had finally finished his sales spiel, he did manage to introduce Ensemble Afflato – in less than five seconds flat.

Ada Tanir gave a perfect introduction of the ensemble’s members, a bit of background info, the theme of the concert, the music chosen, the composers, and some history. “Prussian gallantry” was the theme. The four composers had worked in various roles for Frederik the Great who was not only good at waging wars, but also a very good amateur musician. So this was 18th century court music written for his Prussian court which at the time was one of Europe’s cultura centres.

The ensemble started with the trio-sonata in C by Johann Joachim Quantz. Quite a warm and jubilant sonata of which. I especially liked the “affectuoso”. This was followed by the sonata in g Wq 135 by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. Compared to the previous piece, this definitely sounded more “Prussian”; strict, disciplined, to the point. I could imagine Frederic the Great waving the baton.

The sonata nr 8 in G by Johann Philipp Kimberger on the other hand, had a tender adagio, followed by two crisp allegros. The Ensemble Afflato rounded off this elegant “Prussian” concert with the sonata da camera op. 3 by Johann Gottlieb Janitsch. Its larghetto as played by the ensemble sounded lovely, seductive – while the allegretto and allegro were deliciously carefree.

Despite the new harpsichord playing up – Ada Tanir had taken a sheet music holder from another harpsichord and she had to fine-tune after the Quantz triosonata and before Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s sonata – this concert was both beautiful and delightful.

When Frederic the Great visited the Netherlands, he wrote it was a dull country with a dull court, or something even worse. But then: he never had the opportunity to enjoy the Early Music Festival – bet he would have loved taking part in it. Had he heard the Ensemble Afflato’s performance of his court music, he would certainly have approved of this fringe concert.

Ensemble Afflato:
Anne-Katrin Sandmann recorder;
Miho Shirai traverso;
Stela Bekirova hobo;
Feliz Zimmermann cello;
Ada Tanir harpsichord

Ensemble Afflato on facebook: Ensemble Afflato 
Cultural centre Kuub Utrecht: Kuub


Early Music Festival Utrecht 2014: part 16

Fringe Concert: Divérbium Ensemble

I thought Plein 5 was one of the worst places of Tivoli-Vredenburg to perform? (See previous posts like part 15)There is another place in the building which should best be evaded. Should you be offered Pandora for a 2015 (fringe) concert – think twice!

There were the usual problems for people whose eyesight is not 100% or who have problems with walking or are in a wheelchair etc. To start with, the concrete steps are heavenly light blue. For someone who has a problem gauging depth, for instance, these concrete steps are a nightmare.

Going up to Pandora is one thing. Trying not to crash down the concrete stairs is quite another problem. There were also the by now familiar problems for other people with finding an elevator or the right elevator. Sign-posting can be improved throughout the building. The place was actually so new, the smell of paint was still strong. Or as someone mentioned “gosh, this is just or not even yet finished!”

The problem for musicians is far worse. High up in this space, are the ventilation shafts of the airco or the climate control system. This system can not be disconnected during a concert. So throughout a concert, there is this background droning going on to which musicians as well as public are forced to listen.

During the concert by the Divérbium Ensemble, people kept leaving and it was not just because they needed to hurry to one of the concerts which started halfway through this fringe concert. Quite a lot complained about the irritating noise. A few tried out different places in the hall. Many gave up after all this and simply left well before the concert had finished.

The public who sat out the concert were treated to the by now nearly standard changes in the program. The first piece actually was not by Corelli. What I think I heard above the humming irritating background noise was, that the opening sonata would be by Sicker (?) who got his “input” from Corelli. The second sonata was by Corelli, but would be played at the end of the concert.

In between these pieces, the audience was treated to sonata nr 6 TWV 42:D8 by Telemann, Triosonata Op 5 nr & “la Corelli” by Valentini, and Sonata op 5 nr 2 by Pietro Antonio Locatelli. Or as the title of this concert ran: “About Corelli”. What the exact influences and relations were to the theme, would have to be looked up after the concert.

In any case, most pieces were performed nicely enough, but not brilliantly or stunningly. Which was a bit of a let down for me, as Elisabeth Lochmann who played the violin, is a member of the Ensemble Weimar (see part 13) which had so impressed me at 11:00 that very same day.

So: it is not only choice of music which is all important and plays an important role for a successful fringe concert. Your “podium” or stage presentation is very important as well. But if you happen to be allocated the wrong location for your instrument (see for instance part   and articles in the Dutch national papers, or other blogs) or a lousy place like Plein 5 or Pandora: your chances of winning the Public’s Fringe Award become very slim.

Early Music Festival Utrecht 2014::Divérbium Ensemble, 3rd of September 2014, 15:30, Tivoli-Vredenburg, Pandora.

Divérbium Ensemble:
Enrica Sirigu traverso;
Elisabeth Lochmann violin;
Roberta Tagarelli harpsichord

Facebook page Divérbium Ensemble


Early Music Festival Utrecht 2014: part 13

Fabulous fringe concert: Ensemble Weimar

The best way to start an Early Music Festival day in Utrecht was – according to me – to head for the café-restaurant “Winkel van Sinkel”. This venue is not only a café and restaurant, but has also been used to host fringe concerts over the years. In fact, I had attended a concert there already. (See part 3.)

