Call for Proposals: IVC2020 Castelo Branco, Portugal

Find below the invitiation from the Portuguese Viola Society (APVdA) for the International Viola Congress 2020 in Castelo Branco, including the Call for Proposals, outlining the rules by which you can submit your proposal for a contribution to this congress!

The Portuguese Viola Society is delighted to be hosting the 47th International Viola Congress from October 14th to 18th 2020, in Castelo Branco, Portugal. We are still vibrating from Porto-2014 and we are very happy to be able to apply all that acquired knowledge and experience to Castelo Branco-2020.

Castelo Branco is the capital of the Portuguese region Beira Baixa, it is a beautiful city founded at the beginning of the 13th century known for its Castle, the Cathedral, the beautiful baroque gardens “Jardins do Paço” and its tasty gastronomy. Situated in between Alentejo and the big mountains of Serra da Estrela it is part of an important touristic region. It offers fantastic opportunities to enjoy landscapes, natural adventures in communion with nature as well as very old villages and castles all around the region.
Situated 2h by car from Lisbon Airport, it is also reachable from Lisbon by a very beautiful train trip along the river Tejo where you can enjoy the amazing landscapes of Ribatejo, Castle of Almourol and Portas de Rodão. Other options by car are Porto, about 2h30 away and Madrid which takes 4h.

Castelo Branco has a very strong cultural tradition in which history meets modernity, with a good infrastructure and a diverse cultural life that portrays the dynamism of the city. There is an important Music School named Conservatório Regional de Castelo Branco and an Artistic Department of the Polytechnic University called Escola Superior de Artes Aplicadas with bachelor and master’s degree in music.

Our principal partner is the City Hall of Castelo Branco, that is allowing us to use the Concert hall, the Auditório of the new Centro Cultura Contemporânea, which has fantastic acoustics and is the perfect size for chamber music, and the Museu Francisco Tavares Proença Junior, all of them very near one to each other (a few minutes walking).

47th International Viola Congress
“Shining through: the Viola soul and sound “

Considering the role of the Viola in music. Its sound is unique and its soul undisputed. Its voice draws together instrumentation enhancing the depth and richness of the harmonies. It can shine through the texture of the orchestral sound, be the soul of a chamber group or find its unique voice as a solo instrument. We will be taking a fresh look at our perception of the viola to consider how different approaches to performance can be enriched by its diversity.

This 5-day event will host concerts, lectures, masterclasses, performances, workshops and round table discussions. We believe that, together with you, we will arrive at a diversified and rich program.

Call for Proposals

The Portuguese Viola Society is happy to announce a call for proposals to all International Viola Society branches for the 47th International Viola Congress. We would be delighted to hear from you and receive your proposals by February 15th, 2020.

The congress theme can be approached in numerous ways, and we welcome submissions from students, professionals and Viola friends with relevant views and experience.

Proposals for presentations will be considered in any one of the following formats:
The proposal may be for giving a recital, a lecture-recital, a lecture, a masterclass or a workshop. The maximum duration of a presentation session is 50 minutes, but shorter programs may be accepted, if they can be combined with other presentations.
The proposal should be accompanied by a short résumé and any other support you find enriching.

In accordance with IVS regulations, there will be no direct financial compensation for candidates selected to present or perform at the Congress. A personal letter of recommendation may be requested from the IVC organizing committee to support the candidate’s application for financial assistance.

Proposals should be submitted to ivccastelobranco@gmail.com .
Please note that English is the official language of this international congress.

Reviewing process
All submissions will be reviewed by the APVdA committee. Submissions will be reviewed in terms of their accessibility, relevance to the congress theme and their contribution to a diversified program.

Important deadlines
Proposals must be received by 15th February 2020
Presenters will be notified by 30th March 2020
Normal registration from 1st May 2020
General enquiries about registration, travel, accommodation should be
sent to ivccastelobranco@gmail.com

The Official contact email is ivccastelobranco@gmail.com.
Feel free to contact us with any questions or suggestions.
Looking forward to seeing you all in Castelo Branco!

Yours,
Jorge Alves
President APVdA
Gonçalo Ruivo
Organizing Committee


Report from Amsterdam Viola Festival 2019

The Dutch Viola Society has become a traditional presence and contributor at the bi-annual Amsterdam Viola Festival (AVF) and National Viola Competition. This year’s edition is no exception. Here’s a report from this year’s AVF, which took place this past week at the Conservatory of Amsterdam (CvA).

by Kristofer G. Skaug

Note 1: Expressions of personal opinion are entirely those of the author, and do not represent an official view of the Dutch Viola Society.

Note 2: For layout reasons, most pictures have been scaled down in size. Click on the images to view the full-size versions!

Note 3: This is a long blog post covering multiple days of festival activities. If you are particularly interested in a specific event, use the links below to skip forward:

Thursday, November 14th
Friday, November 15th
Saturday, November 16th: DVS National Viola Gathering
Sunday, November 17th: National Viola Competition Final


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Thursday, November 14th

Usually, the DVS aspires to report from the National Viola Competition preliminary rounds, but due to limited resources, we could not consistently attend the 1st and 2nd rounds of this year’s competition. But we did put up our customary information table in the canteen, which this year included a plethora of fun viola merchandize (leftovers from last year’s IVC congress in Rotterdam).

The Thursday evening concert featured CvA Faculty (Francien Schatborn, Marjolein Dispa, Richard Wolfe, Michel Dispa, Peter Brunt) in various ensembles. Among the many highlights, our local reporter was particularly enthusiastic about featured artist Garth Knox‘s performance of his own composition Cinq petites entropies for viola d’amore.


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Friday, November 15th

No competition activities today, but lots of masterclasses given by the CvA viola faculty and the festival guest artists, Veit Hertenstein and Garth Knox. One of our local DVS members caught a glimpse into the Garth Knox master class (photo on the left).

The evening concert brought a complete set of new viola transcriptions, such as Beethoven’s Horn sonata op.17 (played by Nobuko Imai and Martijn Willers) and Bartok’s Violin sonata no.2 (again Nobuko Imai, with Rie Tanaka on the piano). One cannot cease to admire Nobuko’s vitality and fantastic playing, it’s as if she has decided to never age. What a privilege for the Conservatory of Amsterdam to have her on the faculty (and for the DVS to have her as honorary member)!

After the break, we heard featured artist Veit Hertenstein, first together with his student Martin Moriarty (a recent graduate of the CvA, and a runner-up in the 2017 National Viola Competition) in the viola-duo transcription of Five pieces for two violins and piano by Shostakovich. He went on to play a selection of Shostakovich’s violin Preludes op. 34 (on the viola of course). But his main title for this evening was a viola transcription of Schumann’s 2nd violin sonata (op.121). It’s quite a lengthy composition, but mr. Hertenstein played it very well. It’s a good thing to broaden the horizons of this obviously viola-centric crowd with some non-viola music, there are many more options out there in the classical repertoire waiting to be explored through viola transcriptions.


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Saturday, November 16th: DVS National Viola Gathering

Another competition-free day started out with more masterclasses at the Conservatory. We spent some time visiting the luthier tables in the Mezzanine upstairs. A good opportunity to test-drive some instruments and chat with the viola builders! It struck me that all conservatories should really organize yearly “meet an instrument builder” days for their string students to get properly informed about this hugely important supporting aspect of their future profession. To my knowledge, this is not systematically done today.

