Organ Festival Holland: looking back and looking ahead
One of the advantages of modern technology is that it is so easy to record everything we do or come across. We do this all the time on our smartphones: sending pictures, videos, texts of the things we like or find important. But for a good quality concert registration we still need craftsmanship. That is why OFH once again has invested in a professionaly made registration of a number of activities of the Organ Festival Holland held last June. Daniel van Horssen of DMP-records has made a series of sound recordings, Bigears made a complete live-video registration of the competition finale and filmmaker Casper Steketee produced a series of film impressions of the festival. In the coming weeks these will be published on our website and on BravaTV: a wonderful recollection of a succesful festival.
Nosferatu, the film and Franz Danksagmüller
One of the highlights of the festival certainly was the film presentation of Nosferatu with improvisation by Franz Danksagmüller. Late Thursday night at 22.30 - it was already pretty dark in the church – this silent German horror-movie by Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau from 1922 was shown on a large screen. Franz Danksagmüller provided a breathtaking musical reinforcement of this story full of suspense, based on the book Dracula from 1897 by Bram Stoker. Casper Steketee spoke to Franz during the preparations and made the following video impression. Would you like to see and hear more of Franz Danksagmüller? Check it out at our FILM CHANNEL or Danksagmüller’s WEBSITE.
‘Bridges’ with Lavinia Meijer and Pieter van Dijk
OFH crosses the boarders of the festival here. On Friday 15 September a special concert is presented as a bonus: Bridges. Lavinia Meijer (harp) and Pieter van Dijk (organ) together explore the possibilities and impossibilities of their instruments. Highly recommended for the active listener.
Eager to read the explanation? CLICK HERE.
Jacob Lekkerkerker, Alfredo Genovesi and Oene van Geel
ZATERDAGAVOND 17 JUNI SLOTCONCERT
AANVANG 20.15 UUR
GROTE SINT LAURENSKERK ALKMAAR
Cathedral Mobile is a new composition by Jacob Lekkerkerker and takes the cathedral space as its playing field. Organ sounds are amplified live and can be heard both acoustically and through speakers. This offers new possibilities to the musicians: they can change the basic sounds of the pipe organ by using techniques from the world of electronic music: loops, pitch bending, delays, etc. The composition consists of five parts, with different roles for instruments and musicians. One part of Cathedral Mobile makes use of a sample-database of pre-recorded sounds from 9 cathedral churches. The final composition however, will be an online version, to be released by the end of 2018, as a virtual cathedral of sounds. In Alkmaar, it will be performed by musicians from the world of classical music, underground, and jazz: Jacob Lekkerkerker, Alfredo Genovesi and Oene van Geel.
Cathedral Mobile is a composition supported by the Nicholas Berwin Charitable Trust in London.
The competition Picture Music
Last Friday June 9th the prize-giving ceremony took place for the competition Picture Music. Once more Organ Festival Holland proves that with the festival theme Sound Visions it doesn’t restrict itself to just the organ. Under the inspiring leadership of Hans Tijsen, who’s idea this was, the creative competition, where the relationship between music and images had to be expressed in other forms of art than music itself, was set up together with Artiance.
Out of may entries three winners were awarded for their work-of-art. I leave the reflections on their choice to the jury: they have put these in a report (in Dutch). The results can be seen on the website and in the church.
The DOE-organ at De Hout Classic
Under brutal weather conditions the DOE-organ was brought to Alkmaar last week and on returning it yesterday again grey-black clouds were on the horizon. But in between, on Sunday afternoon at the festival De Hout Classic, it was truly festive with beautiful weather. It was the first time Cultuurpark De Hout organised this festival, so it was extra special for Organ Festival Holland to be able to join up with our DOE-organ. Here is an impression of what took place.
Il Pegaso: a wonderful concert and an unusual spectacle
Maurizio Croci thought of it at the last possible moment: I will squeeze my whole ensemble on the organ gallery of the Van Covelens-organ. It provided extraordinarily curious images. Combined with the beautiful music of Frescobaldi and Monteverdi it became an unforgettable evening. The Van Covelens-organ with its unique sound provided in its role as continuo the singers with a heavenly basis: their voices rose to great heights. HERE is small impression of what we saw.
Not for the first time the thought occurs to me what the world would be like if music more than 40 years old would no longer be played. Unimaginable one would think, but in the days of Monteverdi and Bach this was the case and nowadays too there are a lot of people who do not listen to “ancient” music. Immersing oneself in Organ Festival Holland means entering a musical dreamworld with some realistic traits:quite pleasant in these uncertain times.
Yesterday afternoon around 1 o’clock grim reality took over for a moment: 6 participants heard that they had not made it to the second round. The others can still pursue their dream. Tuesday after the second round there will be another such confrontational moment.
Back to the dream journey, on the bus to Hoorn, dipping into a cultural warm bath. City-organist Mark Heerink and competition winner 2015 Adriaan Hoek took us through 3 centuries of musical history at matching locations. First to the Oosterkerk, with an organcase by Jonathan Bätz: a splendid 18th C. piece of furniture. The instrument within however is a pure, industrial 19th C. product by C.G.F. Witte. Adriaan’s choice to play Johannes Brahms and Max Reger was therefore very suitable. With conviction he showed us the extreme dynamics between instrument and music: a beautiful, almost schizophrenic dream.
Inside the Lutheran Church was as it should be, in a to all intents and purposes 18th C. interior and an organ by Pieter Müller that has never been altered. With music by Haydn and Bach, with the Fantasia and fugue in a that we hardly ever hear, Adriaan took us, with his dreamlike performance, outside of reality for a moment.
