Monday 17 December 2012

Going Dutch with Max Bruch: the Moszkowski Ensemble in The Hague

The Three Pieces Op 83 is quite something at 12 noon on a Sunday: all those throbbing  chords and broken chords flying up and down the piano to the viola´s  heart-rending melodies and the violin´s  passionate counter melodies! Maybe you are like me and have heard only a tiny part of this Romantic composer’s output. It´s a shame, his work deserves more attention. It was a pleasure to hear the Three Pieces so beautifully played and they followed naturally after the Sonata in F for Violin & Piano Op 57 by Dvorak.
This concert marks the last of a short series at the Muzee in Scheveningen in The Hague. The old school building has been lovingly converted into a museum, and as I noted in a review  of The Hague String Quartet concert, the acoustic in the recital room is excellent.

The Moszowski Ensemble are  Heleen Kuiper – violin, Paul Eggen – violin & viola, and Menno Boogaard – piano. On this occasion they were joined by a group of Heleen Kuiper´s students from the city.  The surprise entrance by the young violinists, playing Shostakovitch´s Prelude as they processed into the hall, was followed by the Vivaldi double Concerto Op 3 no 8 in A minor. The older players were clearly of an  advanced standard and soon they will be trying the solo parts for themselves, while the younger players were given the less challenging movements. It was all very sweet and well prepared and all the attendant parents were clearly delighted.

I was confused and surprised when Hellen Kuiper announced the encore piece. Actually, I spend quite a lot of my time confused here in Holland because my grasp of Dutch is pretty limited or pretty awful. But, yes, I had heard correctly and they played one of Piazzola´s gems. Now here is a funny thing: I admire the Argentinian maestro very much, as I have written before  . But music is very much about context and this work did not stand up well in such direct and immediate comparison to the Bruch pieces. The similarity in instrumentation made the power of Bruch’s music all the more obvious, and left the sugary sweet cleverness of Piazzola bare for all to see, or hear. There is no question that the Moszkowski Ensemble playing was perfectly up to the task these three musicians from The Hague can play anything set before them: it was the music itself that paled by comparison.

I remember Alan Hacker, the recently deceased clarinettist and conductor,  used to encourage his students to avoid including tune-ettes and to go for what he called real music when preparing a programme. I think this  is just what he would have had in mind. See Norman Lebrecht   for a powerful obituary.

So, the star of this show was certainly Bruch for me. Thank you to the Moszowski Ensemble, their young players and the Muzee in Scheveningen for a really enjoyable Sunday morning.

Thursday 13 December 2012

German Youth Orchestra perform with The Hague’s VHJO Youth Orchestra

3 November 2012: 140 young musicians playing Pirates in The Hague

One of my Year 11 students plays in a local youth orchestra and she is going through the hoops to arrange for my school  to host a joint concert of her youth orchestra and a visiting school orchestra from Germany. Yes I would very much like to spend my Saturday evening at school and is there anything I can do to help, say I when invited to attend......
In the end the concert did take place, and it was a joy to hear the local young musicians from the Vereniging Hofstads Jeugd Orkest of The Hague and their guests from the Orchester  der Friedrich-von Bodelschwingh -Schulen Bethel. The host group is part of a musical association with a history which dates back to 1923 and they played a well rehearsed set of light music with great enthusiasm. They are a boisterous group who enjoy their music with an informal approach. The German visitors were more formal in their attitude and they played a selection of orchestra pieces and chamber music to feature their woodwind and string sections.
It was clear that this is a mature group in every sense, and I was able to talk to the school´s Headteacher who confirmed that the orchestra was founded over 20 years ago. The teacher responsible for the orchestra’s  growth is still at the school and unfortunately was not able to take part in this trip. I was impressed by the way a number of students played their solo parts with skill and musicality and by the 14 year old student who shared the duties of conductor.
 It was a very enjoyable concert and the highlight was a performance by both groups, some 140 players, of an excellent arrangement of Zimmer´s music for Pirates of the Caribbean. The prodigious percussion section included rattling chains to set the tone, together with a boy singer intoning a pirate song. We all shared a sense of sheer exhilaration of seeing and hearing 140 performers playing together: young musicians from two countries inspired to raise their game by a well written and well arranged piece which is part of their shared experience.
The concert organizers have posted a  a video on youtube of  the combined orchestras.
Thank you to our students  for your all your efforts to make this event happen, and thanks to the teachers and players of both orchestras for the music.