But on to this day’s main course: The DVS National Viola Gathering! The performing arts “community house” Splendor Amsterdam is located only some 10 minutes’ walk from the Conservatory, with two beautiful chamber music recital halls and a very nice bar / lounge area. The DVS has already hosted several events here.

This afternoon’s viola gathering started out with a “scratch” viola ensemble/orchestra in the attic room of Splendor, getting together to play under the direction of DVS president Karin Dolman. Even yours truly had brought a viola, and settled in with the 4th viola group :-). We first played “A Modal March” by John Whittaker, the winning composition from last year’s 4Viola Composition Contest (sponsored by DVS and premiered at the IVC2018). It’s a very playable piece (even for amateurs)! Next, we played Peter Warlock’s Capriol Suite, arranged for violas-only by P. Taylor, one of the transcription musketeers of the famous AbsoluteZero Viola Quartet. This piece was considerably more challenging, due to the fast paces (renaissance dances) pimped with surprising 20th century harmonies. All in all, this ensemble session was good, clean viola fun 🙂

The ensuing “Talk Show” session convened a large audience in the main recital hall, where three violist-composers shared their experiences: Max Knigge (moderator), Garth Knox and Oene van Geel. The overarching topic was ‘composing for the viola’, but the conversation took many interesting detours, such as the relationship between composing and improvising (quote Garth Knox: “I often improvise when I see something in the score that I can’t figure out how to play“). There was plenty of interaction with questions from the audience, so the allotted hour flew by quickly!

The viola crowd was next treated to a tasty meal, cooked and served by DVS (special thanks to Karin again!), a chicken cassarole with rice (including a vegetarian mushroom sauce option) and a raspberry/yoghurt dessert. It was good to have an hour off from blow-by-blow festival programming and still be together with lots of viola friends.

So next, it was time for the traditional Viola Pitch: an opportunity for every violist to promote his or her pet topic, idea, project etc. I have to apologise at this point for hogging an inordinate amount of speaking time for plugging the DVS, but in the end there was also time for a couple of other speakers.

Shortly after 20:00h, the densely programmed Evening concert started.

A foursome of first-year students (Simon Rosier, Ana Castro, Ida Weidner and Elisa Misas Santos) treated us to a rare performance of Rita Hijman‘s viola quartet from 2006, originally dedicated to Esther Apituley. It is an interesting piece, and should be performed more often! The composer was herself present in the audience, and received an extra well-deserved round of applause. This was followed by a heartwarming rendition of Frank Bridge’s very popular (among violists) Lament for 2 violas, by Carlos Delgado and Sergio Montero del Pozo.

The preliminary rounds of the National Viola Competition customarily prescribe specific solo works. In tonight’s concert, the jury’s favourite interpretations were encored. The programme included a movement (of choice) from Bach’s violin Sonatas and Partitas. Dagmar Korbar had selected the Andante from Sonata no. 2, a beautiful and meditative movement with a very characteristic continuo heartbeat on (mostly) open strings. Dagmar found a way of phrasing and stretching this pulse along with the melody, without sounding artificial or pretentious. Even though her rendition this evening wasn’t technically perfect, and even though I hadn’t heard any of her competitors’ Bach performances, it was clear to me that her interpretation fully deserved the jury’s acclaim.

Another mandatory piece (in the 2nd round) was the well-known Capriccio by Vieuxtemps (dedicated to Paganini). Seamus Hickey‘s interpretation was authentic and free, revealing fresh ways of navigating the many virtuosic turns.

The 2017 National Viola Competition winner, Take Konoye, was given the privilege of performing York Bowen’s Phantasy Quartet with his very own dream team of viola friends: Martin Moriarty, Carlos Delgado and José Nunes. Next to the overall excellence of this performance, I particularly enjoyed Martin Moriarty’s contributions on the 2nd viola, with a lot of deeply vibrant personality.

And then, a true highlight of this evening: Garth Knox performing his own Pocket Concerto – thusly named thanks to the very “affordable” orchestra accompaniment of a single cello, played by Esther ten Kate. Garth and Esther gave us a fantastic performance, rich in textures and colours, with clear folk music inspirations. Afterward, I heard many spontaneous resolves from the violists in the audience to add this piece to their repertoire.

After the break, the CvA Viola Class (and faculty) took the floor, playing a recap of their programme from the IVC in Rotterdam: First, the ensemble piece Cohort, violas only by Maurice Horsthuis. Conductor Max Knigge fused the 20+ violas into a well-tuned and finely synchronized organism, producing striking rhythmic patterns and colourful harmonics. He went on to lead the orchestra in his own composition Achille, Ajax & Moi (op.4, 2008), with Take Konoye as soloist. This piece comes in nine short episodes with varying characters. From the rear of the tutti 1st viola section, Duleen van Gunsteren supplied imaginative special effects, blowing and humming into his viola, and producing eerie scratching and squeaking sounds using extended bowing techniques (no viola joke, this time).

As an encore, the orchestra played (their own 1st-year member) Ida Weidner‘s transcription of the Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby, a highly appreciated and fitting close of this concert.

But it wasn’t over yet! No proper festival can do without a bit of informal late-night music making. Up in the attic, the party continued into the wee hours. The Sister Act of Ursula and Sunniva Skaug kicked things off with Message Ground by Robert Davidson, a canon for 2 violas and tape, based on Message in a Bottle by The Police.

José Nunes played the beautiful miniature Le Soir by Vierne, and Duleen van Gunsteren threw in some solo pieces. Lillian Haug surprised and delighted us by combining virtuosic drumming and viola playing in a one-(wo)man jazz set, and the 1st-year quartet (which played Hijmans earlier this evening) played another Beatles arrangement. And then … Oene van Geel swept up the whole crowd for an extended jam session with drums, piano, treble violin (cool!) and at least 10 violas. We left Splendor at 1 o’clock in the morning, thoroughly and suitably drenched in viola, viola, and viola everything!


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Sunday, November 17th: Final of the National Viola Competition

The final (and in this case, beautifully sunny) day of the 2019 Amsterdam Viola Festival is all about the Final round of the National Viola Competition. Remarkably, the three finalists are all undergraduate 2nd- and 1st-year students (in previous years, quite naturally, a majority of the finalists were at least Master students or even post-graduate). There are no native Dutch among the finalists, but two Irishmen and a Croatian. Maybe we should rename the competition “Dutch Open” :-).

This year marked the first time that the competition finalists had a full orchestra at their disposal: the CvA Symphony Orchestra (dubbed Philharmonic Fridays), led by Ed Spanjaard. The mandatory piece in this round was the “Brahms viola concerto“, actually a transcription of Brahms’ clarinet/viola sonata op.120 no.1 by Luciano Berio.

The first finalist is Seamus Hickey. We heard him yesterday in his very free and evocative Vieuxtemps Capriccio, and he needs and takes these freedoms also in Brahms. Unfortunately, this “chamber musical” approach sometimes proves difficult for a big orchestra to follow. Which begs the following question: When a sonata is re-cast as a concerto, should it still be regarded and played like chamber music? His interpretation is lively and heartfelt, and his face shows clear signs of the enormous mental and emotional energy that he invests in his performance. But his sound sometimes lacks volume, and his attempts to compensate results in some texture cracks.

How different is Dagmar Korbar’s appearance! She stands poised and calm in her black dress, almost aloof in her facial expression, unperturbed by the high stakes of the situation. Her tone is polished, clear and powerful, and her technique is impeccable. The performance is very convincing. I do wonder if her remarkable self-control also hides a wilder, less risk-averse musical creature? I’d hope to hear that some day, circumstances allowing … (this is a question that often occurs to me when I attend competitions – which again feeds the suspicion that, in their essence, music and competitions are rather mismatched concepts).

