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Enchanting concert Silbersee in Pieterskerk Utrecht #Gaud16

A creak. A squeak. A plop. A cough. Genuflection. In Utrecht's Pieterskerk, the singers of Silbersee surround us with almost inaudible, mysterious sounds. The fragmentation evokes an atmosphere of a restless nocturnal forest. Does an owl screech there? The fabric condenses and the sound changes colour as the singers buzz through cardboard tubes, blow mini harmonicas and play shrill whistles. Are the monkeys getting into a fight? Police sirens sound up, a sudden forte of abrasively dissonant harmonies is interspersed with wonderfully beautiful polyphonic chants. Then the mysterious, enchanted silence returns.

Korsun fails to live up to 'great expectations'

Ukrainian Anna Korsun (1986) won the Gaudeamus Award with some extraordinary compositions that betray her great affinity for the human voice. Also Ulenflucht, which she composed with the prize money and which had its world premiere on Friday 9 September, immediately grabs you as a listener by the throat. You prick up your ears and shift involuntarily to the tip of the pew: is music already sounding here or did the singers accidentally make noise while positioning themselves in front, beside and behind us?

Thus, Korsun inevitably draws you into her idiosyncratic sound world. Unfortunately, the 20-minute piece lingers a bit on its promise: we go from super soft to super loud and back again, but there is hardly any development. Ulenflucht ends as indefinitely as it began. She knows the 'great expectations' from the title of this concert fails to deliver.

Dadaist nonsense

A nice contrast to the hushed sound world of Korsun are the crazy, energetic pieces Up and Down by Polish composer Jerzy Bielski (b. 1984). His approach is distinctly theatrical. A singer (Sterre Konijn) lies on the stairs near the altar, while three singers behind her tower above her menacingly. A few steps down is gambist Salomé Gasselin, flogging her instrument with furious, electronically amplified strokes. The singer descends and sings a textless but virtuoso aria full of glissandi, through which the men weave a rhythmic chorus of nonsense sounds. It recalls the anarchic performance art of Dadaists like Kurt Schwitters.

Lyricism and angelic song

Taiwanese Shih-Wei Lo (1985) is the only nominee at this Silbersee concert. He impresses with Madhye II, in which he pairs short eruptions of the choristers with heavy electronic thunder sounds and ethereal angelic singing of elongated harmonies. We also hear a lot of whispers, humming, clanging and other 'unmusical' sounds in his composition. It seems as if young people are afraid to make the human voice sound natural and fluent.

The best work of the evening is Look Up by the British Samantha Fernando (b. 1984). She is just a little too old to compete for the Gaudeamus Award, meant for composers under 30. She is the only one to present lyrical vocal lines on intelligible texts and also dares to make the performers sound like a Gregorian or Greek Orthodox cantor. Witty is the invention of contrasting choral singing reminiscent of ancient music at the front of the church with less lilting and more rhythmic, 'modern' responses from behind, a pleasantly alienating effect.

Theatrical approach works

At conductor Manoj Kamps' request, we did not applaud between pieces, so that the evening became one cohesive whole. Kamps led ensemble Silbersee sovereignly through the often tricky parts, which require tremendous concentration and vocal control. The theatrical elements also came off well. With this concert in the Gaudeamus Music Week, Silbersee once again proved its quality as an advocate of new music. The composers who performed can congratulate themselves.

Find more info and playlist of the Gaudeamus Music Week here

 

2 thoughts on “Betoverend concert Silbersee in Pieterskerk Utrecht #Gaud16”

  1. Thanks for the nice review, although the subtitle is somewhat at odds with the largely laudatory words for Corsun's composition.
    One correction: the singer in Bielski's two compositions was not Marine Fribourg but Sterre Konijn.

    1. Thanks for your response Wout, too bad the names of the soloists were not mentioned with the pieces. I had searched the internet specifically for pictures to check the correct name. - Apparently, Sterre Konijn looks more like Fribourg on the internet than herself 🙂

Comments are closed.

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: https://www.boekenbestellen.nl/boek/een-os-op-het-dak/9789012345675 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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