Monday 12 December 2011

Germaine Greer and Britten Sinfonia go Dutch!

In November Britten Sinfonia went to Amsterdam and Eindhoven for a series of chamber concerts and conversation with speakers from world of science, journalism and philosophy. Concerts Assistant James Calver gives us a reflection on their trip.

The Concertgebouw and Muziekgebouw Frits Philips welcomed Britten Sinfonia principals Huw Watkins, Thomas Gould, Miranda Dale, Clare Finnimore and Caroline Dearnley for a mini chamber tour in the Netherlands last week.

We were joined by Professor Germaine Greer, delivering a stimulating talk on the subject of biodiversity, as a prelude to a programme featuring Messiaen, Takemitsu and Cage. The event entitled ‘Sharpthinkers’ is the brainchild of the Muziekgebouw Frits Philips and forms part of a wider series providing a platform for eminent intellectuals to deliver lectures on their specialist topics.

In Amsterdam we discovered the beautiful surroundings of the Recital Hall of the Concertgebouw; built in the 1880s, the 478-seat auditorium forming part of the larger Concertgebouw structure proved the perfect setting for this intimate event. The experience was repeated in the similarly intimate, but modern surroundings of the Small Hall of the Muziekgebouw Eindhoven.

Huw Watkins’ flawless performance of two excerpts from Catalogue d’Oiseaux followed by Takemitsu Rain Tree Sketch I & II (the second of the Rain Tree Sketches, dedicated to Oliver Messiaen following his death in 1992) were very well received and complimented John Cage’s Quartet in Four Parts (1950) which rounded-off the evening’s proceedings. The Quartet is based on the Indian notion of the seasons (creation, preservation, destruction and quiescence) with its four movements entitled Quietly flowing along, Slowly rocking, Nearly stationary and Quodlibet.

The trip concluded with a rather unexpected, but very pleasant dinner at a casino in Eindhoven. I can assure readers that none of the party were tempted to have a flutter at the blackjack tables.

Despite the anticipated strike delays when flying back into Heathrow on Wednesday, our travel plans ran very smoothly and Huw Watkins managed to make it to the RPS British Composer Awards, where he received the song category award. Congratulations, Huw!

We look forward to returning to Amsterdam Concertgebouw on Tuesday 20 December to perform Handel’s Messiah.

James Calver
Dec 2011

1 comment:

jade said...

Is there a recording or manuscript of Greer's talk that I can listen to or read? Thanks!