The last finalist is Fiachra de Hora, the only first-year student, and the only one to play the Brahms entirely by heart. He also had the good sense of tuning all strings on stage, rather than relying on a backstage pre-tune (that open C-string betrayed the two others at a few points). While we’re handing out bonus points for non-musical matters, here’s +1 for wearing a purple (viola!) coloured shirt!

Fiachra exhibits a highly matured technique and musicality. His control is remarkable, and he even seems to apply his spare brainwaves for will-powering the orchestra when they threaten to divert from his wishes in tempo or dynamics. With such skills, after a while I forget he is a 1st-year student, and try to summon a more critical observation. Maybe it’s that neck and left shoulder – a bit rigid. And there were perhaps some passages that the competitors managed with more elegance or a more convincing sound output. But in my book, those were the exceptions. In my mind, here’s the next Timothy Ridout! My audience prize vote goes to him, and it eventually turns out that the rest of the audience in majority agreed with me.

The jury, consisting of Ronald Kieft (chair), Jürgen Kussmaul, Veit Hertenstein, Garth Knox and Anna-Magdalena den Herder (the 2011 winner), did not need long to decide on the overall competition results: Dagmar Korbar is our new “National Champ”, with Seamus and Fiachra (in that order) as runners-up. It was clear that the achievements of the preliminary rounds were factoring into this decision, and remembering Dagmar’s Bach from last night, it seems very plausible that she was the best all-round player, even if Fiachra deservedly won today’s audience prize.

Congratulations to all three finalists for their superb performances, and to the Conservatory for attracting and developing such outstanding talents. And endless thanks to Francien Schatborn and Marolein Dispa for organizing once again the Amsterdam Viola Festival. We all hope to be able to return in 2021 for the next exciting edition!


In Search of a Lost Language

DVS board member Emlyn Stam received his Ph.D. last month at Leiden University. In this article, he briefly summarizes his original research topic. Red.

by Emlyn Stam

Dr. Stam explains his thesis in words and musical examples at Theater Branoul, The Hague – October 29th 2019

Why do the performances of early-recorded violists from over a century ago sound so different from own? How might we describe their performances? What can we learn from them? And most importantly, can their musical and technical approach be used to create new performances today? These are some of the questions that occupied me in my work over the last five years on my dissertation: In Search of a Lost Language: Performing in Early-Recorded Style in Viola and String Quartet Repertoires.  The project involved detailed analysis of recordings by violists Oskar Nedbal, Léon van Hout, Arthur Post, Pierre Monteux, Maurice Vieux and Lionel Tertis. I describe the way they use techniques like unnotated rhythmic and tempo flexibility, portamento, layering, ornamentation and vibrato to create highly personal performances.

I copied their performances as closely as possible and continued by extrapolating from their approach to create my own style copies. This work resulted in a recorded portfolio that accompanies the written thesis where you can listen to the original historical recordings and my own attempts at reinvigorating early-recorded style. Colleagues who wish to free themselves from the constraints of today’s neat, tidy, score-based performances may find the path I followed to be of interest. My work also sheds light on the historical record, detailing how the repertoire was heard at a time when many of today’s most revered, canonical composers were alive.

The dissertation and accompanying recordings can be downloaded here: https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/handle/1887/79999


Nedbal Competition blog – 2nd and Final Round

The DVS once again visits new viola frontiers! This time our intrepid reporter Karin Dolman is reporting from the very First Oskar Nedbal International Viola Competition in Prague (Oct 31st – Nov 3rd, 2019).

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Sunday morning – time for the 2nd (and final) round of this competition. The twelve finalists selected yesterday will play in the same relative order as they appeared in the 1st round (which was, by the way, alphabetical by last name).

The 2nd round repertoire consists of:
– Oskar Nedbal: Romantic piece op.18
– A sonata for Viola and Piano: Choice of Martinů, Hindemith (op.11/4), Clarke, Brahms (op.120 either one), Schubert (Arpeggione), Paganini, Feld, Reger, Vieuxtemps, or Kalabis

To remind you what’s at stake here:

1st prize – 20000 Czech Crowns (= €780), a fine bow, viola case and various accessories
2nd prize – 15000 Czech Crowns (= €590), viola case and various accessories
3rd prize – 10000 Czech Crowns (= €390), viola case and various accessories
In addition there are smaller cash prizes for the best interpretation of the Oskar Nedbal piece, the Martinu and Kalabis sonatas, and various other concert and masterclass prizes.

The first candidate is Melissa Datta. She chose the Rebecca Clarke sonata, with which she presents a fiery start. The solo opening sentence of this piece really determines the character of the performance, and tells a lot about the musician. The next challenge is to keep the ensuing impressionistic part interesting, Melissa does that well. The 2nd movement is a scherzo with lots of humour (a familiar trait from Clarke’s other compositions). In the 3rd movement, we should be awash in all the love of the world. I feel that Melissa comes up a bit short in that respect, radiating above all bravura. She seems to be also a bit unfamiliar with the piano accompaniment.

She goes on to provide my first encounter with the Oskar Nedbal piece, which offers a lot of room to provide different interpretations.

The second candidate is Nicolas Garrigues, bringing his Martinu sonata to the Lion’s den, thereby shooting for the special Martinu prize. He starts off passionately on this sonata, which contains a treacherous field of syncopations. But therein lies also the musical power of this piece. However I miss the balance between piano and viola; Nicolas knows the piece well enough, playing large segments by heart, but does not capitalize on this advantage to communicate and connect musically with the pianist, turning instead toward the audience to project even more sound from his viola, which is really already loud enough. I miss also the multitude of colours and moods that are latent in the score of this piece.

The Nedbal piece, too, is performed by heart. The rhythmic figures could have been rendered more clearly, but I trust that is his conscious choice of interpretation, this is only the 2nd time I hear the piece. The recapitulation of the main theme with a muted viola (and a more elaborate piano part): would it work better if shifted one octave up? My imagination starts to work on this.

The South Korean MinGwan Kim starts with Nedbal. His vibrato and playing style is perfect for this piece, including his masterful use of portato. The scherzo segment brings the proper humouristic flair.

And then, what a beautiful Vieuxtemps sonata, romantic and yet precise. Like his predecessor, MinGwan largely stands averted from the pianist, but he manages to communicate through his back and neck. He knows exactly where the pianist is, their togetherness is stunning – although they probably have only had one rehearsal together.

In the beautiful Barcarolle movement, MinGwan tastefully makes use of the potential rubato moments. This movement is so good, and it could easily be performed as a self-standing piece. I could compare it to Shakespeare’s Ophelia, who has taken on a life of her own outside of the original play Hamlet, inspiring artists in many fields. Having a distinctive title (“barcarolle”) helps a bit in this sense. The third movement comes with the indication con molto delicatezza, and transitions into the fiery finale.

On to the fourth candidate, Yizilin Liang, who starts off with a romantic rendition of Nedbal, played by heart. Her interpretation of Hindemith (11.4) however misses the flexibility and contrasts demanded by the composer’s variations – it becomes a bit monotonous. Her communication with the pianist is very good.

Why do I have to think of Woody Allen when I see Amir Liberson on stage? Maybe due to his surprisingly fast and at times funny movements. At times I find this goes at the expense of his playing, such as in the Nedbal (performed by heart). At other times, this body language enhances the character of the music, so it isn’t all bad. And he communicates well with the pianist.

