HVVS Workshop Historical Performance

The Historical Viola and Violin Society (a subsection of the DVS) offers another very interesting free lecture/workshop!

This weekend, prof. Antoinette Lohmann will teach a course in historical performance to the Utrecht Conservatory (HKU) classical viola students who study with Annemarie Konijnenburg and Mikhail Zemtsov. The students will play on modern instruments with modern bows, but there will be a baroque viola and some bows available to try. The students will perform works by Telemann, Bach and Hoffmeister.

Active participation is in principle limited to the above mentioned students, but audience is more than welcome!

When: Saturday February 10th (2024), 09.45-16.15
Where: Fentener van Vlisssingenzaal, Utrechts Conservatorium, Mariaplaats 28 (yellow building),


Towards A Shining Light ’50 for 50‘

Internationaal compositieproject: 50 premières in 1 concert!

Op 2 en 3 december 2023 vindt een uniek evenement plaats in de Kunstkerk in Dordrecht. Reserveren voor beide data kan op deze pagina.

Vijftig componisten uit alle werelddelen werden in het voorjaar van 2023 uitgenodigd om een zelfportret van één minuut te schrijven, voor de bezetting klarinet, altviool en piano. De muzikale stijlen lopen uiteen van traditioneel/modern klassiek tot jazz, fusion en experimentele muziek. De vijftig zelfportretten zullen gepresenteerd worden als doorlopende collage in een live concert. Elke minuut krijgt men een ander beeld te zien dat de componist bij zijn of haar compositie heeft gekozen.
De voorstellingen vinden plaats in de Verenigde Staten, Australië, en in Dordrecht. Ze worden gefilmd en zullen ook wereldwijd online toegankelijk zijn.

Paul Kopetz, componist en initiatiefnemer van Towards A Shining Light ’50 for 50′, kreeg het idee voor dit project tijdens een bezoek in 2022 aan het Museum of Humanity in Zaandam.Kijkend naar de verzamelde portretten van mensen van uiteenlopende etnische achtergronden en culturen bedacht hij dat het fascinerend zou zijn om hetzelfde te doen met muziek; om te ontdekken hoe het scheppen van muziek de mensheid reflecteert in onze moderne wereld. Weerspiegelt muziek overeenkomst of diversiteit?

Op de volgende website is uitgebreide informatie te vinden over Towards A Shining Light ’50 for 50′. En hier is een preview van het project: [link]

Het nederlandse Pelgrim Trio (Thea Rosmulder, Karin Dolman, Caecilia Boschman) is een van de drie trio’s die de uitdaging hebben aangenomen. Er wordt intensief gerepeteerd en overlegd met de componisten, alles om recht te doen aan iedere minuut. Vijftig componisten verbonden in vijftig minuten muziek…

Het resultaat kunt u bijwonen op 2 en 3 december in de Kunstkerk in Dordrecht!
Bestel kaartjes hier.

Report from ARD Competition 2023, 4th Round (Finals)

The prestigious ARD music competition 2023 (ARD Wettbewerb) for Viola is ongoing these days in Munich (D). Karin Dolman reports exclusively for the DVS her personal impressions day-by-day until the Final on Sunday, Sept. 10th.

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Round 4, Finals (Sept 10th, 2023):

I meet my friends from The Netherlands, now residents of Munich, and we go together to the Finals of the competition, which is held in the “Herkulessaal” of the Residenz, a very noble hall. The Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks led by Andrew Grams will accompany the finalists in the Bartók and Walton concertos.

This time there is a program with background information on the final competitors: Ionel Ungureanu, Takehiro Konoe and Haesue Lee. For the Dutch it would be great if Takehiro wins the competition. But it can go in any direction, it depends also on the jury taking the other rounds into consideration.

Ionel Ungureanu was the first to play. He chose the Bartók concerto. He had trouble getting the sluggish sounding orchestra going. The second movement was touching and all the solos in the orchestra were well matched. Here was chemistry. Unfortunately in the last movement he had trouble organizing the orchestra. The public was nevertheless very enthusiastic about Ionel, bit of a “home favourite”.

O wow, Takehiro Konoe’s performance was really amazing. We have to turn off our mobiles so I always make my report after the performance. Takehiro was playing the Walton and the orchestra was ready to play as well! I must say, they did a better job than in the Bartók. Maybe they should have put the Bartók in the middle!

