Heard: Sunday morning concert, 26/9, Grote Zaal, Concertgebouw Amsterdam
Afanasyev (1821-1898), where it has the meaning of 'Housewarming'. This octet full of energy and melancholy, which premiered in 1886 in The Moscow Music Society, was the reason for eight string players from the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra to do a crowdfunding campaign on Voor de Kunst two years ago and it worked: the octet conducted by a violinist Joris van Rijn raised 10,050 euros and made a special CD, which was received with excellent critical acclaim. 'Intonation and interplay are impeccable, and the fun is just bursting with joy,' wrote Trouw, who gave the ROctet CD 5 stars, after which Luister awarded the album with 10 stars. Rightly so, as witness the exciting and enthusing performance that ROctet gave last Sunday of Afanasyev's heart-warming work in the Sunday morning concert, in which the enchanting Octet by the young Mendelssohn was also performed with great pleasure, speed and finesse. The four violinists (Joris van Rijn, Dimiter Tchernookov, Julija Hartig and Masha Iakovleva) as well as the two violists (Francien Schatborn and Frank Brakkee) and the two cellists (Eveline Kraayenhof and Anneke Janssen) understand their profession down to the last detail, played together at a high level and all players also testify to the high quality of the Radio Philharmonic, which survived in musically thinned Hilversum. ROctet has it all and combines disarming fun with animated tension arcs, flawless phrasing, exciting rhythms, melodious harmony and subtle nuances.
Just a bit of history…
In the eighties, violinist Christiaan Bor and his Traveling Music Company began to perform magnificent chamber music works such as the Octet by Mendelssohn and Souvenir de Florence by Tchaikovsky for the first time every year, at that time in the Odeon aan de Singel, at the time a beautiful concert hall in the heart of Amsterdam. where Robert and Clara Schumann had performed in 1853 and 1855, a time when none other than Brahms noted about Dutch music lovers: 'Gute Leute, Schlechte Musiker'. In addition to top international musicians, who had usually studied with Jascha Heifetz or Gregor Piattygorski in Los Angeles, Bor also invited promising young Dutch musicians, including Liza Ferschtman, Simone Lamsma, Thomas Beijer and Ella van Poucke. Violaist Francien Schatborn, now one of the mainstays of ROctet, almost always played with the Traveling Music Company, often together with her husband, the violinist Ronald Hoogeveen and his brother Godfried Hoogeveen, later leader of the cellists in the Concertgebouw Orchestra. Thanks to Bor's efforts and special programming, chamber music in our country, which until then mainly consisted of the KAM String Quartet series and occasional concerts with, for example, piano trios by the Beaux Arts Trio, received an enormous boost.
In 1982 the Orlando Festival was also founded in the south of the country by cellist Stefan Metz of the Orlando Quartet, who also founded the Dutch String Quartet Academy in 2001, which now also offers master's programs under the direction of Marc Danel at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam. In the 1990s, the ensembles were added, which with a lot of support from The Hague were mainly created to allow Reinbert de Leeuw and his avant-garde followers to play more modern music. The Sinfonietta Amsterdam, which consists solely of strings, became – initially under conductor Lev Markiz, then under Peter Oundjian of the Tokyo Quartet and since 2003 led by concertmaster Candida Thompson – as the undisputed artistic leader in the field of ensemble arrangements of masterpieces from the chamber music repertoire, van Beethoven. , Mendelssohn and Brahms to Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Schnittke and Piazzolla. Beautiful pieces such as Brahms's two String Sextets, Arensky's Cello Quartet and Piano Trio and Mendelssohn's String Quintets gradually gained ground, until at the turn of the century chamber music festivals sprang up like mushrooms, including the Peter the Great Festival of the Far Too Young deceased pianist Rian de Waal, the Schiermonnikoog Festival, the Delft Chamber Music Festival, the Scaldis Festival, the Storioni Festival, the Janine Jansen Festival, the Oranjewoud Festival, the Piano Duo Festival, Klaterklanken, Wonderfeel, Mokum Symphony, the Chamber Music Festival Amsterdam by Ella and Nicolas van Poucke, chamber music in Muziekhaven Zaandam, and so on.
And then there are the biannual Cello Biennale and String Quartet Biennale, which have survived the pandemic until now thank goodness and where the most beautiful chamber music works can be heard every two years. In short: chamber music in the Netherlands is doing well, although its financing is not going so well. Musicians often play for an apple and an egg and the government apparently has something else on its mind than supporting music culture. It would be an eternal shame if this embarrassing disinterest in culture in general and classical music in particular ultimately comes at the expense of chamber music, which in my opinion is often the most beautiful music ever written.
But there is hope that this wonderful genre, in which love for music plays a bigger role than money and fame, will not disappear from the concert stages despite the cultural devastation and the consequences of Covid, as demonstrated again last Sunday by the fantastic concert by ROctet. And that hope is nurtured by the fact that many musicians – whether young or old, experienced or inexperienced, operating as soloists or orchestral musicians – are addicted to chamber music and make music together. The audience also loves it, perhaps because chamber music invites even more than the orchestral repertoire to intensely experience all the voices and sounds performed, which respond to the emotions and intellect of the individual as well as, often in an intimate setting. sincere music lovers can be a part of a special group experience. Chamber music connects, moves and makes people happy. 'Shining light into the depths of the human heart, that is the artist's vocation', wrote Robert Schumann. The musicians of ROctet, like many of their chamber music-playing colleagues, have understood this from the inside out and even though the repertoire for double quartet is very limited, this special octet is a valuable addition to the chamber music offer and will hopefully be heard often.