His Brahms sonata is unfortunately tainted by local intonation issues – this challenge is often underestimated in Brahms (not only the viola sonatas), composed in awkward keys with a risk of high intonation.

The lone Czech candidate in the final round, Daniël Macho also plays the Romantic Piece by heart. While he is visibly nervous, nothing catastrophic happens. But in the Martinu sonata, which should be a perfect fit for him, it turns out he’s not sufficiently in sync with the piano score

Polish finalist Julia Palecka plays the Schubert Arpeggione sonata. This piece is in my mind a parade of personalities from an Opera Buffa. But Julia’s personality as I sensed it in the 1st round does not return in full in this 2nd round. Perhaps a mature Schubert needs more time. The last movement leans more on technique, and that works out OK for Julia. She flies elegently through this movement, and perhaps owing to her feeling technical confidence here, I also sense more of the humour between the lines.

In the Nedbal piece, Julia creates much more freedom, playing by heart and communicating with the audience – even getting response back. Nice ending!

The Swedish Alva Rasmussen, studying with one of the jury members in Copenhagen, makes an impressive entree with a high-grade Rebecca Clarke; I’d like to think that the composer very much enjoys this performance from her cloud up there! She runs light-footed like a deer through the scherzo, and lavishes us with a wonderful warm vibrato in the opening of the 3rd movement. I get carried away in her dream. Nice use of poco vibrato in the thin high-octave melody, followed by a return to portamenti and a large warm vibrato in the lower strings. Her love for this sonata really shines through!

Alva seems to have an old soul. You seem to hear a whole lifetime’s worth of loves, joys, and sorrows in her playing. She also plays a marvellous Nedbal.

Evgeny Shchegolev also knows how to play a good and warm Nedbal. Now I can hear his powerful Russian tone. This romantic music is really his domain. In the 1st round, I didn’t mention him in my summary (he played Bach and Henze), but here he is on good terms with the music. In the Brahms sonata he knows how to stretch the bars and to knead the melodies plastically – highly enjoyable!

The 20-year-old Jungahn Shin starts with a marvellous Brahms sonata (in F). I find especially her rendition of the 2nd movement deeply touching, with a beautiful tone. The Waltz too (3rd movement) – wait, wasn’t she the Tabea Zimmermann pupil? Yes – but she still has her very own sound. Compared to this, I’m very curious to hear what our Dutch students will make of the Brahms F-sonata (mandatory piece) at the National Viola Competition next week!

Jungahn concludes her recital with the Nedbal Romantic piece. In this rendition, I miss the broad vibrato which seems to fit this piece so well.

The Japanese Otoha Tabata is a true storyteller. Like the fabled princess Sheherazade, she enchants you and does not let go. She is agile and moves about, but not in a disturbing way. It makes it difficult to draw her, though. If I may complain a little bit, I might like to suggest some fingerings in the higher positions, to allow more variation in colour. Especially in the 2nd movement of Brahms. The jury will have a hard time: Four Brahms renditions, all different and with their own characters.

Although Otoha naturally tends toward a somewhat fast vibrato, she adapts it totally in the Nedbal piece. The tempo is nice and fresh, it sounds almost like an early recording. She makes her performance a feast for ears and eyes, including that beautiful smile when she takes a bow.

The last candidate (yet again – I bet she curses the latin alphabet now and then!) is Yuri Yoon. She, too, plays a very good Nedbal. But the true spectacle comes with the Vieuxtemps sonata: Starting out with a zesty tempo, yet every note precise and pitch perfect. Even going out of her way to keep  the pianist on track, she plays a fantastic 1st movement.

The Barcarolle (2nd mvt.) also holds a relatively fast tempo, whereby the rubato passages stand more out in contrast. But I miss a different sound here, it is rather too sharp, where I’ve come to feel a more “granular” sound would be nicer.

… Well, this concludes my “live” competition coverage – I have to leave to catch my train home, so I will miss the (live) results announcement and the laureates’ concert this evening. But through the internet, I learned that the competition results were as follows:

1st prize: MinGwan Kim (South Korea)

2nd prize: Yuri Yoon (South Korea)

3rd prize: Evgeny Shchegloev (Russia)

Honorary mention:
Yizilin Liang (China), Alva Rasmussen (Sweden) and Otoha Tabata (Japan)

Nedbal Competition 2019 main Prize winners Yoon, Kim, and Shchegolev (photo credits: Zdeněk Chrapek, Oskar Nedbal competition)

Congratulations to all!

Karin

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Nedbal Competition blog – 1st Round, day 2

The DVS once again visits new viola frontiers! This time our intrepid reporter Karin Dolman is reporting from the very First Oskar Nedbal International Viola Competition in Prague (Oct 31st – Nov 3rd, 2019).

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After yesterday’s long session, today we hear the remaining 24 candidates for the 1st round of this competition. At the end of the day, 12 out of the total 65 competitors will be selected for the 2nd and final round. Same as for yesterday, I only mention those candidates that I feel are most likely to be picked for the next round.

Here’s the overall composite drawing of the 1st round (all 65 candidates):

 

 

Today’s first candidate Riina Piirilä (Finland, age 24) is a known name to me, as she visited our Viola Congress in Rotterdam last year. She played a good Bach 2nd Partita (Allemande and Gigue), very carefully prepared, no nonsense. In the fast passages, the bow seems to fly too fast, at the expense of sound production from the lower strings.

Her ensuing Hidemith op. 25 no.1 (first 2 movements) is perfect. She’s surely a candidate for the 2nd round.

Still a young girl, Yayun Qiu (China, age 17) needs some stage experience – I can only really see her sporadically. She is oriented toward the side wall, and she wears a long vest over a long dress, hiding most of her body movements from my angle. That’s a pity, because this counts too. Her Bach (6th suite Prelude and Sarabande) is perfect, and the Reger (Vivace from the 1st suite) is more than perfect! Good timing, beautiful tone, good instrument. My only want is for a bit more contrasting dynamics. She only has to adjust the clothing strategy and stage positioning, that will make a difference. But even without that, she’s definitely a 2nd round candidate.

Jungahn Shin (South Korea, age 20) plays a beautiful Bach (4th suite, Prelude and Gigue), light, but with flair, and with a very pleasing sound. I like this, and I can tell that she is a pupil of Tabea Zimmermann. Also in Vieuxtemps’ Capriccio you can hear the perfection in choice of bow speed, with accurate positioning between fingerboard and bridge. This is surely another candidate for the 2nd round!

Draped in a gorgeous yellow gala dress, Otoha Tabata (Japan, age 20) enters the stage. She plays a very decent Reger (1st suite, Molto sostenuto and Vivace), with perfect pitch. Dynamically a bit too “wavy” for my taste. A fun invention for the bowing in the 2nd movement, piano notes played in ricochet, conveying a proper Vivace feeling.

Then, a fantastic and very original Hindemith (op. 31 no.4, 1st movement), brought with lots of confidence. No doubt qualified for the 2nd round.

I have to mention as well the only Dutch candidate, Michiel Wittink (age 24). He’s currently pursuing his Master’s at Guildhall in London, but we know him from several past DVS events and masterclasses. He played a very promising Bach 2nd Partita (Sarabande and Gigue), unfortunately he lost his mental footing at one point. His Vieuxtemps Capriccio was very good as well, and he has grown tremendously since we last heard him at the Dutch National Viola Competition in 2017. But I have my doubts about reaching the next round in this highly competitive field.