In the Koepelkerk , built in 1882, with an organ by Maarschalkerweerd, Mark Heerink used this 19th C. setting for music from the 20th and 21st century. Work by, among others, Herman Strategier, Jan Raas and Daan Manneke, gave us a glance into the musical atmosphere of incense and candlelight. Mark’s sensual and smooth performance provided us with enough energy to survive the bustrip back to Alkmaar.
The Festival opening-concert last night by the Hungarian ensemble Concerto Armonico directed by Miklós Spányi, surpassed all expectations. In the welcoming surroundings of the Alkmaar Library Chris Bragg had already put us into the picture about the sometimes juicy background of the concerto’s by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Giuseppe Sammartini and George Friedrich Handel, but he didn’t warn us that it was going to be a dream night …. Before the break I was in the recording room, where you can hear everything to the millimeter. Afterwards, in the church itself, it was even more beautiful. Spányi who accompanied and played solo on the chest organ and the harpsichord and directed at the same time, was supported by his young group of musicians with a sound of truly silvery beauty. Solo, Spányi combines perfect technique with an extraordinarily pliable rhythm: ideal for these virtuoso concerto’s that are so easy on the ear: the dream just carried on.
Sunday evening the main role was for Claudio Monteverdi. In my mind this composer is forever connected with the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Here is why. The first year of my musicology studies in Utrecht were quite an experience. There were a lot of other former conservatoire students, all with mostly practical baggage and we all took part in the recently set up condensed course, which now and then caused surreal, confusing situations: what are they doing here and why? Until a guest lecture by the playwright Peter te Nuyl about the modernization of opera’s in history and why composers always used the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice for this. With convincing arguments Te Nuyl expounded his view: it is not a story about the loss of a lover, but about inspration, the shaking off of old feathers for new ones. At that point he played for us the famous aria from Monteverdi’s opera, when Orpheus leaves the underworld and looks back at Eurydice, even though he knew he would then lose her. We heard two versions: one a slow, dramatic performance, the other an excited, happy one. In his view the last was the right one. The artist Orpheus was ready for a new source of inspiration, a new vision of womanhood, and he happily steps forward into the world on his way to new dreams.
And then I understood what musicology could mean for me. ...
The prologue of Organ Festival Holland 2017
It wouldn’t surprise me if last night some tears had to be brushed away. In a touching way Wiesje van der Flier, neuropsychologist at the VUmc Alzheimer Centre, took us to the world of oblivion and the role music can play there. A crystal clear discourse about the shadowy Alzheimers disease, the memory as the network of the brain and the versatility of music. Precisely because we experience music in so many ways - feeling, seeing, hearing - it can give Alzheimer patients a moment of relief. She gave some good examples. Confrontational sometimes, as with the clock-test. Alzheimer patients can no longer draw a clockface and I remember this very well in the case of my mother, she really didn’t know how to do this anymore, but songs from the past she knew. John Stanley’s wonderful music, played by Frank van Wijk afterwards thus had a completely different significance and not only for me.
Wiesje’s story landed in a bed of effective puns. Geert Booij, of the Royal Society Fysica, amazed us with a network of words and sayings in which sounds, colours and numbers are connected, emphasize each other. Synesthesy is one example: sounds go with certain colours and vice versa. How extraordinarily important the language of music proves to be. For artists and composers, but also for people with dementia.
But the evening began with the eye problems of Bach and Handel. Richard Zegers, ophtalmologist specializing in glaucoma, the breaking down of the optical nerve, gave us an intriguing image of how both sound visionaries suffered from dimished sight as they got older. Both had cataracts and were operated for this. Nowadays technically a high-quality operation, where the damaged lens is replaced by an artificial lens through a minuscule cut, in those days the lens would be turned or shifted by means of a blunt needle which would be stuck in the eye. The result was usually, or rather always, dramatic: Handel became virtually blind and Bach died shortly afterwards. A confrontational fact is that the torture Bach and Handel had to undergo is still practised in Africa: the short film that was shown didn’t leave any doubt about that. I will spare you the details..
Were we the listeners left behind stunned? On the contrary, the terrific music by Bach, the lovely choral prelude ‘Vor deinen Thron tret ich hiermit’ and Handel’s ouverture from Music for the Royal Fireworks, brought everything back into balance, in other words: what kind of emotions Organ Festival Holland can produce..
Saturday evening 10 June 20.15 uur more music by Handel. His famous organ concerto’s, nothing gruesome, much viruosity.
Welcome to the participants
12e International Schnitger Organ Competition Alkmaar 2017
The 12e International Schnitger Organ Competition in Alkmaar couldn’t have started more turbulent last night. While the storm was howling around the Grote Kerk, branches were being ripped from the trees and black clouds were darkening the sky, the 12 candidates for the competition , coming from all corners of the world, gathered in the dimly lit space of the church nave.
A very special moment to see these young musicians together, full of expectations, but also a little apprehensive. Some know each other already, from college, from the introduction weekend or other festivals. Two have been here before and are going to try again. In the delightful vestry they receive all the information they need to make the first round go well. When and where they can practise, the contents of the protocol, who to approach when there is a question, the brand-new programme booklet and of course the draw for the order in which they are going to play. Just with paper forms in a basket: simple, reliable – we are all present – nice and old-fashioned.
We know now what they are going to play in the first round, but we are keeping that as a surprise for the time being. Who plays when also stays a secret.
When everything has been discussed and questions are answered, they leave, 12 special, different, separate personalities, without exception talented musicians, back into the raging storm. From now on they are on their own, have to rely on their own ability, energy, inspiration and of course a little luck. And, not unimportant, what does the jury think.
Grown curious? Like to feel the tension? I would say: come and listen and encourage, because that helps. It starts next Friday 9 June at 16.00 hrs. and on Saturday the 10th, after 12.00, we will hear the results of this first round.