Delft Chamber Music Festival OPENING CONCERT Impossible Love

There is something very classy about violinist Liza Ferschtman’s Delft Chamber Music Festival. It oozes style and good taste. The choice of music is always impeccable and the balance between the classical and contemporary programming beautifully judged.

This year, the Festival’s twenty-second, the theme is Love, with a good deal of it being of the unrequited variety confirmed by programme notes quoting Goethe who once said that, “the only real love is the impossible love.” Hmmm.

The Opening Concert, entitled Impossible Love, took place in the Festival’s main venue, the Van der Mandelezaal in Delft’s ancient Prinsenhof. The room, a former courtyard with a modernistic roof, makes a sympathetic and acoustically excellent venue. My only issue is that the sight lines are poor and the stage would benefit from being a few centimetres higher so those at the back could both see and hear the concerts.

It was clear when Miss Ferschtman stepped onto the stage to introduce the evening, and the Festival, that there were lots of fans in the audience, not only her’s but white paper ones too, thoughtfully issued by the organisers to compensate for the overpowering temperatures of the heatwave we are currently “enjoying”. Two giant whirring industrial cooling machines had been installed to make the hall more tolerable but they had to be switched off during the performance. Now, if John Cage had written a piece for string quartet and air conditioner it would have played to several encores last night.

The concert started with the theme-establishing An die Ferne Geliebte (To the distant beloved one) by Beethoven beautifully sung by young Dutch tenor Peter Gijsbertsen. This is the first time I have heard this 2007 winner of the John Christie Glyndebourne Award and I enjoyed his performance very much indeed and will watch out for him in the future. He was accompanied by Martin Roscoe on piano.

Mr Roscoe was replaced on the Steinway by Aleksander Madžar who played Alexander Scriabin’s 1908 Deux Morceaux op. 87. What the two very short pieces lacked in quantity, they certainly made up for in quality, their ethereal tranquillity beautifully expressed by the Serbian pianist.

For me, the high-spot of the evening was Alban Berg’s 5 Orchester-Lieder, arranged by Dutchman Diderik Wagenaar after texts from picture postcards [what? Ed.] by Peter Altenberg. The twelve piece orchestra, led by Ms Ferschtman, played beautifully with flutist Adam Walker and oboe player Pauline Oostenrijk making significant contributions. The five songs were sung nicely with gusto by soprano Ruth Ziesak.

Outside it looked as though the weather was about to break and the rain was heralded by some perfectly timed Wagnerian thunder claps following Sahst du nach dem Gewitterregen den Wald? (Have you seen the woods after rainstorms?) and preceding the final song of the piece, Hier ist Friede (Here is peace).

After the interval Liza Ferschtman returned to the stage to lead a sexted playing Brahms’ Sextet No.2 op.36 in G maj which had featured in a teaser concert earlier in the afternoon. Alongside Ms Ferschtman were Tianwa Yang on second violin, Wen Xiao Zheng and Dana Zemtsov on violas and cellists Kyril Zlotnikov and the brilliant Julian Steckel, whom I remember from last year.

The piece by Brahms was a perfect choice to continue the Festival’s theme, as the composer was well known for a succession of unhappy love affairs, none ending in marriage. When he composed this sextet, and after he broke off his engagement from Agathe von Siebold, he included her name in the notes of this piece.

Played with great passion by all six musicians, the four movements fully illustrated the composer’s unhappy love life, going from gentle to melancholic, from sweet to explosive.   Michael Hasted    27th July 2018

Picture from last year’s Festival

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