ABOUT ORPHEUS – part of CLASSICAL ENCOUNTERS in the Nieuwe Kerk, Den Haag

The concert consisted of three pieces, welded together under the heading Over Orpheus, all of them for solo violin – an exciting, new piece by Jan-Peter de Graaff, Bartók’s sonata for solo violin and Bach’s Chaconne from Partita in D minor. It worked beautifully, going from the new music style by Jan-Peter de Graaff – much pizzicato and trilling set against long single notes – to Bartók’s ground-breaking piece for his period and back in history to Bach.

Pieter van Loenen’s playing was outstanding. Though standing more or less on one spot on the stage throughout the three pieces, his intensity of play was mesmerising. In de Graaff’s piece one felt van Loenen exhorted his violin to speak as though it was a totally independent entity; he merely seemed to be listening to the violin rather than playing it. The same intensity was carried through to the Bartók, written by the composer while undergoing treatment for a rare form of leukemia. Bartók was already at death’s door – only ten people attended his funeral.

However, it seemed the programmers felt that Pieter van Loenen’s virtuosity and presence might not be sufficient. Someone thought it a good idea to add a dancer who could express, underline, explain the sentiments and emotions of the composers to the audience and this, in my view was a great error and also patronising. To have such an excellent violinist on stage, more than capable of imparting all that the composers had intended, was a privilege. To add another figure, dressed in the current much seen crumpled rehearsals style T-shirt and trousers – ambling, creeping, bumbling and angrily kicking around the stage – in another context perfectly valid dance piece – added nothing to this performance. It was totally and completely superfluous and to me, in any case, marred the second part of tonight’s programme and brought an unwanted intrusion and distraction to the audience.

Pieter van Loenen, just twenty six years old, is a major talent who has an intense, hermetic style of play – he and his instrument are one and are more than enough to hold the stage.  He does not need to be augmented by a side show. I would go and see him if he played on top of a mountain or in the Sahara desert. Simply fabulously brilliant.   Astrid Burchardt    11th May 2019