Final exam concerts at Utrecht Conservatory

The most important concert in a music student’s years at a conservatory is the final exam recital. Aside from passing all required subjects, the final year student must also pass the final exam concert, which is free and typically one hour long without intermission. Three musicians who performed at the Glass Vase Concert will give their final exam concerts this week.

The most important concert in a music student’s years at a conservatory is the final exam recital. Aside from passing all required subjects, the final year student must also pass the final exam concert, which is free and typically one hour long without intermission.

For performance students, the final concert consists of a balance of solo and non-solo repertoire spanning various styles, e.g. from Baroque to contemporary periods. For composition majors, this consists of performance of original works. A jury decides on the final grade.

In the Netherlands, a PASS mark is a 6. A perfect mark is a 10.

Two years ago I organised 40 musicians to perform my compositions at Utrecht Conservatory. It was a huge project that nearly sucked the life out of me. What I learned from it was the need to get the experience of producing concerts much earlier on. Since then, I’ve been encouraging my younger classmates to get this experience so it would not be a shock when the time comes.

Utrecht Conservatory is the oldest of eleven conservatories in the Netherlands. It’s located in two old buildings a few minutes’ walk from the central station (Utrecht Centraal) in the famous Museum District. The classical music concerts are usually held in the yellow building called K&W which stands for Kunst en Wetenschappen (Art and Knowledge). The concert hall inside is built to modern acoustical standards (perfect reverb ratio for classical music). The other building (brown) contains a chapel where many early music concerts are given. The brown building is a former men’s hospital.

A few weeks ago, 23rd May 2010 to be precise, we held a Glass Vase Concert (4 concerts + dinner + jam session) to help some of the younger musicians prepare for their final exam concerts. These “tryouts” were meant to allow them to play in front of an attentive (and appreciative) audience.

Because of the timing of various competing activities, I was not able to blog about the importance of these tryouts for final exam concerts. Two of the musicians have already passed their exams. The remaining will give their concerts very soon. Let me introduce them here.

Maria Pozdnyakova, harpist at Glass Vase Concert. Photo: Serge van Empelen
Maria Pozdnyakova, harpist Photo: Serge van Empelen

Thursday 17 June 2010 at 18:00 in the concert hall of the K&W Building

Maria Pozdynakova, Russian harpist, will give a concert for her Master of Music final exam. Some of the pieces include

J.L.Dussek: Sonata Es major
T.Hosokawa: Gesine
M.Flothuis: Pour le tombeau de Orphee
H.Renie: Legende

She gave the first outdoor concert in the Monument House Concert Series, her concert harp having acclimatised to the Garden House overnight. Her choice of repertoire was very daring but this being a house concert, the audience loved it.

Earlier in December 2009, she gave a solo concert of works of Russian composers. Hailing from Moscow, she gave the audience a feeling for music at a Russian tea house. See video, photos, and guestbook comments at “Sold out, full-house, standing room only.”

Maria played the harp in two of my compositions in my final exam in 2008: Culture Shock! and Elegie for Ensemble.

The month of June is busy with final exams and auditions. On Friday 18th June, several pianists will be giving their Bachelor of Music final exam concerts. Two of these pianists played in the Glass Vase Concert.

Leonie de Klerk, pianist
Leonie de Klerk, pianist

Leonie de Klerk will give her exam at 10:30 am. Her programme is as follows:

JS Bach (1685-1750) Toccata in e, BWV 914

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) Sonate in D, KV 576

  1. Allegro
  2. Adagio
  3. Allegretto

Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) Suggestion Diabolique, opus 4 nr. 4 ‘Prestissimo fantastico’

Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) Ballade nr. 4 in f, opus 52 ‘Andante con moto

Alexander Skrjabin (1872-1915) Etude in cis, opus 42 nr. 5 ‘Affannato’

Thijn Vermeulen, pianist. Photo: Serge van Empelen
Thijn Vermeulen, pianist. Photo: Serge van Empelen

On Friday 18th June at 14:00, Thijn Vermeulen will give his final exam concert. His programme includes

Triana by Albéniz,

Haydn’s c-minor sonata Hob.16/20 ,

Les Soireés de Nazelles by Francis Poulenc and

works by J.S. Bach and Ligeti.

Also Trio ART (Anna Sophie Torn, violin; Remco Woutersen, cello; Thijn Vermeulen, piano) will perform Rachmaninoff’s first Trio Elégiaque in g-minor.

Once upon a time, about 5 to 6 years ago, I would go to all final exams, which are typically organised by instrument and major subject. You can expect Friday 18th June to be piano day, for the jetsetting piano teachers (all master performers in their own right) to convene for their students’ most important moment. However, this Friday I won’t be attending any concert. I will only be able to go to Maria’s concert on Thursday the 17th.

Good luck, Leonie and Thijn!