Gaudeamus Music Week 2010: Getting the Grand Tour

Composers Lu Wang and Francisco Castillo Trigueros listening to a Holland Sinfonia rehearsal
Composers Lu Wang and Francisco Castillo Trigueros listening to a Holland Sinfonia rehearsal

Hi, again, from Amsterdam. If this entry is scattered, it’s because I’m sitting in an orchestra rehearsal right now listening to the Holland Sinfonia read through Lu Wang’s piece, Wailing. It’s exciting to be sitting in the third row right in front of a European orchestra. They’re sounding pretty darn good for a first rehearsal.

The evening concert of day two of the Gaudeamus Festival was in Orgelpark, a small but powerful space nestled inside of a park. When I heard that the place had four organs, I expected something much bigger—but instead, there is more of an intimate church vibe inside, and it was a full house. When the four organs were all played in the last piece on the program (Arizona-based composer Jacob Adler’s Hollerin’ in the Orgelpark) it was like getting a big, warm hug from a giant pipe monster. There was a lot of string music on the program, and the strings sounded awesome in the acoustic. It’s cool that there are so many venues involved in the festival, inviting listeners to explore lots of different parts of the city.

Outside Orgelpark
Outside Orgelpark

I really enjoyed all five pieces on the program. The second movement of Netherlands-based composer Ji Sun Yang’s string quartet stood out in a great performance by the Doelen Quartet. As indicated by the title—Melody, Notes, Five—this movement has only five notes in it. And it wasn’t only pitch content which was minimal: the notes also always stayed in the same middle register and were always long tones. There were fragments of melodies played in hocket around the quartet, separated by long rests. The first little melody, just with the notes [C,D,E-flat,D] was stuck in my head all night. When so little is going on, every tiny change becomes a huge event. I love listening in that way, when each small change can be anticipated and then savored.

Cheers! Prost! Slainte!
Cheers! Prost! Slainte!

A bunch of the composers had a nice post-concert hang with NewMusicBoxer Frank J. Oteri and his wife, Trudy, at a bar near our hotel. The bartender calls me “Baltimore,” and I realized this morning that I forgot to pay for the giant plate of cheese I ordered last night, so I’ll definitely be returning!

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