What makes this a decent place to start the day is that it is already receiving customers from at least 10:00 onwards, it is situated right next to a canal, it has free WiFi, and the morning sun shines on its small street side terrace. All this together make it a place for a relaxed start of the day – even if you are not in Utrecht for festivals or concerts. On Wednesday evenings you can apparently get your future told by getting your hand read or by a Tarot reading. On other days, there are usually cultural events scheduled. This is not exactly a dull spot.

Though Tivoli-Vredenburg also has a café restaurant, free WiFi, and the coffee is just as expensive, I much prefer the “Winkel van Sinkel”’s terrace with view past the Karyatides, across the street and canal to the old town-hall and even the Dom tower.

Today’s extra was, that the sunny terrace was also halfway to the venue of my first fringe of the day. The Ensemble Weimar was going to play in the Pieterkerk. This church is one of my favourite spots as it has a very quaint garden (not always open to the public).

The church itself is also very beautiful as it is an old, historic building with many original features. There are Roman bits. There are remnants of frescoes. There are Gothic and Renaissance elements. The acoustics are good and the church is regularily used for concerts. The hard wooden benches are less inviting, but the concert by the Ensemble Weimar was so brilliant and impressive, most of the public took this for granted.

I had heard this ensemble last year and had been greatly impressed; especially by the breath-taking performance on the traverse by Gregorio Carraro. This concert seemed even better and brought tears to my eyes. It was that beautiful. The rest of the public shared my opinion, for they treated the ensemble to a very long, standing ovation to ensure the group came back on stage and there were even – quite un-early-musical: catcalls and wistles! Unfortunately, all these signs of great approval did not entice the ensemble to an encore. After their concert there was, however, plenty time to talk with its members, ask questions, have a look at their CD.

Like previous ensembles I heard, this one also contrasted music from Italy and northern baroque music. However, for an amateur like me, the choice of music seemed to bring out the differences and similarities better during this concert.

The ensemble started with sonata nr 4 by Dario Castello. The sonata sounded playful, teasing, quick-witted. Then there followed three sonatas by Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, whose music can be heard regularly as he is one of the Habsburg composers the festival focusses on. The sonata 4, sonata 8 and sonata 9 all sounded more solid yet still lovely compared to Dario Castello’s sonata. Sonata 8 definitely started melancholically but the mood soon brightened up. The last sonata of this concert, sonata nr 9 by Dario Castello, brought the concert to its cascading finish.

Again: a truly fabulous Fabulous Fringe Concert!

Early Music Festival Utrecht 2014: Ensemble Weimar, 3rd of September 2014, 11:00, Pieterskerk

Ensemble Weimar:
Gregorio Carraro traverso;
Elisabeth Lochmann violin;
Gertrud Ohse viola da gamba;
Daniele Rocchi harpsichord.

Ensemble Weimar can be found on Facebook and has a webpage.
A Youtube excerpt of ensemble Weimar

Click here for info on
Winkel van Sinkel Utrecht
Pieterskerk Utrecht (Dutch)

Early Music Festival Utrecht 2014, part 3

From the “in more ways than one” exciting fabulous fringe concert by la Danserey (see part 2), I sauntered along one of Utrecht’s beautiful canals to the next concert. This took place in the café-restaurant “Winkel van Sinkel”.

If you have read posts about the 2013 concerts of this Early Music Festival, you know the concerts took place in the middle of the café. This often greatly interfered with concerts. Sometimes a whole performance could hardly be heard.

However, ensemble La Luciminia’s concert took place in a large room on the café-restaurant’s first floor. The room had top to bottom French windows, which allowed a brilliant view across the canal to Utrecht’s old Town Hall, other canals, and the medieval Dom church with its tall church tower. With a stucco ceiling and other period features, this room should have been used as a fringe venue years earlier!

La Luciminia took their audience on an extremely delightful journey from Italy to Bohemen, starting with an early 17th Vestiva I colli by Francesco Rognoni Taeggio. Each piece the ensemble played was neatly introduced by Céline Virgils with relevant information about the composer, influences, background. As not every one in the public is well versed in the ancient music field or familiar with who influenced whom how and where – such an introduction or explanation is very welcome.

Via toccata nr 2 by Frescobaldi and sonata nr 2 “La Luciminia Contenta” by Uccellini, the audience was introduced to Biber through the passacaglia of his Rosenkranzsonata 16, followed by sonata nr 2 “La Cesta” by Mealli and ended this journey with sonata nr 4 by Schmelzer.

Of these pieces, all beautifully performed by the two ladies of this ensemble, it was the Biber interpretation which impressed the public so much it took them a short while to recover in silence and start applauding. Tinne Albrectsen greatly impressed as she managed to mix classical violin play with the more emotional, haunting kind of Hungarian or gypsy style.

Utrecht Festival Ancient Music : Ensemble La Luciminia 30th August 2014, 14:00, Winkel van Sinkel 1st floor room.

The ensemble consists of
Tinne Albrectsen violin
Céline Virgils harpsichord

Unfortunately enough, I was unable to find the ensemble La Luciminia’s website on posting.