Takehiro’s vibrato, mentioned earlier, is just right, a bit big in amplitude, which helps his sound carry. I am wondering what instrument he plays on. But it is clearly his playing, not the instrument. I am really proud of this performance. In the program it said where he was born and raised in the Netherlands, so our country gets a bit of credit.

Now we return go back to hear the last of the finalists, Haesue Lee! She also plays the Walton concerto! So mobile and really enjoyable! Yes yes, what a performance!!!! For today she was the one who grabbed the audience by the throat!! Her timing was great, she took the lead, not the conductor. I hope a lot of people watched the livestream.

But being here was so great. Now we have to wait for the jury decision. All of the competitors were excellent in their own respects. Ionel is the greatest all-round musician, Takehiro has the best tone and vibrato and my beloved Haesue is the one who stole my heart, already in her Brahms.

Ionel will have a great career, hopefully write a lot of pieces for the viola (maybe the next solo piece for the ARD!!!!) Or for another competition, or play his own pieces like Hindemith did! And Takehiro will be the best ambassador for new music, hopefully with his pianist Meeuwsen.

And the winners are ..: (drum roll)… :

First prize and Audience Prize: Haesue Lee (South Korea)
Shared 3rd prize: Takehiro Konoe (Japan/Netherlands) and Ionel Ungureanu Germany)

The Jury of the 2023 ARD Viola Competition consisted of:

  • Lars Anders Tomter, Chair
  • Steven Ansell
  • Tatjana Masurenko
  • Jutta Puchhammer-Sédillot
  • Naoko Shimizu
  • Edward Vanderspar
  • Wen Xiao Cheng

Note: The competition was Livestreamed on the ARD website, and also on YouTube, where you can go back and listen (if you missed it) and make up your own mind of the performances!

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Report from ARD Competition 2023, 3rd Round (Semifinals)

The prestigious ARD music competition 2023 (ARD Wettbewerb) for Viola is ongoing these days in Munich (D). Karin Dolman reports exclusively for the DVS her personal impressions day-by-day until the Final on Sunday, Sept. 10th.

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Round 3, Semifinals (Sept 8th, 2023):

When I arrived with my ticket to the concert hall it turned out that my seat didn’t exist. I had a ticket for the middle of the hall so I just looked for and found another nice place to sit.

The first candidate of this Semifinal round was Kyungsik Shin. He plays the Hoffmeister concerto with the Kammerorchester vom Bayrischen Rundfunk. The orchestra plays without conductor, which is very interesting. He moves very well and plays with a nice open sound and open strings flageolets. He plays one of the standard cadenzas, which I had hoped would not be the case. Here is an opportunity to present your “business card” to your audience. But on the positive side, Kyungsik is wearing a traditional suit from South Korea.

The second movement was a bit aggressive. But in the third movement, the rondo was very clear and joyful. Communication with the orchestra was good as well.

Njord Kårason Fossnes

Njord Kårason Fossnes played second, and chose the Mozart clarinet concerto. Great opening by the orchestra, especially the horns. They play on natural horns and sound very good in the orchestra. The concerto is more difficult than the Hoffmeister or Stamitz, but it’s all about the style and brightness, and only a perfect performance impresses. Njord is doing a great job to make the concerto more popular in the viola repertoire. But I’m not sure if it fits in a competition. The concerto is also much longer than the two others. In the recapitulation of the first movement he feels more comfortable, and dares to turn to the orchestra more. This concerto is filled with more themes, characters and harmonies than the Hoffmeister. And there are no standard cadenzas, so you have to make your own.

The second movement starts with the viola (I am unconsciously hearing the clarinet) but it suits the viola as well. In the orchestra bits I keep listening to the horns. Njord conducts very well. The rondo has a nice tempo. It can sometimes be played too quickly. He gets a lot of bravos from the audience, so clearly many liked it very much.

Coming on stage with a beautiful red dress is Haesue Lee from South Korea. The dress is well tailored with a touch of a traditional Asian look. She plays Hoffmeister. Her viola is not very bright, but the effort she takes to make it as clear as possible works better than just playing on a bright instrument. Ah, such a pity, again the same cadenza (as Kyungsik Shin). That makes it harder for the jury to judge. On the other hand she plays it with more patience.

