I wrote two blog entries on why musicians attend concerts to encourage musicians, particularly performers, to go to concerts. Finding the time to attend a concert is hard enough for performers who are time-challenged. Finding the time to blog, in order to share and remember the event, is harder still.
During the academic break in February 2010, I went to meet and hear the composer Frederic Rzewski at Amsterdam Conservatory.
I brought along a pianist friend who was grateful for the break from teaching. She said, “I should be going to more concerts like this — not just piano concerts. Thanks for inviting me.”
I first heard of Rzewski (pronounced jef-ski) in the summer of 2006 at a contemporary music festival in Italy. The American pianist Thomas Rosenkranz took us through an in-depth analysis of what is probably his most famous work,”The People United Won’t Be Defeated.” It was so fascinating that I carved it into my memory forever. When the opportunity came to hear him speak in person, I just had to make the time for it.
Rzewski was in Amsterdam for the premiere of his work “REEDS” for the Calefax reed quintet. He was also enthusiastic to share his nanosonatas. When asked about it, he told the story of his gift to the Okinawan scientist and amateur pianist Hideyuki Arata. As I spent 11 years of my childhood in Okinawa, I was naturally interested in anything remoted related to the island. This was just one of many stories and anecdotes he told — all very interesting and inspiring.
In the ensuing question & answer session, after his performance of the last set of nanosonatas, my pianist friend asked about subsidies for composers. His reply was thought provoking. “Does having a system of subsidy like you have in this country (Netherlands) improve the quality of the creative output?”
I took a lot of notes and had a lot of interesting conversations with other fans of Rzewski afterwards. The pre-concert talk at the Muziekgebouw aan’t Ij gave more information about the world premiere that was commissioned by Calefax. I seriously believe that new music needs to be introduced or explained beforehand. The context is important. Pre-concert talks are a blessing to have.
The all-male Calefax reed quintet is one of the leading Dutch ensembles with an international presence. I was amazed at the different kinds of sounds that could emerge from blowing on a reed mouthpiece. The reed instruments are oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and saxophone, but within these families are the additional bass clarinet, bass bassoon, and the entire range of saxophone (from bass to soprano). That evening’s concert also featured composer/percussionist Arnold Marinissen — hence rietslag — reed + percussion, one of Calefax’s many programmes.