Sunday, September 5, 2010

Early Music Festival in Utrecht

Utrecht just had an intensive ten days festival of French Baroque music during the OudeMuziek Festival. A most wonderful experience if you like early music especially in such an authentic city as Utrecht. Stepping out of a church/concert hall you still feel in the 17th century walking among the canal houses and on the cobbled roads. The music still in your head, you just ignore all the cars and all the modern day things that surround you (yes, okay, you ignore it all and just daydream basically, but the setting helps enormously). 

At the head of this beautiful and the world's largest Early Music Festival is Xavier Vandamme. I know Xavier from BOZAR, when I used to work there a press officer and Xavier was deputy director of BOZAR MUSIC. His programme was already most ambitious and original back then, and I could only but trust his choices for Utrecht. He explains in the introduction to the year programme that the Utrecht Early Music Festival "holds the ambition and the responsibility to be the premier stage for research and creativity in [the] field". He also tells about his focus on French Baroque: "The case of French repertoire - still undervalued or even unknown outside its native country - and its many talented performers is one that Utrecht takes on his pride".

Pandhof, Utrecht
I had the chance to listen to four concerts last Saturday. 

I started the day with La lanterne magique de M. Couperin, a performance by harpsichord player Bertrand Cullier, accompanied by images drawn by stage director and actress Louise Moaty and projected with a magic lantern. Lighted by a few candles, Cullier plays François Couperin under a screen shaped as a moon where Moaty projects her stories: Les Tours de passe-passe, L'Arlequine, Tic-toc-choc, Les Ombres errantes...  and together they created a wonderful dialogue between music and images. 

Jacobiekerk, Utrecht.
This most dreamlike performance was followed by a concert at the Jacobiekerk with Les Agréments, in a programme of opera arias directed by Guy Van Waas and sung by baritone Pierre-Yves Pruvot.

Later in the evening was the highlight of the day, with Jean-Marc Andrieu leading his choir and orchestra, Les Passions & Les Eléments, in Gilles' Requiem, inside the Utrecht Dom.

Outside the Dom, Utrecht
The night ended in the Pieterskerk with Swedish soprano Susanne Rydén performing Lalande's Leçons de ténèbres with Paulina van Laarhoven on viola and Karl Nyhlin on lute. They ended their performance most unusually with a contemporary creation. Unfortunately, the programme didn't mention this new work so I can't write its title or even the composer's name (if you happen to know, please leave a comment). 

More Early Music throughout the year
The Festival has ended today, but the concert season of the yearly programme will start in October and run through May 2011, with Early Music concerts in churches, castles and concert halls across the Netherlands and Belgium. My personal highlights are Les Ombres Errantes in November with Ensemble Ausonia, J.S. Bach: Kunst der Fuge in January with Il suonar parlante, including Lorenzo Ghielmi and Fahmi Alqhai, The harpsichord players of Louis XIV with Aurélien Delage in Februari, the Trio Hantaï in March and Gustav Leonhardt in April. 

More information can be found on 

No comments: