Concerts in Haarlem and Amsterdam

Thousandfolders hit the road this week and next, soaking in the many cultural delights of Amsterdam and Brussels (and neighboring cities) before heading off to Riga, Latvia for performances with their early music festival.

Boy it’s rough on your feet to stand in museums all day! To break it up, we hopped over to lovely Haarlem for the jewel-box Frans Hals Museum, then an afternoon concert at the Cathedral of St. Bavo in the center of town. Resident organist Jos van der Kooy gave a brief recital on the church’s stunning organ:

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One of the finsest in the world. Played also by Handel and Mozart. More information is here. It was a lovely recital for a meandering mid-day tourist crowd. The acoustic was not nearly as muddy as one might have expected, and Kooy’s final improvisation was clearly voiced and impressive- an improvised fugue! Mozart’s late Andante fuer eine Waltze fuer eine kleine Orgel (K616) seemed like an odd choice for the grandness of the instrument, but was actually a welcome lightener between Cornelis de Woolf and Bach BWV 542, which sounded a bit muddied – either in articulation or acoustic.

We “celebrated” July 4 with a concert in the magnificent Concertgebouw, previously known to us only in tv specials and recordings:

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As it happened, the evening was a special occasion a “kennismakingsconcert” hosted by an institute on multicultural something or other. In attendance was her royal highness princess Maxima, to the delight of the schoolchildren filling the seating onstage. Maxima is apparently a true music lover, a royal counterbalance to the governing regime’s moves to cut the heart out of the country’s enviable musical life.

Ok blogging from the phone now, here’s the short version:

It was a delight to hear the hall’s perfect acoustic live: somehow clear yet resonant, well-balanced and colorful. We wished only for more and more interesting music, and a better conductor.

The venerable Concertgebouw Orchestra played well in spite of conductor David Afkham, a young Haitink protege. He had trouble keeping some of the wilder parts of the Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet excerpts under control, and overall, the orchestra’s playing was more expressive than his movement.

Saleem Abboud Ashkar proved a stylish pianist on showpieces by Mendelssohn and Saint-Saens, happily demonstrating a warm, round tone, in contrast with so many bangy young folks today. A suite by Turkey’s greatest orchestral composer Ahmet Adnan Saygun was disappointing: inoffensive tunes and gestures in weak arrangements, thin textures and repetitive lines.

Sheesh that sounds mad, but with just one shot to hear the orchestra live, we wished for something with a bit more heft.

But enough griping! On to museums in the Hague, then a culinary upgrade to Brussels on Saturday. More soon. Meanwhile, here are some more pics:

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Haarlem

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About thousandfoldecho

Everyone likes classical music. Not everyone knows it yet.
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