With a spot-on performance of Mendelssohn's Second Piano Trio, the Storioni Trio concluded last night's opening concert of the Storioni Festival at the Frits Philipszaal in Eindhoven. Spread across six different halls in five cities in Brabant, they will present an ambitious programme, featuring befriended musicians and composers. Central guest is the German Jörg Widmann, who acts in his capacity as clarinetist and composer. His Liebeslied for ensemble and Air for horn solo proved to be audience favourites, and he gratefully accepted the overwhelming applause.
At its opening concert, the trio from Brabant presented us with a very varied programme. From their enthusiasm to play as many beautiful pieces as possible, it was somewhat overloaded: the last note was not played until a quarter past eleven. However, the audience in the sold-out hall thoroughly enjoyed themselves and the corridors were full of appreciation for the amount of notes served up for good money.
The concert was opened by the Netherlands Chamber Choir, led by conductor Frank Hameleers by way of an 'insmijter' Die Tages Weihe by Schubert. This short piece was followed by an at least equally long changement, which somewhat took the momentum out of the programme. A ringmaster could have done wonders here.
The wait proved worthwhile, however, as Liebeslied is a captivating piece. Widmann lards dissonant harmonies of oboe, clarinet, flute and strings, among others, with intriguing strokes on the strings of the piano and firm claps on gongs and tamtams. The rhythmically highly agile piece also contains moments of humour, for instance when the percussionist elicits rustling sounds from the immense tamtam with a stick.
After this, the Nederlands Kamerkoor sang the Four Doppelchörige Gesänge of Schumann and performed again after the interval in That night by Rheinberger, in which they were accompanied by the Storioni Trio, expanded with violist Dana Zemtsov. Only in the latter piece did the singers actually find their feet. The tone was purer, the consonance more homogeneous and the bets were less uncertain, perhaps thanks to the instrumental support.
The occasional trio of violinist Svetlin Roussev, violist Gareth Lubbe and cellist Torleif Thedéen gave a fine performance of Serenade by Dohnany. The musicians appeared to get along well with the almost peasant rhythms and melodies the Hungarian borrowed from folk music. Chopin also drew inspiration from this in his Grand Duo concertant for cello and piano. Pianist Nino Gvetadze interpreted the pearly strings of notes with verve, dancing a veritable polonaise with the audience and Thedéen, who unfortunately struggled at times with intonation.
The hit of the evening was Air for horn solo by Jörg Widmann, performed by French hornist Hervé Joulain. Widmann presents us with a range of different sounds. Sometimes the horn sounds warm and roaring, other times shrill or extremely thin, at other times it seems to wail like a cat in heat. In lightning-fast motives, all registers of the instrument are explored, often requiring a single note to change from the highest to the lowest register.
Widmann showed his mastery by placing an opened grand piano behind the horn player. The strings resonating with it created a mysterious kind of polyphony, which amazed and enchanted the audience. Joulain performed his virtuoso part with great commitment and accuracy. He also has a good sense of the subtle humour in Widmann's work and got the laughs with his lively facial expressions. Like Gvetadze, Joulain communicates naturally and pleasantly with the audience. The other musicians could perhaps take an example from that in the ten remaining days of the appealing festival.