This year, the theme for the Delft Chamber Music Festival was Tussen droom en werkelijkheid (Between Dream and Reality) with a succession of associated themes assigned to each concert starting with At Night on July 29 and ending with Dream or Reality? on August 7, passing through A Child’s Dream, Religious Ecstasy, Fairy Tales, Mystical Experience, Visual Reality, Fantasie Fantasque, Lunatic, and Return to Reality. Quite the trip.
Somewhat prosaically, I had opted for Return to Reality because of the sensible timing on a Sunday afternoon; and what a lovely afternoon it turned out! In a summer marred by chill and rain, August 7 was sunny and pleasant in every way.
The festival is held in the courtyard of the Museum Het Prinsenhof in Delft, a lovely venue that breathes centuries of history. I had visited the museum before on a cold and wet spring day shortly after arriving here in the Netherlands. Some Dutch friends took me and my partner-in-arts there to show us the bullet holes in the wall of the room where William of Orange was assassinated in 1584.
Fortunately, no weapons or assassins, or even ghosts, were in evidence on this sunny Sunday afternoon in Delft. Instead the audience were treated to views of a blue sky and fluffy white clouds through the glass roof. The clock tower of the Oude Kerk (Old Church) kept careful watch over the proceedings.
Liza Ferschtman is the artistic director of the festival and in this video clip she shows off the historical venue for the first few minutes before launching into a discussion of the theme for the 2009 festival, War and Peace.
Return to Reality started with the sunrise: L’Aurore, the first movement from Sonata No. 5 for solo violin by Eugene Ysaÿe, legendary Belgian violinist. (Do note that bit of information. It will come in very handy next time you’re asked to name 5 famous Belgians.)
I have mixed feelings about the violin. It can be so incredibly irritating, but when Sophia Jaffé played the Ysaÿe solo I was mesmerized. It seemed as if there were several voices weaving around each other in musical conversation to celebrate the sunrise. A piano trio by Haydn and Beethoven’s Cello Sonata Op. 69 followed the stunning solo, and then the concert ended with Chanson Perpetuélle by Chausson and Il Tramonto by Respighi, two tragic songs of love gone wrong. Unfortunately, I have never been able to give tragic songs my full attention as I am always distracted by memories of Jerome K. Jerome’s description of a high-cultured evening in Three Men in a Boat (Chapter VIII: A High Class Party and Shameful Conduct of Two Abandoned Young Men).
Since I have managed to come this far off the topic, I may as well relate the Tale of the Missing Seat as it is somewhat illuminating of life in the Netherlands. I had arrived early for the concert and trooped into the museum with the mostly elderly audience (ever thus when there’s classical music on the program), politely following the mad directions to enter the concert venue through a tiny room where staff were selling concert programs and CDs from past festivals instead of through the double glass door that led straight there. I navigated through the inevitable bottleneck to the hall without getting stepped on, or knocking anyone over. Clutching my ticket for row 1 seat 26, I was somewhat taken aback to discover that row 1 ended with seat 22, but by now I am a veteran of Dutch venues, so I checked row 1 from one end to the other in search of seat 26. Nada! Then I noticed a small hand-drawn seating chart propped on an easel and consulted it for clarification. Again, nada! Time to ask for help. A pleasant young woman explained that seat 26 in row 1 was actually seat 26 in the last row of seating, which I counted as row 11. She agreed that it was very confusing and said they would not use this seating system again.
Having found my seat I was still a little doubtful, but after conferring with the couple next to me, we all agreed that based on the evidence available to us, we had solved the puzzle and we were in the correct seats. Phew! I hadn’t expected a game of musical chairs.