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De Tiende van Tijl is good, proves Podium Witteman

On this website I broke a lance in December 2014 for TV programmes like Maestro, which presented classical music as too easy in the eyes of some. Those same people are unlikely to have a good word to say about The Tenth of Arrows, in which cabaret artist Tijl Beckand introduces classical music through spectacular stories, dramatic histories, often filmed on location abroad, overwhelming film footage, remarkable competitions, plagiarism exploits, great opportunities for up-and-coming talents, joking comparisons with the world of football and plenty of female beauty when it comes to the performing musicians. With that, however, he has the 'difficult' classical music prime time put at the fingertips of people who never came into contact with it before.

Tears in the eyes

But even I, though an elite child myself who grew up with classical music, enjoyed the first three seasons immensely. Because there was always something to learn and because I felt moved by the beauty of the music. So I gladly forgive Tijl, who often stands there with tears in his eyes, that one just-too-flat remark, far too bland joke or modest ego trip.

De Tiende van Tijl paved the way for many other programmes, whether reality shows or not, with or without BN-ers, that show something of the craftsmanship of classical musicians: the Matthäus and Messiah Masterclasses, Het Orkest van Nederland and Maestro.


But in January 2015, Paul Witteman entered the fray. Every Sunday afternoon for an hour and a half Podium Witteman, with cabaret pianist Mike Boddé and music connoisseur Floris Kortie. With young talents like Daria van den Bercken, Tijl's resident pianist just last year, and renowned top musicians like Mariss Jansons and Reinbert de Leeuw. With here and there a wink or a foray into other, mainly Latin American musical styles.

But above all, with a lot of depth. Whereas Beckand is mostly talking himself and wants to put as much beauty as possible into a broadcast, Witteman takes the time to let others talk about musical, but also music-related matters. Occasionally you don't understand something. Occasionally something doesn't touch you. But I still remain fascinated for an hour and a half. Whether the same applies to people without any classical background, I don't know, but after three seasons of Tijl you should be able to keep up.


On Thursday, The Tenth of Arrows started its fourth season. The first episode felt familiar and full of wonderful items - and yet it took some getting used to. Occasionally I thought: 'Come on Tijl, don't be so quick about it, a little less bite-sized is allowed by now, dwell on this subject for a while. Is the political message you describe really the only dimension in Schubert's Trout Song or is there, as Jan Rot once translated it, also a mischievous-erotic meaning in it? And that lesser-known instrument, the theremin, sounds exciting, but how does it actually work?'

It is to Paul Witteman's credit that he offers classical music a serious platform in an extended talk show. But I don't think he would have succeeded without the breeding ground that Tijl Beckand has prepared for him by making classical music socially acceptable as a TV topic. That the current formula of De Tiende van Tijl threatens to become a little too superficial, therefore, proves above all how successful Beckand has been in maturing Dutch minds. A great achievement, on which heartfelt congratulations.

Frans van Hilten

I am a freelance cultural journalist. Because I think an independent cultural voice is important, I enjoy writing for this platform.View Author posts

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