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Newsletter 7: January - July 2005

My musical year started right away on January 8 with an exciting concert in the Singelkerk, a intimate church in the centre of Amsterdam. With the exception of Eleonore the musicians were all new to me and we played also a complete new repertory: new music from South-Africa. Kobus Malan (oboe) is from South-Africa and he had selected the pieces. Furthermore there were Philippe Graffin (violin), Asdis Valdimarsdottir (viola) and Jeroen Reuling (violincello). Philippe is a real virtuoso. With him I played Ravels Sonata for violin and piano. During the rehearsal it seemed obvious to me that he must have performed this piece in public already many times. But right before we entered the stage he told me that this was the first time. This Sonata was the onliest non-south-african piece. The second movement is a blues and the blues has african roots. And Phillipe is french after all....

The next day Eleonore and I played in the theatre of the city of Hoorn. It was a new years concert during which we played classical pieces with a gypsy rim (by Brahms, Doppler, Dvorak and Enesco) in the first part and Gypsy Orchestra Servus with the well known violinist Nello Mirando as their guest played after the intermission. We experienced this as a quite effective combination which we hope to repeat in the future. The hall was packed with 400 listeners. It’s also because of that why we like to play classical concerts next to concerts with new music. A contemporary program rarely attracts that many visitors.

Lydia Forbes is an American violinist, who has been living in the Netherlands for a long time and only recently moved back to the USA. On January 12, 13 and 14 we played lunch concerts in respectively Rotterdam (de Doelen), Eindhoven (Philips Muziekcentrum) and Utrecht (Vredenburg). The program was called Jazzinfluences in 20th-century music for violin and piano and we played jazz influenced works by Copland, Gershwin, Ravel, Gruenberg and Schulhoff. This repertory is very dear to me already for a long time and it has always been my wish to play such a program.

On Sunday January 16 I was a guestperformer in the program Spiegelzaal. The Spiegelzaal (Hall of Mirrors) is one of the halls in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. Every Sunday morning the radioprogram called Spiegelzaal is broadcasted live from the hall with the same name. I was interviewed about the release of my new CD A Can of Blues and I played 3 works from the CD. This CD got good reviews in the 3 prominent newspapers: de Volkskrant, NRC Handelsblad and Parool.

On Sunday January 23 Eleonore and I played our program Music from the Time of Anne Frank with works by jewish composers, written during the interbellum as well as during the war. The location of the concert was the old, intimate synagogue of Breda, a city in the south of Holland. We played works by a.o. Erwin Schulhoff, Leo Smit and Rosy Wertheim. Particularly the Sonata for flute and piano by Leo Smit is really a masterpiece and can really holds its own among works by famous contemporaries like Poulenc, Ravel and Milhaud.

The Amsterdam ten Cate Blues Festival in a community center in the western part of the city had invited me to play at their 2005 Festival. It was courageous to invite a modern-classical pianist and to program a recital with contemporary blues (and tango’s) among hardcore bluesbands and a turkish Tango-orchestra. But to be honest, I didn’t feel very comfortable here. The music didn’t really reach the audience in this rather noisy environment. On the other hand I got to know the Dutch-Turkish singer Meral Tuga and with her and two members of her band I’m going to put together a Tango program with turkish, argentinean, dutch and arabic tango’s.

In the Cenakel in the town of Soest (on February 4) the repertoire and the location did match better. Here I played my program 4 composers and their folkmusic with works by Schubert, Janácek, Grieg and Mompou. The piano followed so nicely everything what I was trying to impose on it and the acoustics were so subtle that I really enjoyed to play a purely classical soloprogramme for a change.

In 's Hertogenbosch I played in the Azijnfabriek (= vinegar factory!). The carnival, which is celebrated in the south of the Netherlands, was just over and people probably had to recover from it. But nonetheless the audience seemed to appreciate the tangos and blues I played. There is a nice, informal atmosphere in this venue and I always like to play here.