The second movement is really exciting. And the cadenza in the second movement was more interesting ending with the high flageolet! The third movement was really funny with many more nice small details. And she enjoys playing with the orchestra.

Haesue Lee

The commissioned piece for this semifinal is called ‘Doryphóros’ for solo viola, by Alberto Posadas. I had a chance to look into the score:  Wow, 16 pages and 16 difficult pages. With a lot of double stop flageolets. After that I decided not to take the score into the concert, but just to listen. The three candidates that we just heard now will play this piece, one after another, which improves the comparability.

Kyungsik Shin comes on stage to play the piece first. It works really well, all the high flageolets. And the kind of perpetuum mobile, disturbed again by flageolets, creeps up to your neck. In Kyungsik’s hands it looks very easy, he has fabulous technique. The largo part in the middle sounds like wind and sounds from all kinds of objects moving in this atmosphere. It goes again into the perpetuum mobile. The passages of chords sounds as if we are heading for a great ending. Yes!

There is a lot of talking after the performance. I think for the ordinary public the piece is a bit too much to deal with.

Next is Njord Kårason Fossnes: The beginning of the piece sounds much more friendly in his hands. The perpetuum mobile is a bit slower. The disturbing interruptions in between are less, which makes it all a bit more like one thing. The middle part as well is friendlier. He takes the piece as if it were written in a classical time, which is very good. I think it is a great performance!

Let’s see what Haesue Lee does with this piece. I have high expectations of her. As I already thought, she is even more clear. She plays the whole perpetuum mobile spiccato and the interruptions more legato, which makes it sound as if played by two players. The middle part in her hands has a more timeless feeling.

After a 20 minute break, unfortunately there is a smaller audience that returns, although we go back to the “safe haven” of classical concertos.

Today’s first Stamitz concerto is heralded by the replacement of the oboe with two clarinets. Luckily my favorite horns are still in it. The entrance of the solo of Brian Isaacs from the USA is a bit soft. It is a pity he plays on a (no doubt very expensive) mumbling viola. I hope the jury and public will listen through.  He is a great player. Because I was a bit disturbed by the sound, I forgot to listen to his entrance.

As I had expected, he wrote his own Stamitz cadenza! Yeah! Funny as well, sometimes a bit out of context, but nevertheless, he gave his personal touch to the piece.

The second movement suits the instrument, softer in the orchestra and leaves us more together with Brian. The second cadenza was more a walk through of harmonies in which we could walk with him. Good tempo choice. Surprising bits in between the themes. The orchestra has to pay attention. They are sitting on the edge of their chairs. The last quick passages are perfectly played!

Next is “our own” Takehiro Konoe, playing the Hoffmeister. Great playing in the first movement. Very clear. Unfortunately not a self-written cadenza 😳 That could have made the difference with the other Hoffmeister played by Haesue. A very romantic played second movement. His vibrato is great! I do not hear enough personal elements in the third movement, this is something that I miss, only his timing is more personal.

Last candidate, my favorite musician, Ionel Ungureanu, with the Stamitz concerto. Let’s see if he does what I expect. Yes yes!!! Great self written cadenza!!! So good! He will be a great composer as well, mark my words! On stage he is so One with the orchestra! The applause he got was overwhelming. We had to laugh even in the last movement.

But now again the commissioned piece by Posadas, played in succession by Brian, Takehiro and Ionel.

We start with Brian Isaacs. O wow he starts off so beautiful and so quick and soft in the perpetuum mobile. Also the middle part great playing. In his hands the piece is even more beautiful. So far for me the best performance.

Next comes Takehiro Konoe, he plays the piece again a bit sharper, nearer to spiccato. He takes more time and it sounds more easy. The flageolets in the middle part are not an effect anymore but more of a melody. The last part is much slower and he loses his place once, which was a pity.

The last candidate today is Ionel Ungureanu, and again he is great. Well deserved applause!

So my personal favorites are: Ionel, Haesue and Brian

Editorial note: The jury selected the following players for the Final on Sunday:

  • Haesue Lee, South Korea
  • Takehiro Konoe, Japan (& the Netherlands!)
  • Ionel Ungureanu, Germany

Note: The competition is Livestreamed on the ARD website, and also on YouTube, (Semifinal session: here); where you can go back and listen (if you missed it) and make up your own mind of the performances!

