SCHÖNE WELT WO BIST DU? Opening Concert of the Delft Chamber Music Festival 2019

The opening concert took place on a sweltering night at the Festival’s main venue, the Van der Mandelzaal which is part of the city’s historic Prinsenhof. Its avowed intend was to search for a beautiful world. The three giant air conditioning units only just managed to take the edge of the record breaking temperatures and fans (of the waving and adoring type) were much in evidence.

It falls on the director to take an active and prominent part in the Festival so this year the emphasis is very much on vocal works and, by way of establishing this, the first part of tonight’s concert was Thomas Oliemans singing three Franz Schubert lieder. Schubert’s Winterreise is the stock in trade for any baritone but while not quite the tip of the iceberg, there are plenty more songs to choose from and Mr Oliemans, accompanied by Severin von Eckardstein on piano, chose some excellent ones. Oliemans has a very fine voice and it was a joy to hear An die Leier from 1826, followed by the 1817 Memnon  and Die Götter Griechenlands written in 1819.

Severin von Eckardstein was back on stage for the second segment of the concert, accompanying Herman van Kogelenberg. The flute is one of those rare instruments that always sounds sweet and van Kogelenberg’s flawless playing of Prokofiev Sonate voor fluit en piano in D gr.t. op.94 established this principal beyond any doubt. This is a fine melodic piece that I had not really listened to before and I really enjoyed it.

By contrast, Ex Tenebris Mundi was a quite different, less melodic, kettle of fish. The world premiere of Robert Holl’s new work saw Thomas Oliemans back on stage accompanied by a string quartet led by Candida Thompson. Sung in Dutch, with a text by Adriaan Roland Holst, Ex Tenebris Mundi demonstrated that the canon of chamber music is not a finite thing and is always being added to.

The second half of the evening was dedicated to a single work – Arnold Schönberg’s early masterpiece Verklärte Nacht op.4, beautifully played by a string sextet led, again, by Candida Thompson. Written in only three weeks when he was twenty-five, it was inspired by the poem of Richard Dehmel but also by the composer’s first encounter with his future wife, Mathilde von Zemlinsky. Consisting of five sections, although they are not easily discernible, the piece, scored for two violins, two violas and two cellos provided a suitable climax to the opening concert of this year’s Delft Chamber Music Festival and had the audience on their feet clammering  for more.    Michael Hasted    25th July 2019


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