Now in its 21st year, the Delft Chamber Music Festival has, under the leadership of Liza Ferschtman, achieved an international reputation, attracting musicians from around the world. Most of the events take place in the covered courtyard, the Van der Mandelezaal, of the city’s most iconic and historic building, the Prinsenhof.
Ieder zijn verhaal 30th July
Tonight’s programme, Everyone Is His Own Story, held a few surprises. Alexandra Nepomyashchaya’s fingers skipped lightly on the keys of a superbly ornamented instrument with a light feathery sound as she played Bach’s Harpsichord Concerto Nr 3. Then came the surprises.
The world première of Marijn Simons’ Chamber Concerto, Op.83 once again posing the question which is the theme of this year’s festival – what is true, or what is true music? The young Dutch composer and conductor has already made his mark worldwide, conducting major orchestras across the globe and his compositions have been performed by the prestigious Berlin Philharmonic. I spoke to him during the interval. ‘People ask me, how should I listen to your music?’ he confessed, ‘and I say, with an open mind. Even Beethoven was told, “Your music is impossible to listen to.”’
For the audience the main focus of Marijn’s Chamber Concerto was the frantic work of percussionist Colin Currie who was kept very busy with a panoply of bells, at one time even striking a bow across something resembling a conical birdcage. The Stockholm Syndrome Ensemble struck up with J S Bach’s Vor Deinen Thron Tret’ Ich Hiermit, followed by a work with the same title by Russian composer Sofia Goebaidoelina’ s, born in 1931, an avant-garde heavily censored composer.
Anyone expecting Bach’s familiar structures, repeated motifs and tuneful flow was given a great deal to digest as the evening developed. Ervin Schulhoff’s Concertino for flute, in part lyrical and full of crisp energy, came as a sweetener at the close. Adam Walker’s flute, Nimrod Guez’s viola and especially Rick Stotijn’s double bass produced a wonderful mellow sound, at times Stotijn wielding his bow as if playing the cello. Astrid Burchardt 31st July
Begin van een onbekend tijkperk 29th July
Last night’s spectacular multi-media performance of Start of an Era was the world première of a new work co-produced with the Gergiev Festival in Rotterdam and was set in undoubtedly the most spectacular venue of the whole festival.
Taking place in a sprawling former glue factory, now the Lijm en Cultuur arts center, the concert told in words, music and pictures of the early days of the Russian Revolution. The vast playing area had, at one end, a shiny black Steinway piano and at the other, three chairs and a battered table upon which stood a lamp, an old typewriter and piles of papers and notebooks. The back of the stage was dominated by a huge screen onto which grainy old black and white photos and juddering film from Russia in 1917 were projected.
The three performers entered in darkness, two of them sitting, while the Prologue was delivered by actor Thom Hoffman, best known for his starring role in Doktor Tinus, the Dutch version of the British TV series, Doc Martin. The text, which punctuated the music, came from the diary of Nobel Prize nominated Russian writer Konstantin Georgiyevich Paustovsky, and was nicely delivered by Mr Hoffman who spent the intervening moments unobtrusively sitting at his typewriter or sorting his notes.
The first piece of music was Sergei Prokoviev’s Visions Fugitives Op.22, beautifully played by Ole Christian Haagenrud on piano and an all-in-white Liza Ferschtman on violin. Not only is Ms Ferschtman a sensitive and expressive musician but she is also the driving force behind the Festival, performing at many of the events. Alternating with spoken word and projections, she wandered around playing at four different music stands placed around the stage, thus adding visual interest to the already impressive setting.
The concert also included Konstantin Paustovski’s Reminders of the Russian Revolution and culminated with Arthur Lourié’s 1928 Intermezzo and A Phoenix Park Nocturne, played by the exceptional young pianist Mr Haagenrud.
A very successful and exciting concert during which the torrential rain pummelling the roof only added to the already dramatic atmosphere in the disused factory. Michael Hasted
De weg naar de waarheid 27th July
Last night’s opening concert, de weg naar de waarheid, featured a rich and varied selection of music which is typical of the whole festival and, with the theme of For Real, it aims to bore down to the very core of the works it presents.
The concert opened with Part 1 of Steve Reich’s 1970/71 percussion piece Drumming, performed on four pairs of tuned bongos by Colin Currie, George Barton, Joey Marijs and Niels Meliefste. In the near-perfect acoustics of the room the effect of the repetitive rhythms was mesmerising, almost trance inducing. It was like being borne along on an express train to an unknown destination.
The bongos were followed by a complete change of tone and style as we were privileged to hear a selection of Schubert lieder sung by Robert Hall. Mr Hall’s performance was sensitive and thoughtful and, accompanied by Roger Braun on piano, his fine, rich voice resonated off the six hundred year-old walls before bringing the first part of the concert to its close.
The second half of the evening proceeded with the entrance of the sextet who were to play the finale of the concert. They arranged themselves and their music as a hush descended on the hall. The silence continued for precisely four minutes and 33 seconds as John Cage’s work of that name evolved – you can’t really say it was performed, it just happened.
There is something of the King’s New Clothes about this piece. Emptiness is not art, it is the lack of it. While a blank canvas on a gallery wall can make a statement, an empty space between pictures is just that, nothing. To me, this particular Cage work is little more than an in-joke, a witty musical anecdote with which one can amuse ones friends around the dinner table – “Have you heard 4’33” by John Cage?” “No, I haven’t.” Ha ha ha.
I have really been looking forward to this festival as, when it comes to classical and contemporary music, the chamber variety is my preferred form. There is an intimacy, a connection with the œuvre one does not get with the great symphonic works. There was no better illustration of this than last night’s performance of Beethoven’s mighty 5th Symphony arranged for string sextet.
Led by festival organiser Liza Ferschtman, the two violins (Ms Ferschtman and Malin Broman), two violas (Nimrod Guez and Lilli Maijala), cello (Johannes Rostamo) and double bass (Rick Stotijn) managed to refine this epic work to its very essence and it was all the sweeter and more satisfying because of it. It was like hearing the piece for the first time so that every note, every chord, every harmony was audible for the audience to relish and savour. The second movement, Andante con moto, was particularly satisfying and in this form revealed a delicacy not always apparent in a full orchestral performance.
So, an excellent and pleasing start to the festival and as the concert-goers left the hall it was the Beethoven they were humming, not the John Cage. Michael Hasted 28th July 2017