NEWSLETTER NR. 8 AUGUST - DECEMBER 2005
On Sunday August 28 my new concert season starts at the Amsterdam UITMARKT, the opening of the new cultural season in the Dutch capital. The hall at the Conservatory is packed and the audience is enthusiastic as is the case most of the time at this festival-like event. In about 30 minutes time I play new blues from Australia, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, the USA and the Netherlands a.o. the premier of ' Sample Minds' and 'All Right, All Rite' by Dutch pianist and composer Martin Fondse. Martin wrote me 11(!) blueslike pieces (all of them half composed, half to be improvised); each of them corresponds with a letter of my name and with a decade of the history of the blues, which spans more than a century.
Two weeks later, on September 11, I’m playing again in Amsterdam, this time in the Jewish Historical Museum. The Synagogue inside the Museum is empty for some time awaiting restoration and temporarily it can be used as a concerthall. The program seems quite appropiate for the location: the Sonata by Gideon Klein (composed in Theresiënstadt), the second Sonata by Viktor Ullmann, the second Suite by Erwin Schulhoff and the ‘6 Morceaux de piano’ by Rosy Wertheim.
The next weekend I’m performing in a completely different setting: the Salsaband 'Cerveza Fria' is playing in the Muiderpoorttheatre in Amsterdam. Their pianist is unable to attend the concert and while my wife Cara is playing the double-bass in this group, I’m invited to be her stand-in on this occasion. The amplification is terrible but nevertheless I enjoy playing a lot. Especially the percussiongroup is swinging convincingly and people are dancing all over the place.
At the end of september I leave for Georgia. In Kutaisi (the second largest city of this Kaukasian republic) and in the capital Tbilisi I give masterclasses and concerts. The technical level of the students was amazingly high. The country is very poor and has suffered a lot from civil war and the refugee problems these conflicts caused. People are very hospitable as I had the chance to experience. As traffic rules are practically non-existent my nervous system on the road was severely tested. In Tblisi I played my bluesprogram at the Festival ‘Tblisi Autumn’. On the same evening the Georgian Jazz Quartet performed as well and at the end we played jazz with the five of us. This was musically very satisfying as was my playing for children at a cultural centre which was organized by the FDHR, the Foundation for the Development of Human Resources, a partner of War Child.
In october I play my Bluesprogram at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. In this museum of modern art, temporarily located near the Central Station, the oldest series of new music concerts is still running after many decades. At this concert I premier new blueslike works from Australia (Andrew Ford), Armenia (Mikhael Kokzhayev) and the Netherlands (Rozalie Hirs).
The next day I have the chance to play a classical recital in Oisterwijk, a small town in the south of Holland. Though I play a lot of contemporary music I love to play classical recitals as well. And for some weeks I had a very good excuse to start my daily practicing with music by Bach, Mozart, Chopin and Poulenc...
For the Uilenburger Synagogue in Amsterdam Eleonore is the artistic coördinator of a beautiful concert series since 1996. The concerts of the Leo Smit Foundation (www.leosmit.nl) focus on composers from the interbellum, who didn’t get the chances to be performed which they deserved. Many of them are jewish composers, persecuted by the nazis. I attended these concerts already many times but now I’m there as a performer for the first time. At this concert two pieces by Dick Kattenburg are performed. Kattenburg wrote these works at a young age as he was murdered in Auschwitz when he was only 24 years old. His works have only been rediscovered recently. With conductor and pianist Ed Spanjaard I premier some great pieces for piano four hands. Marieke van der Ven does a marvellous job as a tapdancer which is obligatory with one of these pieces.
Shortly afterwards Eleonore and I are heading for Ljubljana, Slovenia. There we present our Six Continents Project, combined with works by 4 Slovenian composers, a.o. by Dusan Bavdek at whose place we’re staying as well. Our concert at the Slovenian Philharmonia is part of the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Slovenian Composers Union. We have the opportunity to work with Dusan, Crt Sojar Voglar and Brina Zupancic before performing their compositions. We feel quite satisfied after the masterclasses, the lectures and the concert, not only musically but also because of the typical middle-european atmosphere of Ljubljana and the peacefullness of Lake Bled, where we spend our last day before getting back.
In the framework of an exhibition in the Netherlands Theatre Institute about theatre in the Netherlands during the second world war, a number of so called ‘black evenings’ are being reconstructed. On such evenings illegal musical- and theatrical performances took place. One of the locations had been the house of the dutch composer Alphons Diepenbrock. In the penthouse on top of his former house in the southern part of Amsterdam, where about 60 years ago music was peformed secretly, Eleonore and present on a november night works by Dick Kattenburg, Leo Smit and Marius Flothuis. The latter has been a regular visitor of the ‘black evenings’ during wartime.
Songwriter and lyricist Stephen Sondheim seems to prefer two pianist instead of just one to accompany his songs. That’s why my colleague Reinild Mees had invited me to participate in her two ‘Spotlightconcerts’ in which the spotlights were on Sondheim. With mezzosoprano Monique Scholte, tenor Terence Mierau, director Brent Krysa and René Bogaard as Sondheimexpert, connecting the different sections of the programs with anecdotes and comments, we perform the program in Felix Meritis in Amsterdam and in the Oosterpoort in Groningen. I had to get used to the idea that the direction in a production like this plays a very important part and claims a lot of the time of the rehearsals. For me a program should first of all be solid musically, directors however tend to emphasize the styling of a show.
On November 22 Eleonore and I are leaving for Sri Lanka and India. In 2 weeks we have 7 concerts with a mixed program of classical and contemporary works. We knew that the interest in India for western music is quite limited - as the Indian classical tradition itself is very strong - but fortunately we have good audiences. The countries are impressive, people are very polite and friendly. Of course we are confronted also with overpopulation, pollution and poverty. I’ve written an article about this tour in the Dutch magazine Mens en Melodie but one should be able to read Dutch for that. At least you can have a look at some pictures elsewhere on this site.
When we return in the Netherlands our CD Treasures 1937-1944 has just been released. On this CD we recorded works by Dutch, Jewish composers, persecuted by the nazis:: Leo Smit, Rosy Wertheim, Daniël Belinfante, Nico Richter and Dick Kattenburg. Their works almost have been fallen into oblivion but fortunately there is a tendency during the last decade to perform their music again. The subject seems to be less touchy since the war is over for 60 years now. Also the changing views on musical esthetics helped to get more attention for music which is clearly tonal as the predominancy of atonal and serial music seems to have come to an end.
Also Dutch composer Marius Flothuis is represented on the CD. He wasn’t Jewish but he played a role in the Dutch resistance movement and he composed his ‘Aubade’ and his ‘Sonata da camera’ during his imprisonment in the nazi camp of Vught in the Netherlands. On December 15 we present our new CD in the beautifully restored synagogue of Enschede, in the east of the Netherlands.
On December 19 Dutch reedensemble Calefax presents their second ‘PAN’ in the Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ, the new music centre in Amsterdam: it’s their annual celebration of the anniversary of this quintet, which was founded 20 years ago. On their ‘PAN’ they invite musicians and visual artist to present some of their latest work. A splendid idea and moreover a very sympathetic one as the general idea is to consider fellow-musicians to be rivals instead of colleagues. This generous attitude exactly creates the right atmosphere for the Christmas recess.