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IVC Salaya Blog – Day 3

The 48th International Viola Congress took place in Salaya, Thailand from June 6th – 10th, 2023. With a bit longer delay than usual, this daily blog report is delivered to you by Kristofer Skaug.

Day 3: Thursday, June 8th, 2023
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The third day of the IVC in Salaya started off with a lecture doubleheader. The first lecture by Paul Groh discussed the Telemann Fantasias and their adaptation to the viola. Next up was Hillary Herndon and her students from the University of Tennessee, presenting a first printed anthology of works from the ground-breaking AVS Under-represented Composers Database. The album is called “Mosaic” and draws from the works of black and latino composers. A number of these pieces were performed.
Unfortunately I missed both of these morning lectures, which my better (rise-and-shiney) half told me were indeed very interesting. She even took a picture for me:

The first recital I did attend today was that of Jorge Alves, with a programme titled “Beautiful songs by 20th century Portuguese Composers“, The works were by Joly Braga Santos, Armando José Fernandes and a sonatine by Luiz Costa. Especially this sonatine spoke to me, indeed beautiful (as advertised), without any overly modernistic pretentions. I admire Jorge for his persistent drive to bring us this music from his homeland, and my guess is that we stlll have much to look forward to from him.

Now the stage was set for special guest artist Krit Supabpanich in the MACM auditorium. Supabpanich is a “home grown” former student of the Mahidol Univ. College of Music and currently is a member of the Thailand Philharmonic. The program consisted predominantly of new (premiere) music by Thai composers, several of which were present at the concert. We’re all ears!

He starts off with a solo piece called “Student’s Parade” (by Cherng-Woei Tai), no doubt meant as a nod to his past at this school. It has a certain idiomatic and agreeable motion and harmony, which however soon was to be outshone by the ensuing viola/cello duet called “Perpetual Transience” (composed by Chanathip Chaisirinon) – which had a captivating effect on me.

After this came a bit of a letdown, Study nr.2 for solo viola (composed by Rattana Suparatanachatpan) leaned heavily on Extended Techniques but seemed more a showcase of how to produce weird sounds with your viola, rather than a truly artistic expression. The Lazzi for solo viola (by Jirapat Leetrakulnumchai) maneuvred us back to the conceptual world of the initial Parade piece, which I feel more at ease with.

Last but certainly not least, Tanaphan Polrob had been commissioned to write a Sonata for viola and Guzheng (a kind of Chinese cither that is used also in Thai traditional music). The sonata carries the title “Perpetuum mobile“, however I couldn’t quite match this title with the music – but the Guzheng player assured me that the requisite looping patterns were present, I guess I need some training to digest this quite complex and interesting new soundscape. What in particular appealed to me was the direct musicianship in the interplay and sound confluence of the viola and this guzheng. All in all, Supabpanich and his team of composers and co-performers (pictured below) deserve many kudos for launching this gutsy program of Thai contemporary music onto the world stage.

Although the next recital artist was already waiting in the wings, at this point I had to leave the MACM auditorium for a number of reasons:
1) realizing it was 14.00h and the College canteen closes around this time;
2) avoiding “cold fusing” my lower back to the auditorium seat
3) knowing there was no other possible break in sight until after the evening concert

When I returned from lunch, it was to hear Vinciane Béranger and her teammates Tiphaine Lucas (cello) and Joachim Besse (piano) in a charming programme inspired by Rebecca Clarke’s “Irish Melody” (new arr. for viola/cello). We might have known that the tune “Danny boy” (with an appreciative wave to our Congress Host) would turn up here, sooner or later, and it did :-). However, the actual programme was modified significantly compared to the printed one (where the pieces with piano were not even mentioned), I had planned to ask what was actually played (it was certainly not Bartók and Lutoslawski) – anyhow it was very enjoyable.

Time for this year’s congress contribution of the young Norwegian Viola Society, brought to us by mr. Povilas Syrrist-Gelgota. This charismatic Lithuanian-born violist has abandoned the financial security of his Oslo Philharmonic seat to enjoy the freedom of off-road viola playing. And he knows how to use this freedom, mixing folk songs, his own improvisations and compositions, and his quite steady vocal chords to create a very intriguing set.