On February 22 Eleonore and I left for the USA for a second time already.
The next day we performed our 6 Continents Project at the Hart School of Music in Hartford and on February 24, in the morning, we played our jewish program in the Presbyterian Church, also in Hartford. This concert had been organized by composer Elizabeth Austin, the concert at Hart School by her colleague Robert Carl. Both composers had written a blues for me which I performed at Hart School. We were happily surprised by the fact that Elizabeth and Robert showed much interest in all the works we performed and not only in their own works, which is often the case with composers.... My experience is that after the concert many composers are only interested in the way their own piece was performed and sometimes do not seem to have noticed that other works have been played as well.
That same evening we played our Anne Frank program at the National Yiddish Book Centre in Amherst (MA). When we left the hall the whole outside world was covered by snow. A beautiful sight but as the wheater forecast had predicted this, many potential visitors of our concert had decided to stay home.
On February 27 we played in one of the most beautiful concerthalls we know during an afternoonconcert at the Chicago Cultural Centre. The Dutch and the Israelian Consulates had sponsored this concert where, once more, we played our jewish program. We stayed at the house of Rob de Leeuw, the Dutch Consul, and his wife. From their living room we could see Lake Michigan, that looked more like a sea and always seemed to be windy.
In Cincinnati we concluded our second USA tour with our 6 Continents Project. Michael Fiday had written 4 beautiful Haikus (a series of 9 Haikus is planned by him). Michael teaches composition at the University of Cincinnati like Joel Hofmann does, my host during my last visit to this city. Cincinnati is a rather provincial city compared to Chicago. Seen from that perspective it would have been better to have played our final concert there...

On March 14 I played my Tango- and Bluesprogram at the Gymnasium Felisenum high school in Velsen. At this school I worked as a biology teacher from 1975 until 1985 before I decided to become a professional musician. It was a special experience to be back at my old school in this particular setting. It felt like ‘mission completed’!

On March 21 Eleonore and I played in Amsterdam in the Uilenburger Synagogue on the occasion of the presentation of a CD with music sung by Amsterdam ‘chazzanoet’, jewish synagogal singers. We played music by Leo Smit and Dick Kattenburg. This was the first time I played in this beautifully restored synagoge. In the next season I’ll be active at three concerts in the series of concerts organized by the Leo Smit Foundation (

After a long time of uncertainty and preparing I could finally leave for Egypt to participate in a small scale Dutch Festival in Caïro. On April 2 I played my Bluesprogram at the El Sawy Centre with premiers of blues by Egyptian composers Ali Osman and Mohamed Abdel-Wahad. In Ali Osmans piece the hectic Cairo traffic can be heard clearly. On April 3 I gave a lecture and a masterclass at the Cairo Conservatory. More lectures had been planned but they were cancelled as organising something efficiently and in time is not particularly what Egyptians are capable to do. So this left me with the feeling that I could have done more on this short Middle-Eastern trip.

In april Eleonore and I played the fourth and final round of our 6 Continents Project. We plan to continue the project but not in the systematical way we did during the past years when every half year four new composers were exposed in the project. We started this time in Rotterdam, in Lantaren/Venster theatre and we continued in Provadya in the city of Alkmaar. In Alkmaar the number of listeners was quite disappointing. Sometimes we get the idea that the concert programmers simply accept the fact that new music doesn’t attract a large crowd. ‘No problem as long as there are more people in the hall than there are musicians on stage’, the optimistic motto was in Alkmaar...
Fortunately considerably more people attended our concerts in Veere (Domkerk), Haarlem (Lutherse Kerk) and at the brandnew Amsterdam music centre, the Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ, the succesor of the old Icebreaker. We were very enthusiastic about the architecture of the hall, the beautiful view on the IJ, the water that divides Amsterdam in a northern and a southern part and about the acoustics. At these concerts we played first performances of commissioned works by Guus Janssen, Sinta Wullur, Dusan Bavdek (Slovenia) and Ross Edwards (Australia). Dusan Bavdek had come over from Slovenia to attend some of the concert and he gave some explanation about his new work just as Guus and Sinta did with their pieces.

On April 22 Eleonore and I, together with soprano Irene Maessen, presented a program for childeren from the Nicolaas Maes school at the Amsterdam school of music. Theme of the concert was ‘female composers during the second world war’. We played works by Dutch composers Henriëtte Bosmans, Johanna Bordewijk-Roepman, Reine Colaço Osorio-Swaab, Martha Belinfante and Rosy Wertheim. All these women have suffered in some way or the other from the war. They had to go into hiding, took part in the resistance or refused to become a member of the Chamber of Culture (and thus were not allowed to have their works performed). The Nicolaas Maes school has adopted the memorial for the victims of the concentration camp of Ravensbrück, which was exclusively used to imprison women. The memorial is at the Museumsquare in Amsterdam, close to the school.
Two days later we repeated the program at the Amsterdam Resistance Museum on the day of the commemoration of Ravensbrück in Amsterdam.