With Shuo Xu (China, age 17) comes yet another great Bach (6th suite, Prelude and Sarabande), with a lot of character! He uses a dedicated bow for this piece, which produces a nice and clear sound. But his good performance is due to more than just a good bow!

Yuri Yoon (South Korea, age 25) brings Prelude and Gigue from Bach’s 4th suite. A very well-played and beautiful Bach! Again, using a dedicated (baroque) bow. This really has made a difference for a number of candidates. The Vieuxtemps Capriccio is very good too, so she might very well turn up tomorrow for the 2nd round.

That was de last candidate I chose for this review.

At 1700h, the jury announced the names of the 2nd round finalists:

Melissa Dattas, Nicolas Garrigues, MinGwan Kim, Yizilin Liang, Amir Liberson, Daniël Macho, Julia Palecka, Alva Rasmussen, Evgeny Shchegolev, Jungahn Shin, Otoha Tabata and Yuri Yoon.

So I had 8 of the 12 names right (even though I over-guessed for a total of 20 potential finalists). So it just goes to prove that competition was intense, and that views/tastes vary very much.

Check back in tomorrow for our “live” blog coverage of the 2nd round!

Karin

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Nedbal Competition blog – day 0

The DVS once again visits new viola frontiers! This time our intrepid reporter Karin Dolman is reporting from the very First Oskar Nedbal International Viola Competition in Prague (Oct 31st – Nov 3rd, 2019).

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It is 3.30pm, and I have just set off on my monster train ride to Prague. All this just because – whenever possible – I’d like to avoid flying. At least I have 1st class seats all the way, so I should be reasonably comfortable. But why am I going to Prague? Because of the first Oskar Nedbal International Viola Competition which takes place there, in the coming days.

It is always interesting to see how they organize a new international competition. I haven’t studied the programme closely yet, but given the name “Oskar Nedbal”, I should think that at least his well-known Romance will be played at some point. But OK, I’ve got time enough to read in this train.

The first leg of 2 hours and 6 minutes goes by “sprinter” (local train) from Dordrecht to Arnhem, where I will have to change trains. I will visit an old friend there, before continuing my trip at 21:45 with the international train.

More news after I arrive in Prague tomorrow!

Karin

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Uitnodiging 4e Nationale Altvioolbijeenkomst

Oene van Geel geeft een improvisatieworkshop bij het 1e Nationaal Altvioolcongres in Deventer (2013)

[NL] Op zaterdag 16 november 2019 organiseert de DVS voor de 4e keer een Nationale Altvioolbijeenkomst – in samenwerking met, en ingebouwd in het programma van, de Amsterdam Viola Festival.  Meer informatie over programma en aanmelding vindt u hier.

[ENG] On Saturday November 16th 2019, the DVS is organising the 4th National Viola Assembly, in collaboration with, and within the context of the Amsterdam Viola Festival. More information about the programme and registration can be found here.


Concertverslag – de hedendaagse altviool 17 sep. 2019

for English: please scroll down

Gehoord en gezien: de hedendaagse altviool op 17 september 2019 in Den Haag – Geschreven door Roald van Os namens de DVS.

De Chileens altviolist Pablo Salinas verliet zijn thuisland Chili en verruilde zijn vaste plek bij het Chilean National Symphony Orchestra om deze maand een tournee door de Benelux ter promotie van hedendaagse Chileense muziek te maken. Deze terugkerende concertserie van Chileense muziek wordt georganiseerd door de in Wenen gevestigde International Society for Chilean Music (SIMUC) en stond dit jaar in het teken van de altviool en vond zijn aftrap in Nederland, bij mij om de hoek in Den Haag! Deze bijzondere tour is tot stand gekomen door een samenwerking van de Chileense ambassade in Nederland, SIMUC en het ministerie van Cultuur, Kunst en Erfgoed van Chili. Leuk om vast te stellen dat een organisatie als SIMUC in haar missie en opzet veel weg heeft van onze eigen DVS en wereldwijde Viola Societies!

In het voorprogramma van het 50 minuten durende recital van Salinas stonden 2 altvioolstudenten van het Koninklijk Conservatorium; Gema Molina Jiménez en Oksana Mukosii. Zij speelden de eerste duo-sonate voor 2 altviolen van Bruni (1757-1821).

Na een korte inleiding van componist en tevens voorzitter van de SIMUC, Javier Party, was het de beurt aan Salinas. Op zijn programma stonden maarliefst 5(!) wereldpremières van Chileense componisten geboren in de jaren 70, 80 en 90 van de vorige eeuw.

Salinas opende zijn avond met een op zijn leven en lijf geschreven werk van Mario Feito (1971). Het werk met de naam Sal y Mar draagt de naam van de opdrachtgever; Salinas, en verwijst naar de herkomst van zijn familienaam: Sal (zout) en dan kom je vanzelf uit op ‘Mar’ (zee). In het werk met Chileens folkloristische invloeden was duidelijk optimaal gebruik gemaakt van de laagte van ons instrument, een genot om naar te luisteren.

Jean Daniel Barahona (1986) tekende met succes in op een door de SIMUC speciaal uitgeschreven wedstrijd met zijn Capricio nro 1 para Viola Sola. Een werk dat veel gelijkenissen vertoond met het welbekende deel met de veelzeggende aanduiding: Tonschönheit ist Nebensache uit de solosonate op. 25 van Paul Hindemith. Heel gek is dat ook weer niet daar de componist zelf ook actief altist is!

Na dit heerlijke stuk was het tijd voor een totaal andere klankbeleving met Polimerización van Robert Aravena (1993). De veelzijdigheid van Salinas als altviolist met zijn schat aan ervaring van barok tot modern komt ook in dit stuk weer goed van pas. Ook dit werk met een enorm scala aan flageoletten vroeg weer een enorme technische beheersing en controle van het instrument, Salinas kreeg dat ogenschijnlijk allemaal moeiteloos voor elkaar en wist de sfeer goed vatten. Ook opvallend: het publiek leek gedurende alle stukken geboeid te luisteren. Een verdienste van Salinas en als je het mij vraagt gewoon heel knap gedaan.

Na een 1 minuut durende razendsnelle compositie (Sinapsis) geschreven door Javier Party (1980) kregen wij het bijzondere slotstuk van Christián Mezzano (1978) voorgeschoteld. Salinas heeft hiervoor zijn altviool in zgn. scordatura stemming gebracht, ook dit vroeg weer de nodige aanpassing en behendigheid van onze Chileense toonkunstenaar. Concluderend kan ik zeggen dat het heel bijzonder was om Chileense moderne composities speciaal voor de altviool te horen in Nederland en wie weet wat er nog een Chileense muziek opduikt de komende tijd in de Lage Landen…

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IVC2019 Poznan blog – Day 5

The 46th International Viola Congress takes place in Poznan (Poland) from Sept. 24th – 28th, 2019. Your intrepid bloggers Karin Dolman and Kristofer Skaug bring fresh reports daily from this temporary hotspot of the viola universe.

Day 5: Saturday, September 28th, 2019
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Time flies, we have arrived at the last day of the 46th International Viola Congress. Days have been filled to the brim with viola music, and as much as I love the instrument, the music and the many great people who participate at the congress, everyone has his/her physical limits. So I had to concede this morning’s presentations to some self-healing sleep. This meant, unfortunately, missing Xi Liu‘s lecture-recital on Boris Pigovat’s viola works, including the live premiere performance of his viola quartet version of “Nigun” (a string quartet originally written in 2010 – sheet music presumably soon to become available on the composer’s website). I also missed Jesse Maximo Pereira‘s recital of Brazilian Music.

