KLOKKENOUVERTURE at Utrecht Early Music Festival


Today marks the beginning of the annual early music festival here in Utrecht. With over 150 concerts, workshops and lectures taking over the city of Utrecht, the early music festival will no doubt be teeming with life, providing a space for visitors to celebrate their love of early music and European history.

Tonight, the streets of Utrecht came to life with the monumental voice of the Dom Tower, the only voice fitting to call an opening to this rich and colourful festival. Visitors were gathered around the tower at seven o’clock and bystanders were taken by surprise as the bells were awoken, a vast dome of sound growing from a single chime.

Having stood as one of the largest towers in the fourteenth century, the Dom Tower is home to the largest homogenous group of medieval bells still existing today, kept in motion by the members of the Utrecht Klokkenluiders Gilde. The towers carillon sits 40 meters higher than the swinging bells and consists of 50 bells which are, unlike many today, played by hand by the city carillonneur, Malgosia Fiebig.

The concert began with the impressive sound of the fourteen swinging bells, the largest of which weighs more than 8000 kilograms and sounds only a handful of times per year. A steady chime persisted as the sound seemed to melt into one voice, a metaphorical bell being crafted into the surrounding air. Once the bells had fallen away, the carillon came to life and the main program began, consisting of works by Couperin, Desprez and Rameau. Due to the nature of the concert, the program itself seemed to fall into the background and left viewers predominantly focused on the bells. In a more traditional setting, this may have been less than desirable – today, however, this did nothing but enhance the grand atmosphere that engulfed the Domplein.

With visitors coming and going, some just passing by, the carillon continued to carve out musical ideas and playful characters – the voicing being particularly successful throughout. Despite the somewhat limiting qualities of the instrument, the colours were varied and dynamics fully realised. The sound seemed to change organically, with a subtlety one may not necessarily expect from a bell.

Overall, tonight’s concert was an impressive start to this year’s festival. As many people may not fully appreciate the full scope of this instrument, Malgosia Fiebig did a great justice to the carillon, breathing life into the city as the Dom Tower took center stage. After tonight’s concert, I had the pleasure of meeting some of the members of the Utrecht Klokkenluiders Gilde – their passion for the bells becoming extremely apparent. With its rich history and cultural significance, it is nothing short of necessary for us to continue to support and celebrate the history of this magnificent instrument.  Rebecca Jansen   24th August 2018


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