A memorable part was the composition “Song of the Mountain People” by Vidar Kristensen, while Norwegian music, it is inspired by Taiwanese folk songs and brought to you by a Lithuanian violist at this congress in Thailand. “Music without borders” (this year’s congress theme), indeed! More singing in “Ingen vinner frem” and two own compositions by Povilas called “Dream” and “Best Wishes”. The congress audience was very appreciative of this performance.

Enter Jerzy Kosmala. This respected US-based Polish violist and teacher has passed the age where you just don’t ask anymore, but is still on his feet and performing. We vividly recall his performing Wranitzky’s double concerto with his own grandson at the congress in Poznan (2019). This time he brought us a hearty menu consisting of Bruch’s Kol Nidrei, Bloch’s Suite Hebraïque and the entire César Franck Sonata.

Did I mention it was a rather busy congress program this afternoon/evening? Since 11am this morning there have been 7 straight recitals so far, it is now 5 pm, and we still have 4 performances to go.

The next one was truly a whopper: All of Hindemith’s (four) solo sonatas in one go, performed by the American violist Amadi Azikiwe.  He had chosen the following playing order (by opus number): 25/1, 31/4, “1937” and 11/5.

The sonatas were all well played, but are not particularly suited for such a marathon (or should we say “Hindemithon”), in my view. The well known opening sonata 25/1 sounded as if one was saving energy for all the other sonatas to come. But each of these pieces deserve undivided and unreserved polishing devotion in order for the Hindemith spirit to pop out of the lamp. Also in the technically gruelling opening movement of 31/4, Saint Hindemith’s bald head did not emerge from behind the clouds. Peace and balance finally came in the 2nd movement.

But Azikiwe was only just getting warmed up, and halfway through the programme, he seemed to have found the groove. His convincing rendition of the “1937” sonata, infamous for its technical demands, drew spontaneous cheers from the audience. Really well done! (afterward, at the dinner table in Ristorante Rustico, he told me this is also his favourite of the four sonatas … we could tell.).

Now for the final 11/5 sonata however, I had a problem, which was all on my side. I love Hindemith just as much as the next violist (maybe even more!), but my ears and brain need a break. My grandpa used to say, “I can never get too much beer, but my arms grow tired”. So the bottom line is still that I prefer Hindemith’s solo sonatas in moderate digestible amounts.

A big tip of the hat to Azikiwe nonetheless for braving this monster challenge. And certainly he had a most appreciative and knowledgeable Viola audience, unlike any you’d find in the average recital hall.

Some lighter material awaited us in the programme “Musical Hors d’Oeuvres for viola and violin from around the world“, performed by IVS President Jutta Puchhammer-Sédillot and Viola Congress regular “house violinist” Annette-Barbara Vogel. Departing from Jutta’s native Austria (Vienna), a Robert Fuchs op. 60 duo gave the upbeat to a “world tour” of duos taking us through France (Charles Koechlin), Russia (Arthur Lourié and Reinhold Glière – composers for which today surely Belarus and Ukraine, respectively, would claim credit), Canada (both Jutta’s and Annette-Barbara’s current residence) and finally England (Gordon Jacob).

A few notes – the Glière duos are of course originally for violin and cello. It was not clear whether Jutta was reading the bass clef or whether someone had touched up her part with a viola clef. Would be nice to know! Secondly, the duo “Three for Pi” by Canadian composer Paul Frehner was in fact commissioned for this congress. If there was a voiced effort to explain this title, I must have missed it (I admit I was a bit tired at this point), I am speculating now on mathematical / symbolic meanings or possible word plays. I’ll add the explanation here if/when I find it!

The next recital by Juliet White-Smith (titled “Origins: Pre-21st Century Viola Works from the African Diaspora“) brought a couple of surprises. There were two pleasant shorter violin/piano transcriptions, Night and Elfentanz by Florence Price (1887-1953). But the core elements of White-Smith’s recital were two original viola works by the Afro-American composer Ulysses Kay (1917-1995) :A single-movement Sonatina, followed by a four-part Sonata, the latter written under audible mentorship of Paul Hindemith himself. Thank you to mrs. White-Smith for her research that has resurfaced this music, which certainly should be able to hold its own in our repertoire.

