Tuesday 24th March 2009 promised a two-hour opening lecture by the British composer Brian Ferneyhough in the new building of the Conservatory of Amsterdam, near the central train station. If I could manage my time efficiently, I’d be able to visit Donemus, in what-is-now Muziek Centrum Nederland (MCN) beforehand.
Although Amsterdam takes less than 30 minutes by train, I still prefer to hit two birds with one stone, i.e. batch my errands or appointments in one day. There is so much to see and do in this cultural capital that I’d have to plan ahead to avoid temptation and distraction. Any number of museums and lunch time concerts would lead me astray.
I cycled on my folding bike to Utrecht Centraal station, missed the direct train to central Amsterdam, but caught the fast train to Schiphol Airport two minutes later. The conductor advised that I change at the next station, Amsterdam Bijlmer Arena, for a “stoptrein” to Amsterdam Centraal. From there, I cycled to Rokin 111 where I had spent the afternoon the day before.
What is it about sheet music that lures me to spend all the time I have available? I would happily live in a music library or a sheet music store and gobble away all the notes I find. Such is the temptation that I dare not visit such places except on gift-giving occasions such as my birthday or Christmas.
The famous blue covers of Donemus publications represented music that was avant-garde and intellectual. Handwritten notation was not uncommon. Prior to coming to the Netherlands, I often wondered why Dutch painters were world famous, and yet I could not name a single Dutch composer.
I took out Chiel Meijering’s ‘n Dame scheert haar benen (Lady Shaves Her Legs) and explained to Ger, the librarian I met the day before, that the harpsichord score was difficult to read. He agreed and took me to Donemus, whereupon a lady quickly pulled up the electronic file on screen. She enlarged the PDF of the handwritten manuscript and printed it.
Is this better?
Yes, may I have it?
Sure, I’ll even bind it for you.
The philosophy of “print on demand” was new to me. The technology of Apple computers, high resolution printers, and spiral-binding machines served that philosophy. No more excuses for not trying to play that 1981 piece for guitar and harpsichord, I sighed.
I looked around the bookcases of sheet music. Have I discovered a gold mine? Just search the catalogue of sheet music online or in the printed binder, locate it in the library, sightread and play it mentally in my head, and then walk next door to Donemus to request for a copy to take home.
Among the pile of music for guitar plus other instruments, I found a three movement piece for piano and guitar by a Dutch composer I had never heard of.
Who is he?
Wolfgang Wijdeveld died in 1985.
And thus began my journey of discovering Dutch composers and their music.