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NJO Music Summer - sparks splashed during closing concert too

Bathed in sweat and applauded by audience and musicians alike, conductor Antony Hermus leaves the stage on Sunday 17 August after the final concert of the NJO Muziekzomer. He has every reason to be pleased, as the performance of Ein Heldenleben by Richard Strauss at Theatre Orpheus in Apeldoorn sparked that it had a nature. The tricky piece jumps in every conceivable direction in six movements, but Hermus, with his unbridled commitment and enthusiasm, manages to hold things together superbly.

Generously, the conductor asks for extra applause for the many soloists. Among them concertmaster Elise Besemer, who within the often Wagnerian violence performs the voice of Strauss' wife Pauline with admirable control and suppleness. She has a wonderful tone and switches effortlessly between the now seductive, then capricious and whimsical part, without losing sight of the big picture. In the last part, she got equally wonderful opposition from hornist William McNeill.

Crisp percussion chords and jazzy rhythms

Even before the break it was a treat. Hermus opened with Three Dance Episodes by Leonard Bernstein, in which razor-sharp, stravinsky percussion chords alternate with tender lyricism. Swinging along deep from the hips, he leads the young musicians gracefully through the rousing syncopations of this jazzy piece; he also knows how to capture the languid laid-back atmosphere in the third movement.

NJO conducted by Antony Hermus with trombonist Sebastiaan Kemner, Theatre Orpheus Apeldoorn 17-8-2015 (c) Thea Derks

But perhaps the finest piece of the evening is the Trombone Concerto by American composer Christopher Rouse, with Sebastiaan Kemner as soloist. The trombonist was young artist in residence this year and signed on for a number of interesting programmes. Earlier in the festival, for instance, he presented the dog-eared Sequenza by Berio - a composer to whom not every young musician dares to venture.


Also in Rouse's atmospheric concert, Kemner shows himself to be an outstanding brass player. He has a noble tone and even manages to give the many extremely low notes a nice, warm colour. The collaboration with orchestra and conductor is slick, with remarkably beautiful interplay. His initially very sparse notes - consisting mainly of an elongated, descending minor second in the very lowest register - are coloured in with plucked strings and muted harp sounds. This creates a mysterious and fairy-tale atmosphere that keeps me on the edge of my seat: what is to come?

It is nice that Rouse dares to compose two hushed slow movements, and only in the middle movement to go all out with deafening tutti and crazy percussion. Nervous busy lines of the trombone are imitated by the orchestra; at the climax of this pandemonium, one of the percussionists hits an enormous block of wood with an immense hammer.

After an intense lament by the trombone, the haunting atmosphere of the beginning returns, with thin string sounds, muted harps and deep grunting (contra)bassoons. Flawless and seemingly unfazed, Kemner plays his part - in between wiping the sweat from his brow with a tip of his blouse.

Deeds not words

Every year, the NJO Music Summer manages to attract hundreds of young musicians to Apeldoorn and draw large audiences to their performances. It is a pity that this sympathetic event is also struggling with money problems. Director Miranda van Drie reported before the start of the concert that main sponsor Univé is calling it quits after this season, leaving a big hole in the already meagre funds.

She was preceded by Josan Meijers, deputy of the province of Gelderland, who spoke fine words about the importance of talent development and also personally thanked the musicians for their efforts. She emphasised the enormous significance of the NJO for her province.

Directors like to speak fine words, hopefully Ms Meijers will put them into action!

Thea Derks

Thea Derks studied English and Musicology. In 1996, she completed her studies in musicology cum laude at the University of Amsterdam. She specialises in contemporary music and in 2014 published the critically acclaimed biography 'Reinbert de Leeuw: man or melody'. Four years on, she completed 'An ox on the roof: modern music in vogevlucht', aimed especially at the interested layperson. You buy it here: In 2020, the 3rd edition of the Reinbertbio appeared,with 2 additional chapters describing the period 2014-2020. These also appeared separately as Final Chord.View Author posts

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