For another 15 years, the Delft Chamber Music Festival, so named to reflect its international character, has encompassed 15 years. Violinist Isabelle van Keulen handled the chamber music festival's programming for the first ten years, Lisa Ferschtmann - also a violinist - took over from her five years ago.
But even this otherwise successful festival fears the upcoming budget cuts. A pity, because what there is, is beautiful: a week of concerts at the highest level in the limited space of the covered courtyard of museum Het Prinsenhof. The hundred-and-some seats there are structurally sold out, a hall occupancy of 100 per cent, what hall in the classical circuit can sign up for that? Yet this is a time when, as an organiser of classical music, there is no way you can get it right. Leftist hobbies, remember? No good for anything even if it runs so well. The festival should therefore bet on growth to survive the bad times.
On the margins of the music world, a development is taking place that completely eludes the press, subsidy assessment committees and anyone else with an opinion: chamber music, ensemble playing from solo to quartet, with the occasional larger instrumentation here and there, is growing like cabbage, against the odds. Many residents of mansions make their living rooms with pianos available to musicians to make music there on a small scale, for a small company of invites. From Amsterdam-Zuid, via Santpoort, Bloemendaal, Haarlem, The Hague's Benoordenhout to Rotterdam-Kralingen, this is happening. And whatever public opinion thinks of it, festivals are built around it, from Amsterdam's Grachtenfestival to this one in Delft.
The Delft festival is invariably grouped around a theme. This year that theme is 'Between Dream and Reality'. The porganisation seized thisb theme to make connections between classical, 19th-century chamber music (the century in which this phenomenon started to emerge on the basis of social developments) and contemporary music where experimentation is not shunned. The usually conservative audience loves it all. Luciano Berio's Sequenzas have already been performed in their entirety, English avant-garde composer Thomas Adès has been at the centre before. Unfortunately, this year's festival lacks such a statement. The main work on the opening night, Friday 29 July, was Arnold Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht. Its Pierrot Lunaire will be paired with Maurice Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit but there is no common thread anyway.
On Saturday evening, what may have been the most intriguing work of the festival was performed: the Gesang der Jünglinge by Karlheinz Stockhausen. This amazing electronic manipulation of singing boys' voices from 1956 meant an absolute breakthrough of electronics in music. Pop music in particular benefited from this because it was where everything came together: a time of youthful enthusiasm, new music and seemingly limitless possibilities through electronic processing of music. This would be unthinkable without the Gesang der Jünglinge.
Stockhausen had the voices, singing Preiset den Herrn, through four separate sound channels, each with its own loudspeaker column shooting back and forth and swirling around. Too bad it wasn't completely dark. Darkness would have enhanced the effect of this particular work. Though even now, it gave the audience much food for discussion.
The context in which this work was performed (played is a more accurate term) was actually so-so. Fratres by Arvo Pärt for viola and piano was trashed by the totally uninspired playing of Dietmut Poppen. The apparent lack of joie de vivre she exudes does not make her a musica to watch with pleasure either. Mozart's clarinet quintet KV 581 then didn't fit very well into the sub-theme Religious Conveyance either.
Max Bruch's Kol Nidrei, instead of being played on cello on double bass by Rick Stotijn, on the other hand, built on Ravel's Chanson Hébraïque sung with scorching power by Christianne Stotijn (all accompanied on piano) and Fant de Kanter's a cappella Prayer written for her.
Delft Chamber Music Festival daily from 29 July to 7 August, museum Het Prindenhof. Attended: Saturday evening 30 July. Information: www.delftmusicfestival.nl