On April 26 I travelled to Madrid to perform there in the evening at the Foundation Carlos de Amberes. At the concert music alternated with Spanish poetry. The Dutch poet Benno Barnard read his poems in Dutch and these were read thereafter in Spanish translation. The concert took place in the framework of the 400th anniversary of the famous novel Don Quijote. On the program were works by Mompou, de Falla (El retablo de Maese Pedro) en Granados. The miniopera by de Falla is based on the Don Quijote story.
The following night I travelled back to Amsterdam to be in time for my next Dutch concert.

On april 28 Eleonore and I played in the wonderful synagoge of Enschede, which has recently been restored. In the afternoon we played our program with music by persecuted jewish composers for schoolchildren from the neighbouring german town of Gronau. Helge Loewenberg-Domp delivered an impressive talk to the children about her experiences during World War II. Her family had escaped for the nazis from Germany in the thirties and thereafter they have been living for a couple of years in Enschede. In the night we played the same program once more in the synagoge for a regular audience.

On May 4 we presented - with a number of fellow musicians - the yearly memorial concert for the Dutch victims of the second world war in the Amsterdamse Beurs van Berlage, the former stock exchange, built by the famous dutch achitect Berlage. The focus was on the music by Jewish composers from Amsterdam like Leo Smit, Rosy Wertheim, Daniël Belinfante and Dick Kattenburg. For this special occasion we had formed the ‘Belinfante Ensemble’ which included, besides Eleonore and me, Ernest Rombout (oboe), Ivar Berix (clarinet), Alban Wesly (bassoon), Fokke van Heel (horn), Irene Maessen (soprano), Marijke van Kooten and Jacobien Roozemond (violin), Edith van Moergastel (viola), Karen Schudde (violoncello) and Rudolf Senn (double bass). The performances of the quartet by Dick Kattenburg for flute, violin, violincello and piano and the quartet by Daniël Belinfante for two violins, violoncello and piano were worldpremiers. We’d love to play these works again but as a rather great number of musicians is needed for that this is a expensive concert to sell....
In the intimate NPB church in Bussum, a 30 minutes drive from Amsterdam, we kept the same atmosphere some days later with music by jewish composers, who were connected with the Gooi, the region where Bussum is located. Compositions by Daniël Belinfante, Rosy Wertheim and Dick Kattenburg were performed by Eleonore and me and Irene Maessen (soprano) and Marijke van Kooten (violin).
Our last concert, related to the second world war, was presented by Eleonore and me in Paris in the Maison Heinrich Heine, German Cultural Institute, with music by persecuted Jewish composers from the interbellum, a.o. Leo Smit, Dick Kattenburg, Rosy Wertheim and Erwin Schulhoff.

In Paris we had a meeting with an important staffmember from the UNESCO, a United Nations organization, based in Paris. Our 6 Continents Project is about the loss of cultural diversity and the preservation of the musical cultural heritage worldwide and exactly this is where the UNESCO is concerned about as well. We will cooperate with UNESCO during the celebration of the 60th anniversary of this organization and we will also record our project on CD in this framework. More news about this CD will be presented on my homepage in due time.

On May 23 I left for Beirut. At the American University of Beirut I gave a lecture recital. The Egyptian composer Riad Abdel-Gawad, who was a guest professor at the AUB by the time, had invited me to come to Beirut.
On May 25 and 26 I played at the Medinatheatre in Beirut. On the first evening I played my Bluesprogram (a.o. the first performance of a new blues by the Lebanese composer Setrak Setrakian). The second evening was devoted to the Tango. On my request the Theatre had invited some guests: the wonderful Lebanese singer Soumaya Baalbakki who performed Lebanese and Egyptian tangos, sung in arabic of course. You can read reviews of these concerts by linking to Press reports.
The bluesprogram was also performed at the American University where composer Riad Abdel-Gawad improvised with me on the violin. Finally I played the bluesprogram in Amman (Jordan). In Amman I also coached a jamsession with local musicians and at the National Conservatory I gave a lecturerecital and a masterclass.

On June 19 there was again the Festival in het Groen (Festival in the green) in Eindhoven, a series of concerts in the open air in the municipal park. With Eleonore I did two short concerts. During the first one we played pieces related to the mythological stories which were read by Festivalprogrammer Erik-Jan Bakker. Works by Roussel, Gluck, Debussy and Joost Kleppe were played while helicopters surveyed a cycle race happening at the same time...Fortunately they had left by the time our second concert started and people enjoyed pieces from our 6 Continents Project, while sitting in the late afternoon sun.

My musical season ended with a lunchconcert at the house of the provincial governement of North-Holland. Notwithstanding the high average age of the audience my Tango CD’s were sold at high speed. This made a satisfying ending of the first half of my musical year.

Marcel Worms, July 2005