MIRAGES – Couperin, Ravel and Fauré at the Delft Chamber Music Festival

Hannes Minnaar – Photo courtesy of and © Simon Van Boxtel

Mirages, musicale luchspiegelingen (aerial reflexions) was our last event of this year’s series of superb concerts we had the pleasure of attending. As throughout, many of the musicians seemed refreshingly young and the Delft Chamber Music Festival gave them a well-deserved, prestigious platform.

First taking the stage were Hannes Minnaar, who this year made his debut at the Concertgebouw in the Meesterpianisten (Master-pianists) series and Olga Pashchenko, currently associate professor of piano forte at the Amsterdam Conservatoire. On the programme was Maurice Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin,  a suite for solo piano composed between 1914 and 1917, in six movements based on those of a traditional baroque suite. Though it is also a homage to Couperin, Ravel dedicated it to the memory of  friends who had died fighting in WW1.

In the past, this composition has been arranged many times, from orchestral to woodwinds, but here it was shared between Hannes Minnaar on piano and Olga Pashchenko on baroque harpsichord. The combination and contrast worked well – each movement played by Minnaar was counter-pointed by Pashchenko. I have always had an instinctual feeling that harpsichords produce the music the brain makes, so compared to the ethereal sound of last night’s baroque instrument, the piano seemed almost violent.

As in other of Ravel’s compositions, the first movement of Le Tombeau de Couperin has the quality of water, a babbling brook, very like Couperin. There are tender passages and frenetic ones. Olga Pashchenko set a wonderful, romantic contrast. To end, Minnaar gave us the fast and furious Toccata movement that shook the hall. Bravo, cried the audience.

The second part came in the form of Thomas Oliemans singing Gabriel Fauré’s Mirages op.113, four pieces sung in immaculate French, the music being set to romantic and melancholic lyrics by French poet and activist for women Renée de Brimont, Madame la Baronne. Again, Oliemans powerful voice and talent to inhabit a role was almost hypnotic. Here too Hannes Minnaar completed the magic on piano.

I am always in awe of musicians for the relentless dedication and pursuit of perfection, as well as for their stamina to live a life constantly on the move. Of course they receive the appreciation of audiences.

The vigour emanating from the Elmire Quartet as they strode onto the stage left us in no doubt that they were going to rock the house. The quartet consists of four young Frenchmen, who, together with composer Doryan Emmanuel Rapaz, created the Classic Arte Festival in Geneva. Accompanied by the flying fingers of the ubiquitous Hannes Minnaar and shifting and twisting on their chairs with eyebrows twitching, they launched into Gabriel Fauré’s demanding Quintet no. 1, op 89, written in 1890-1906. The pace of the piece is such that from the feet up no muscle of the players’ bodies remained unused. What is hard to grasp is how such musicians muster so much energy physically as well as communicate so much high emotion when playing. This was a tour de force of a performance – wonderful is too small word.     Astrid Burchardt     3rd August 2019

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