Premiere of “NIGUN” (photo credit: Marcin Murawski)

But let’s move on to what I didn’t miss: Kenneth Martinson‘s very interesting lecture-recital about the viola music of Marco Anzoletti (1866-1929). He started off with a very  well-prepared performance of Anzoletti’s Viola Sonata (1900), with Krzysztof Sowinski at the piano.

Martinson opened the lecture part of his presentation by postulating that Anzoletti’s bundle of twelve studies (caprices) for viola are a cornerstone of his music, and are some of the most difficult etudes ever written for our instrument. In support of this claim, he screened the Youtube performance of Anzoletti’s Caprice no.2 by Marco Misciagna – a real tour de force of virtuosity indeed. (Footnote: this caprice is written in the oddball key of D# minor – Anzoletti liked to use ALL key signatures from the circle of fiths – and he would ask his students to study each etude in each possible key, transposing on-the-fly!).

Anzoletti wrote a number of works for viola, here’s a brief overview:

  • Viola sonata
  • Sonata for viola and organ
  • 2 Viola concertos (without orchestration, optionally for piano)
  • Trio for viola-cello-piano
  • 2 sonatas for viola-cello
  • The “infamous” 12 studies (Caprices)
  • Numerous shorter pieces, scherzo’s etc.

He wrote four of those works for viola in only a 3-week span of April 1900 – a strange and unexplained peak of viola productivity!

Martinson played the opening from Anzoletti’s Viola concerto no.1 in F minor (1900 – “The Brahms concerto we never had”) – based on MIDI playback from his own  Finale score playback. Anzoletti’s complete cataogue contains more than 2000 works. A number of these are now available from Martinson’s Gems Music Publications.

It remains a mystery why Anzoletti’s music has not been played more. Martinson briefly summarized the composer’s life and career, first as violin soloist and later as a revered professor and composer at the Milan Conservatory. In spite of promising acclaim (contest prizes, peer recommendations e.g. from Brahms), his oeuvre somehow never “took off” with the greater public. Nevertheless, as this lecture-recital demonstrates, there are good reasons to give this composer a second chance!

The next lecture-recital was delivered by Greg Williams (adjunct viola professor at the City University of New York), presenting the three solo viola sonatas by the German-Jewish composer Günter Raphael (1903-1960). Raphael was extremely fortunate to survive the hell of WW2 Germany, in spite of extreme persecution, thanks to help from connections and his Danish in-law family. His health was chronically threatened by tuberculosis, so he spent a good deal of time in sanatoriums, where doctors helped to hide him from the authorities.

Raphael was a multi-talented composer and musician (pianist, organist, violist and violinist). In his prolific oeuvre there are several works for or with viola:

  • 3 solo viola sonatas (1924, 1940, 1946)
  • 2 romances (1923)
  • 2 sonatas for viola and piano (op.13/1926, op.80/1957)
  • Concertino for viola and chamber orchestra (1941)
  • Duos for violin and viola and viola/cello, op 47 (1941)

The viola solo sonatas have influences from the Reger suites, Hindemith’s solo sonatas and the Ysaÿe solo violin sonatas. Williams presented each of these sonatas in turn:

The first sonata op.7 no.1 (1924) was clearly inspired by Reger. It is in C minor and has 6 movements. Some details:
1. Praeludium: syncopated, chromatic, shifts across barlines
2. Fuga: similarities to Ysaÿe’s solo sonata no.1 mvt 2

The 2nd sonata, op.46 no.3 (1940) is written in 3 movements, and dedicated to Ernst Krenek. Some attention was given to the 1st movement, with layering of 3 voices, octatonic scaling and unannounced bar-length changes and other metrical dissonances.

The 3rd sonata op.46 no.4 (1946) is characterized by the total absence of barlines, the music bordering on atonal.

Greg Williams played one or two movements from each sonata, very beautifully done. He has also recorded all 3 solo sonatas (complete) last month as part of his Ph.D. work, the album hopefully to be released next year. Looking forward to that!

The 3 o’clock lecture by David Swanson and Jordan Wright had been spontaneously moved up to the 10am slot this morning (where master classes had been cancelled), so unfortunately we missed also this presentation, with the curiosity-evoking title “MyViola – New Technologies for Achieving Accessible String Instruments for those with Disabilities“.

So we had to wait a bit for the next recital, by Christine Rutledge: “Bach and the Poets: Slow Dancing” – an evolution of a presentation she gave last year in Rotterdam (and I missed it then!). Poets from Rutledge’s birthplace of Detroit, Michigan contributed their works (recited on prerecorded videos) to mesh with Rutledge’s performance of various movements from the Bach cello suites. Indeed, poetry and Bach combined well together to a meditative whole.

Following this performance, we were treated to a recital of “Late Romantic Chamber Works for Tenor, Viola and Piano” in the POSM Recital hall. Tenor Richard Novak was joined by violist Ames Asbell and Joey Martin on the piano. For those of us who thought that the classical viola + vocals chamber repertoire was limited to Brahms’  Zwei Gesänge, this was an eye- (and ear-) opener!

The Four Hymns for Tenor, Viola and Piano (1914) by Vaughan Williams is a song cycle based on poems by Jeremy Taylor, Isaac Watts, Richard Crashaw and Robert Bridges (translation from Greek text).

Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Five Songs for Tenor, Viola and Piano is a 2013 arrangement by Lorin Chisholm of songs originally only with piano accompaniment, adding a viola obbligato voice. The 4th song (op.4 no.4), however, has an obbligato written by Rachmaninoff himself, for Frits Kreisler. The sheet music, by the way, can be purchased here.

Tenor Richard Novak brought these songs with great conviction, and viola and piano realised a good complete sound picture. Thanks to Ames Asbell for bringing these rare works to the IVC, a very welcome diversification of the overall programme!

This beautiful recital was followed by the official “Closing Concert” of this IVC. The first part of this concert was in the safe hands of IVS Vice-president Jutta Puchhammer-Sedillot and pianist Paul Stewart. The programme title read “About Phantasies and Legends – rarely interpreted English music written for viola and piano in the era of Lionel Tertis“.

The program consisted of York Bowen’s Phantasie (1918), Arnold Bax’s Legend (1929) and Benjamin Dale’s extensive piece Phantasies op. 4 (1909). I have great recordings of all these pieces, but this was the first time I was privileged to hear them live; Jutta mastered them all with beautiful sonorosity and fearless virtuosity. She is a truly amazing violist… (could it be all those Pièces de Concours that she keeps practicing?). For this performance she received an extensive, heartfelt and totally deserved applause.

The Swedish delegation (violists Henrik Frendin and Håkan Olsson) was granted the honour of capping off the musical feast of the 46th International Viola Congress with their captivating program “Swedish polska” – demonstrating the migration of Polish folk music across the (not-so-wide after all) Baltic sea separating these two countries. In fact the “Polska” has become a genre of its own in Swedish folk music. Using baroque bows, the two men generally played facing each other at close distance, leaning into each other’s sound, expressively motioning their phrasing, and stomping out important departure points. It looked a lot like ad-lib improv session, with rich ornamentations and harmonies. This performance sent us off with a big smile on our face!

