Utrecht Early Music Festival comes to an end

In front of a sold-out Great Hall in TivoliVredenburg, the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century has just rounded off the 41st edition of the Utrecht Early Music Festival. With a programme packed with top international artists, a free Fringe programme with young talent, lectures, symposia and unique productions such as the Utrecht Passion, which can also be followed on the festival’s own streaming channel Early Music Television (EMTV), the festival was able to treat fans from all over the world to the very finest early music.

Under the title Galanterie the Utrecht Early Music Festival organised more than 280 concerts, lectures and presentations between 26 August and 4 September, and swathed the city in the gold leaf and rocaille of eighteenth-century Rococo. As always, the festival theme included an extensive discourse section. Early music is about the present, as co-curator Rosi Braidotti proved: she approached gallantry as a social code, visible in daily life but also in domains such as diplomacy and even warfare. With ART HOUSE 17’s Utrechter Passion – Bach’s St John Passion provided with a new text about queer persecution in the eighteenth century and today – the festival created a thought provoking production that forced a degree of self-reflection. As always, the festival dives into the past to better understand ourselves and others.

Festival director Xavier Vandamme: “The Utrecht Early Music Festival wants to show its social commitment. The concerts in the main programme fit into a framework of livestreams, lectures and debates that challenge difficult issues and stretch the boundaries of classical music conventions. With the Fringe concerts, livestreams that can be viewed all over the world via EMTV, and the Bachbox, situated on the Neude and free of charge, we make early music more accessible for a broad audience. We also do this through collaboration with social partners such as De Tussenvoorziening and the Poverty Coalition, and our own youth community, Ambassadors of Early Music.”

Highlights of this festival were the residencies of Marc Mauillon and of the Netherlands Bach Society, this year celebrating their 100-year jubilee. ART HOUSE 17 were responsible for ten performances of the music theatre show Geister von Sanssouci, and Jordi Savall provided a packed Great Hall of TivoliVredenburg with music by Rebel, Telemann and Gluck. In the same hall, Les Ambassadeurs treated the audience to a giant galant orchestra. At the same time, intimate salon concerts were set up in Utrecht living rooms. There was a dance performance based on Watteau’s Fêtes galantes and the International van Wassenaer Competition had its first Late Edition.The Utrecht Early Music Festival 2023 will take place between 25 August and 3 September, with as its theme Neo!, with which the festival wishes to challenge the early music world to develop new and exciting ways of approaching musical heritage. Medieval specialist Katarina Livjanic will be co-curator. Artists in residence will be Austrian harpsichordist and conductor Michael Hell, and Frenchman Simon-Pierre Bestion with his Ensemble La Tempête.