From Utrecht to Purmerend to Amsterdam with sunflowers


Writing, like performing, requires momentum. I’ve been so out of practice lately, with an ever-growing backlog of topics to write about, that it’s easier to watch the list grow rather than sit down to type a new blog.

The backlog includes our recent concert of 21st century music for piano guitar in which three of the composers were present. The anticipation of performing two pieces for the first time in front of two of the composers made it an intense experience (for me). This truly deserves a blog or two with extracts from the live recording.

To get back into the swing of writing, I will write what is most pressing to share — the talent of an undiscovered artist.

About 20 minutes ago I received an email from our friend Rob van Veggel (pronounced Veh-hel), a blonde-haired blue-eyed Dutch anthropologist who loves to draw, paint, sculpt, garden, cook, and travel. He attached a photo of a new painting (below) and wrote only, “Hi Anne & Robert, thx again.” The sunflowers are none other than the bouquet of 10 we bought in Amsterdam for the sumptuous dinner he cooked on the evening of Friday 24th July. [Click to get the bigger view.]

Sunflowers in Amsterdam by Rob van Veggel, 25 July 2009

Sunflowers in Amsterdam by Rob van Veggel, 25 July 2009

The bright sunflowers stood out from orange roses and other contenders for my choice of a gift that Friday at sunset. At first I picked five and then got persuaded by the flower seller to double it, as had the previous customer. The bundle was long and heavy to carry, and I was not entirely sure if our friends had a vase big enough to fit.

Rob knew exactly what to do with them — cut the stems diagonally and put them in warm water (40 degrees Celsius) in a clay pot. The result was a scene out of Van Gogh’s palette, begging to be captured on canvas.

And what a surprise to see the painting —- so soon! I daresay it’s more beautiful than the real thing, … an interpretation of our gift. I suppose it’s analogous to a musician’s interpretation of the work of a composer; or a composer’s interpretation of reality?

The flower stand sat on a busy street near Muziekbeurs, a second-hand sheet music store that’s been around for 50 years. We went there after our afternoon concert in Purmerend (east of Alkmaar but north of Amsterdam) to treat ourselves to music for piano and guitar (Carulli’s concerto), piano and bassoon, piano and French horn, and other indulgences. When the grey-haired owner tallied up the bill 20 minutes after closing time, I was shocked to learn that it was nearly what we earned from our concert!

The Dutch typically give flowers at the end of concerts. That Friday, however, we received two bottles of red wine instead of the usual bouquets. We had driven 50 minutes from Utrecht to get to the village of Purmerend earlier that afternoon. On the way, we saw a road sign for Ilpendam, which brought back fond memories of getting introduced to Dutch pastimes.

Now I wonder if we should drop by Rob and Allan’s place each time we receive a bouquet? Then I won’t have to go through the ritual of putting them in water and watching them wilt by the end of the week. Hint: if Rob reads this, perhaps he would consider giving me the painting of those gorgeous sunflowers.

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1 Comment

Filed under concert, sheet music, travel

One response to “From Utrecht to Purmerend to Amsterdam with sunflowers

  1. Rachel

    Beautiful painting!

    I can’t wait to hear more about the concert from your perspective. I’ll be so interested to know what was going on in your mind as I was listening.

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