Following this we went to the Farewell party at Hotel Ikar, with speeches of thanks, food and drinks. Carlos Maria Solare awarded “Certificates of Appreciation” to our congress hosts Boguslawa Hubisz-Sielska, Ewa Guzowska and Lech Balaban for their work to organize the congress, and I was finally able to give our friendly congress host-assistant Edyta Butor the beer that I’d promised her (a well-known Dutch export). And last but not least, Jutta Puchhammer-Sedillot received the Silver Alto Clef, one of the highest awards of the International Viola Society. Her emotional response reflected how strongly she feels for the cause of the IVS and how much energy she puts into it.

It’s been a great 5 days in Poznan, with interesting programs, a nice ambiance, and happy reunions with old and new friends! In spite of a very compressed timeline to organize this congress, our hosts really pulled it off! So a zillion thanks go out to the Polish Viola Society and the organizing committee. I’d also like to mention the pianist Krzysztof Sowinski, who supported mulitiple recitals every day – a fantastic job!

Looking forward to see everyone again in Castelo Branco, Portugal, where the 47th IVC will take place from October 14th – 18th, 2020!

Signing off from Poznan,
your intrepid bloggers,

– Karin and Kristofer


IVC2019 Poznan blog – Day 4

The 46th International Viola Congress takes place in Poznan (Poland) from Sept. 24th – 28th, 2019. Your intrepid bloggers Karin Dolman and Kristofer Skaug bring fresh reports daily from this temporary hotspot of the viola universe.

Day 4: Friday, September 27th, 2019
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We started out the day following Jutta Puchhammer-Sedillot‘s master class in the Wieniawski house. She coached a student on the Penderecki Cadenza, ending up focusing on a natural bow hold and bow pressure. Very interesting demonstrations! Unfortunately we could not stay, as we also didn’t want to miss the next concert …

The venue of the Morning concert had been switched last-minute from the Hotel Ikar conference room to the POSM Recital hall. Due to this (unannounced) change, many of us (including Kristofer) unfortunately missed Diane Phoenix-Neal‘s much-anticipated world premiere performance of Krzysztof Wołek’s Shadowings for viola and electronics (with Wojciech Kaszuba at the dials).

The electronics were active, so Kaszuba was following the score, and added the effects at the right moment. They were mainly effects played by the viola and then repeated (‘shadowed’) by the electronics. The piece didn’t have really a melody; next to playing the viola, Diane added some sounds by singing and talking. Normal notes were nearly non-existent, so perhaps the2q composer Wołek is a follower of Lachenmann. I (Karin) am curious to know whether a graphical score is being used.

Another world premiere performance followed: Marcin Kopczyński’s Sonata for viola and piano op.85, performed by Wojciech Kolaczyk and Anna Paras (piano); the piece came across as mostly tonal and romantic in style, with a certain pentatonic penchant, especially in the 3rd movement. It could easily have been written for the 1919 Berkshire competition (see yesterday’s blog). Nice atmospheres, and a good technical fit for the viola. The second movement sounds a lot like the first movement: Same key, same tempo, perhaps a bit more dialogue between viola and piano, staying pretty much in a certain range between two octaves. The third movement starts with a solo for the viola with a rhythmical theme, which stays with some chords of the piano.

The piece is very well performed. Kolaczyk is a tall man, totally suitable for the viola, and he has a beautiful vibrato, whereas a more fast and tense vibrato seems to be mainstream among Polish violists (we’ve heard a lot of them this week!).

Dr. Heng-Ching Fang (Ching among friends) from Birmingham delivered a lecture-recital with the elaborate title “Joseph Joachim’s Hebrew Melodies on Poem of Byron op. 9: a Performing Practices Study influenced by Moser and Joachim’s Violinschule
and Joachim’s historical recording“.

She first explained that the gist of her presentation was to point out stylistic specifics from the 19th century in vibrato, shifting (portamento) and tempo/timing. Joachim was known as a brilliant violinist, but he also reportedly liked to play the viola, and he composed music for the viola, amongst which the “Hebrew Melodies on Poem of Byron“. The whole piece was then performed together with Krzysztof Sowinski at the piano, already incorporating many of these stylistic idioms. The piece consists of three melodies, only the first of which has clear Hebrew influences, the others could have been taken out of Schumann’s Märchenbilder.

Next, Ching moved on to discuss her case study of performance practice. In this case she was particularly interested in the elements that are characteristic of the (mid-)19th century period, from which this work of Joachim’s originates; as well as the influences of the Moser-Joachim method (Moser was one of Joachim’s pupils): this method consists of three comprehensive volumes, the last book contains several big concertos with Joachim’s fingerings and practice notes.

Vibrato, for one, was sparingly used. (Quote Joachim and Moser (1905):  “Always recognize the steady tone as the ruling one, and [use] vibrato only where the expression seems to demand it“). Carl Flesch (1923) observes that: “Joachim’s medium of expression consisted of a very quick and close tremolo (vibrato)“.

Another technique in the spotlight for this Performing Practices study is the use of portamento in the German tradition. Spohr had noted that portamento served best as analogy to (continuous, not discrete) pitch transitions in the human voice when singing. There are one-finger slides and portamento with a finger change, the latter being a more distinctive medium, further from a pure glissando.

Then there are the idiosyncracies related to timing, such as use of accellerando / rallentando (linked to phrasing and/or dynamics), dotted rhythms, accentuation, and rubato.

The presentation ended with a short recorded fragment of Joachim’s own performance of this piece, which illustrated many of the stylistic aspects discussed in the lecture.

At 1400 we are back in the Ikar Conference room where Dr. Dwight Pounds gave an historical review titled “Legends of the International Viola Society“. Everybody who has spent more than one day at an IVC knows him. He modestly calls himself the unofficial photographer and historian of the American Viola Society, but he has roots back to the early beginnings of the IVS, and has held numerous offices in the IVS and AVS boards. In fact, Dwight himself is probably the biggest living “Viola Society Legend” who is still also consistently and unconditionally active in the IVC circuit today – but he’s much too modest to include himself in his own long lists of IVS key personalities through the last 55 years.

Sharing the stage with Dwight this afternoon was another IVS legend, the Polish-born Dietrich Bauer, who stood at the cradle of what today is known as the IVS, by creating the so-called Pöllauer Protokoll in July of 1965, together with Franz Zeyringer. Bauer introduced himself and his involvement with the IVS in a very entertaining talk, most of which was held in German (without translation), so not everybody could follow. But his personality and humour radiated convincingly enough for all to accept that he could easily have been the enthusiasm-generating mainstay of the mid-20th-century Viola Society, for which he is credited.

Dwight next presented a significant number (60+) of slides with names and photos of Bauer and other key people around the inception and early years of the IVS (through various phases and organizational changes): Next to Bauer and Zeyringer, there was Sawodny, Doktor, Ojstersek, DeVeritch, Rosenblum, DePasquale, Dalton, and many others. And as well the inspirational support of William Primrose, who appeared at several of the early IVC’s.

I will not attempt to paraphrase Dwight in detail, again “you had to be there” to see a substantial list of names transformed into a first-hand account by the very enthusiastic and animated Dwight Pounds! With a bit of luck, his presentation slides will be accessible through the proceedings of the Congress, or in other ways on request.

At the end of the talk, both Dwight Pounds and Dietrich Bauer received from Carlos Maria Solare the IVS Special Award for their “unique contribution to the Viola and to violists around the world”. Very well deserved, as confirmed by long rounds of applause from the audience.