This evening’s special “Featured Artist” concert was given by the TAIORO ensemble from New Zealand, featuring viola great and former IVC Congress Host Donald Maurice, together with “spoken work poet” Sharn Maree and pianist Sherry Grant.  We heard poems interleaved and sometimes supported by viola/piano works by Alfred Hill, Douglas Lilburn and Sharn Maree herself. The poetry springs from the indigenous Māori culture and reflects on sometimes painful confrontations with social inequality and change.

This evening’s “afterparty” in Ristorante Rustico drew a lot of hungry and thirsty people after a very intensive congress day! At some point, “someone” from the Polish delegation started pouring drinks that definitely were not apple juice. A Good Time ™ was had by all.

On to Day 4! (be patient…)


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IVC Salaya Blog – Day 1

The 48th International Viola Congress takes place in Salaya, Thailand from June 6th – 10th, 2023. Daily blog reports are delivered to you by Karin Dolman [kd] and Kristofer Skaug [ks].

Day 1: Tuesday, June 6th, 2023
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[ks] It’s time for another International Viola Congress (IVC), but the setting for this year’s edition is certainly unlike those of past congresses: for the first time ever, an IVC is hosted in Asia, and not even in a string instruments “powerhouse” nation such as South Korea, Japan or China, but Thailand! In the Bangkok suburb of Salaya, the Mahidol University School of Music is kindly opening its doors this week to violists from all over the world, under the banner “Music without Borders”.  Your intrepid DVS bloggers are of course on the scene to bring you the hottest Viola news in near real time.

Just getting to Salaya wasn’t exactly easy, 11 hours of back-wrenching, restless-leg-bruising 2nd-class KLM seats followed by a 1-hour sweaty and jet-lagged taxi ride with an unusually talkative yet totally incomprehensible driver, in spite of having invested in the best cab-calling and Thai translation support that apps can buy. Thai streets are definitely not built for pedestrians, and they’re also evidently confusing for taxi drivers with a modern GPS system, so it’s unclear what exactly these roads are optimised for.

In the end, we gambled on casting aside our confused driver and our equally clearly heat-struck “smart” phones to navigate the last 200 meters by a combination of old-fashioned compass, astronomical knowledge, sensory inputs and a totally misplaced overconfidence in intuition. The result was an agitated 15-minute zigzag trek through a dreamy landscape of tropical forest, ponds, idyllic but dead-ending labyrinthic boardwalks, weird statues, intimidatingly big monitor lizards lurking in the shrubs, exotic bird chirps and remote elephant wails (or wait, were those trombones from the School of Music?). In short, it’s a campus like none you’ve ever seen!

But in the end we did stumble out of the jungle and onto the Congress venue, and I was positively surprised at the number of familiar faces. Honestly I had not expected so many Viola friends to make this long journey, but clearly violists can be quite adventurous! In fact, as many as 8 members of the DVS have invested their personal savings to form a solid Dutch delegation here at the Congress.

In the relentless tropical heat of this place – meteorologically known as the world’s hottest urban region (on average) – we were welcomed by host Danny Keasler and his team with ice cold tropical juices and gratifyingly fresh indoor climates. The Main Auditorium of the College of Music (MACM for short) furthermore offers a no-nonsense interior design, great acoustics and comfortable seats well fit for a full week’s worth of Congress presentations. Many a Dutch conservatory would be overjoyed with such a hall!

[kd] Ettore Causa is one of the IVC2023 Featured Artists. During the wonderful opening concert, he first played four Brahms songs transcribed for viola and piano, which fit the viola very well. I would like to look into the score. Such songs tend to let the piano play more along with the main voice, but here we heard a really beautiful interplay.In the next piece, Causa was joined by the Canadian Juan-Miguel Hernandez. It is the duet Moonlight Journey written by Paul Coletti, a viola player who loves to compose in a very romantic style. Also really jazzy! The two men on stage are communicating through their beautiful playing. So remember the name Paul Coletti. It is challenging and so much fun to play his music (Hernandez is by the way one of his former students).

In another arrangement created by Causa, the Melancholie by Cesar Franck fits the viola like a tailor-made suit. Originally for violin and piano, this piece is written at the height of the composers creative powers, at about the same time as his famous violin sonata,.

The last piece of the opening concert is the Chopin cello sonata, again transcribed by Causa. Beautifully played! It is a piece to drift off to peace of mind.

