YOUNG TALENT TRAIL at the Delft Chamber Music Festival

The profession, vocation, calling – however you chose to describe it – of a classical musician must be one of the most demanding. Not only must they spend many years, often from a very early age, learning their skills, but once perfected they must spend hours every day practising and maintaining them throughout their professional lives. Such dedication and commitment can perhaps only be matched by ballet dancers or athletes – the difference being that those two occupations have a relatively short career span whereas musicians often continue working well into old age.

So, it is very pleasing to be able to see and hear some young musicians at the beginning of what hopefully will be long and acclaimed careers on the concert platform.

Today’s marathon daytime recital at the Festival not only featured some excellent young talent but also enabled the perambulatory audience to visit some of Delft’s most beautiful, often hidden places in which the various segments were performed.

Hidden was the operative word for the first location. After much searching we finally located the small courtyard, which I had never seen before, in the far corner of the Prinsenhof and settled down in the scorching sun to hear an exceptionally talented young cellist, Alexander Warenberg. His first piece was Bach’s sublime Cello Suite No. 3 in C maj. Most of Bach’s cello pieces are very familiar but Mr Warenberg, perhaps aided by the historic surrounding, managed to make it sound fresh and new.

The Bach was perhaps a little sombre and the cello can sometimes sound a bit melancholy but for his second piece the young cellist demonstrated the instrument’s, and his own versatility with Penderecki’s Divertimento for Solo Cello. Mr Warenberg beat, scratched, plucked and cajoled his instrument to squeeze every last gram of texture and excitement from the composition.

Next we were off on our travels, following the lady with the flag like a bunch of obedient tourists. En route to our next venue we had a few surprise stop-overs, firstly in the Oude Delft to listen to a couple of girls playing flute and oboe and then on to Kolk to hear another group of youngsters playing the Schubert String Quintet in C maj, one of my very favourite pieces. We were then off again via a narrow alley to the courtyard of a private house to see surely the day’s youngest musicians, Douwe on cello, Dominique on harp and violinist Claire playing some harp trios.Three amazingly talented children.

We finally arrived at our second official venue, the beautiful and tranquil Hofje van Pauw in the Paardenmarkt – again, another of Delft’s hidden gems. More harp and cello music, this time from Florianne Remme and Inge van Grinsven who, framed by a luscious wisteria, gave us compositions by Bach, Tournier and Saint-Saëns.

Our next port of call was the magnificent Oude Bibliotheek in Raam. Its vaulted ceilings, pillars and galleries providing the perfect setting for Beethoven’s Kreuzer Sonata played by Niek Baar. This was probably the high-spot of the afternoon and Mr Baar’s inspired and faultless interpretation was accompanied by American Ben Kim on piano who seemed to be loving every moment of it, judging by his smile although sometimes he seemed a little surprised at what he was playing. While it was Mr Baar to whom the audience was listening, it was young Mr Kim they were watching.

The ultimate venue was another place normally out of bounds, the old army barracks on the other side of the Paardenmarkt. The final performers were the personable young multi-national Babylon Quartet who started their set on the old parade ground with Mendelssohn’s beautiful String Quartet No 2, followed by Philip Glass’s Company quartet and Shostakovich’s moving String Quartet No.7. They rounded off their set with three rather more poppy arrangements including tunes by Radiohead and the Beatles.

Well, that was an epic four hour event in the broiling sun but worth every sweaty moment. It bodes well for up and coming young talent and for the Festival itself which, with this level of imagination and originality, will surely go from strength to strength. A wonderful, totally enjoyable afternoon lacking only tea and scones.  Michael Hasted   3rd August 2018

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Photo by and © Astrid Burchardt 2018