When the dust had settled, it was time for the last DVS contribution to this congress – through Karin Dolman‘s lecture/workshop on viola left-hand technique titled “Finding your own Viola Way“. Before diving into the subject matter, Karin used her stage to appeal for solidarity with the world-wide environmental protests taking place today. (By the way, could we think of something to reduce the environmental footprint of viola playing and Viola Society activities? Obviously, convening an International Congress does imply a lot of long-distance travels … ).

Back to core business – Karin had prepared a very nice presentation with her own drawings and self-produced videos of left-hand work. Without going in too much detail, here are some of the recommendations she put forward:

1) For teachers:
– Expose pupils at an earlier age to 2nd and 4th position work (not only 1st and 3rd)

2) For viola students and players in general:
– Avoid using same finger in a bigger shift (esp. down-shift)
– If you have to make a shift one step up or down, do it on a minor second
– Embrace the value of trying out multiple alternative fingerings;
– If the bowing disturbs the shift, feel free to change the bowing
– Allow yourself to make your own exceptions to the above rules

3) For publishers:
– don’t accept viola transpositions of violin parts, that blindly copy the violin fingerings

By means of example videos, Karin demonstrated how creative fingerings with emphasis on viola ergonomics could achieve smoother playing and better results. As well as the ergonomics of double stops, vibrato, and more.

As the ultimate example, Karin used the opening of the Brahms sonata in F, with fingerings by Lionel Tertis, Tabea Zimmermann as well as her own preference. She played the same fragment with all three fingerings and noted how a personal choice is the result of an authentic and unique personality, temperament and physique. Conclusion: You have to be yourself in order for personal choices to really work. Nobody should try to be Lionel Tertis!

Next on the program was a lecture-recital by Ricardo Kubala (Art Institute of Sao Paulo State University), with the title “Brazilian Music for Solo Viola”. He had hand-picked four 20th century viola solo compositions from different composers. As a general background, he described how Brazilian composers in the post-war 20th century have largely been divided into two camps: Brazilian musical nationalism vs. Atonal and universal idioms. Kubala then went on to sketch the biography of each composer, his oeuvre for the viola, and the characteristics of the selected piece, before actually performing it for us.

César Guerra-Peixe (1914-1993) sat firmly in the “Nationalist” camp, and he wrote Bilhete de um Jogral in Nationalist language, with sonorities resembling the Brazilian “rabeca” instrument (a “folk violin” with a rough, metallic sound).

Claudio Santoro (1919-1989) wrote Fantasia Sul América in 1983, characterized by a cadenza-like free form and free tonal language, with elements of Brazilian popular music.

Marlos Nobre (b. 1939, Recife) is a pianist and conductor, as well as one of the most well-known contemporary composers in Brazil. His 1963 Viola sonata (op.11) has 3 movements. While the 1st movement seems inspired by Hindemith’s op.25.1, the 2nd mvt is a Lento cantabile with a very intriguing mood.  The 3rd movement (Vivo) is lively and accessible, including some typical Tango rhythmic figures.

The last piece is by Alexandre Lunsqui (b. 1969), who studied in the U.S. and in France, but is now Professor of Composition and Theory at the State University in Sao Paulo. He belongs to a new generation composers without camp in the “atonal vs nationalist” rivalry. His piece “Moviola” uses scordatura (Bb/G/D/A), microtones/quarter tones, and extended techniques.

Ricardo Kubala performed with great poise and the pieces were well received. All in all an interesting insight into the Brazilian music scene, which we do not often hear about (at least not here in Europe).

The Evening concert program “TRIVIOLIUM” was presented by the viola trio Jolanta Kukula-Kopczynska, Róża Wilczak-Plaziuk, and Dorota Stanislawska – all three are colleagues from the Academy of Music in Lodz. I first heard them in Cremona 2016, and they also came to Rotterdam last year. So this was a programme I had been looking forward to.

They started out with the world premiere of “Violjordas” for 3 violas, by Krzysztof Grzeszczak (b. 1965). This piece was accompanied by a film produced by the renowned video artist Paulina Majda. The video and music works well together: we see a shadow of a Buddha figure with scintillating lights as if in water, and a bobbing red spot; then streams of multicoloured “party lights” … The scenery changes – insects (flies?) swarming over the surface of a net. Then finally back to the buddha, with the back of a female figure (Paulina Majda herself) in a blue dress.

Each of the trio members then played a solo piece, written by students or colleagues at the Academy (in Lodz).

Dorota Stanislawska brought the world premiere of Preludium for viola solo by Maciej Wijata (b. 2000), who is a trombone player. He initially had no idea of the constraints of viola, nevertheless it turned into an interesting, if not overly playable piece.

Róża Wilczak-Plaziuk played Some good decisions by Sławomir Zamuszko (b. 1973). I do feel that I “get” this piece better than the previous one.

The piece Transcience by Janusz Kopczyński was performed by Jolanta Kukula-Kopczynska, not coincidentally also the composer’s wife. I suppose that helps explain why this finally feels like a real viola piece, starting with sonorous phrases from the C-string. By the way, Jolanta makes great sound here.

Finally, the three ladies gave the world premiere performance of “Triviolium” by Bogdan Dowlasz (b. 1949). This is energetic and outspoken musical language that really grabs your attention. All 3 voices play mostly (near-)unisono figures, but spanning clouds of dissonants. The exceptions (where they go off each doing completely disassociated things) are therefore all the more interesting. We are guided through a number of different landscapes, all of them fascinating. This piece is sure to have many successful performances!

For the final late-night serenade of today, the artists both are and aren’t a premiere: Veteran Henrik Frendin, former congress host and chairman of the now-defunct Nordic Viola Society, has recently founded the Swedish Viola Society, and joins the IVC in Poznan in the capacity of official Swedish delegation together with fellow countryman Håkan Olsson, with baroque violas and a programme called “Telemann in Poland”. An harpsichord is also involved, played by Anna Paradisos.

During Telemann’s visit to Poland in 1705-1706, the Swedes invaded the country, forcing him to flee to the countryside. So thanks to the Swedes, Telemann had an encounter with Polish folk music. Not only did Telemann take this aboard, so did the Swedes: The “Polonaise” was brought home and integrated into Swedish folk music as “Polka” (or “Polska”). This programme presents a number of works by Telemann somehow referring to Poland or carrying traces of Polish musical influence.

From the first piece Partie Polonaise TWV 39:1 (in 7 movements!) I’d like to mention in particular the remarkable ending “Hanaque – Gigue” with a massive drone chord in the 2nd viola. In all sorts of ways, this part really sticks out from the rest, and it is probably the most explicit example in this progamme of Polish folk music influence on Telemann.

The next Sonata in D major (TWV 41:D6) has nothing in particular to do with Polish music, but was included as a curiosity, as it is a viola transcription of Telemann’s only Cello sonata. The other two pieces (Trio sonata Polonese TWV 42:a8 and Trio sonata in g minor TWV 42:g9) were arranged by Henrik Frendin himself for 2 violas and continuo instead of violin and viola da gamba. The last Allegro movement of the g-minor sonata also includes the drone hum and folksy zest of the aforementioned “Hanaque“, and evokes enthusiastic applause.

For an encore, Henrik and Håkan gave a sneak preview of their “Polska” programme for the last concert of this IVC tomorrow, with Polish-influenced Swedish folk music for 2 violas. It’s great stuff, so do come tomorrow night, not to be missed!

– Karin & Kristofer

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