A couple of Sundays ago I went to the Dr Anton Philipszaal in The Hague for the morning coffee concert. The players were from the local conservatoires, Royal Conservatoire in The Hague and CODARTS in Rotterdam, conducted by Huba Hollóköi.
This superb wind ensemble play to the highest technical standard and they were expertly guided by the conductor to produce the most beautiful balance and range of textures in two pieces which were new to me.
We first heard the Chamber Concerto by Alban Berg (1885 – 1935). The programme notes explain that this was composed in the last year of his life. The piece has two movements: in the Thema Scherzoso con Variazioni the piano soloist was Matthijs van Wijhe and in the Adagio the violin soloist was Pieter van Loenen. This music is heart breakingly beautiful and the soloists achieved the necessary restraint to let the music speak for itself. They also managed to follow the conductor´s guidance and keep a really effective sense of ensemble with the wind group. The piano soloist demonstrated a commanding grasp of the technical and expressive requirements of this challenging music.
The violin soloist projected his sound very well and the opening moments of the Adagio were spell binding as the violin entry on low strings is accompanied by pp wind, whose control was admirable. In the tutti sections later it is hard to understand how Berg could have imagined the violin part to carry over 13 wind instruments: maybe it was the acoustics of this hall, but there were times when you were left to guess what the violin part might be. This is not at all a criticism of the soloist, I think there are moments when the composer just thought of the violin as one more ensemble player rather than as a stand alone soloist.
The other piece on the programme was the Sonata no.1 for 16 wind instruments in F, AV 135 “Aus der Werkstatt eines Invaliden” by Richard Strauss (1864 – 1949). This is an incredible show piece of instrumentation by the master of the genre. The choice of instruments lends itself to so many interesting sub groupings, such as the echoes of hunting calls between woodwind and French horns. Then there is the sheer pitch range available, from the flute and C clarinet to the basset horn and double bassoon. Then the sumptuous writing, say, for horn quartet alone, and the magical tone colours available in the tutti sections. This piece was superbly played and the conductor realized the full possibilities of texture available in the composition and the full potential of this wonderful group of young musicians.
According to the programme, the musicians were as follows:
Flute: Marion Causse, Alice Thompson; Oboe: Guillem Calpe Almela; Juan Pedro Martínez; Kento Nomura; Clarinets: José Sanz Calonge; Javi Fernández Devesa; Thiago Veiga Taveres; Lieke Krantzen; Basset horn: Jurr van Soest; Bassoon: Cynthia Castaños; Enrique Alonso Codrovilla; Anja Brons; Trumpet: Inés Serrano Diogo; Trombone: Francisco Leal Velada Couta; French horns: Oscar Moreno Just; Mikus Runka; Seughun Kim; Marije Korenromp. Conducted by Huba Hollóköi.