[ks] The 1st edition of the IVS-sponsored Choochart Pitaksakorn International Viola Competition took place this afternoon, open for students of age 12-28 years. This wide field made the jury’s task a bit tricky, given that pre-college contestants from Thailand simply cannot be fairly compared to elite music programme students from e.g. South Korea. In the end, a contestant from the latter category, 17-year old Hyunbin Kang, was the undisputed winner after a technically very good rendition of the Schwanendreher (two full movements, by heart). Glaris Tan Ying from Singapore was awarded the 2nd prize for a well curated performance of Bloch’s Suite Hebraïque, and our very own Sunniva Skaug (Conservatory of Amsterdam) captured a share of the 3rd prize together with Calla Lana Morris (Singapore).

[kd] Because there were still so many old friends to greet, I was unfortunately late for the lecture by Katrin Meidell about “the” César Franck sonata transcription. I heard a bit of the end, but I think she made a good research on the transcription, forming her own opinion, before playing the piece. Our host from the last congress, in Columbus (Georgia, USA), is a very passionate violist, evidenced by how she played the sonata for us!

The next lecture was cancelled or postponed, so those of us who weren’t following the Competition had a bit of time to grab something to eat. The Canteen in the basement of the School of Music turns out to be really excellent, in spite of its rather humble appearances, serving a great variety of delicious Thai dishes from eight different mini-kitchens with their own specialties.

Ames Asbell’s lecture-recital “Vieuxtemps and his Circle” opened with La Nuitfrom Félicien David’s “Le Désert”, and went on to showcase various other composers who where somehow connected to Henri Vieuxtemps. To our big surprise, IVS board member Daphne Gerling revealed a beautiful singing voice, contributing to the presentation with Ames on the viola and Michelle Schumann (speaking of connections?) on the piano. Vieuxtemps was a child prodigy, and Ames told us about his life and about the composers who influenced (and were inspired by) him such as Liszt, exemplified by his Romance Oubliée. This very interesting lecture was concluded with La Maggiolata by Jenö Hubay, Vieuxtemps’ protegé (next to Ysaÿe) in Brussels.

Alicia Marie Valoti‘s self-composed solo sonata was originally meant to be premiered at the IVC in Columbus last year. Unfortunately this plan was thwarted by COVID, but now finally we got to hear it! And it definitely deserves the big stage, with a clear (as-advertized) Hindemith style! The piece has a great opening with beautiful quiet moments, nearly Gregorian passages. And again a virtuosic ending of the first movement. The second movement starts with a beautiful melody, repeating with accompaniment of the solo player herself. Also left hand pizzicato melody and making a real nice building in melody, phrases and harmony. The last movement is a tarantella, exposing Alicia’s Italian roots. Also some jazzy and  blue grass moments in it. Going to kind of passacaglia chord playing. It must be fun practicing and playing this piece. Extended techniques are well used. The theme of the tarantella returns. The end is introduced with breathtaking harmonics leading to a climax with fire.

Marcin Murawski has brought a program of 6 female Polish composers in ‘12 shades of viola’. Each of the six composers wrote two pieces, in total one for each month of the year. It was a collaboration between the professor, his Viola students and the composers. They made video clips of these pieces as well, which can be found on the YouTube channel of the International Viola Society  Prof. Murawski is a great ambassador for the adventurous way of composing in Poland, the country who gave us a lot of great composers. And his stage performance is perfect, funny, serious, and technically great!

Next we were treated to a Masterclass by the guest artist Juan-Miguel Hernandez. He gave a particularly memorable class on the Stamitz concerto, transforming the talented 14-year-old student’s rough technical patches into more melodious and sonorous material. Although public masterclasses can never be quite “normal”, for the student nor for the teacher, Hernandez comes across as a very engaged and well-reflected teacher.

The first Congress day was concluded with the evening concert by Featured Artist Miti Wisuthumporn, a key figure in the Thai Viola community, and principal viola of the Royal Bangkok Symphony Orchestra. His program was titled “Rainbow Connection”, speculating what can be found at the end of the rainbow. Is it an illusion? A dream? A pot of gold? A nice and fruitful idea.

He started off with the Album leaves by Hans Sitt, for sure he is steering toward the ’’Dream” answer, but in my perception the “leafing for an answer” takes rather long.
The next piece on the program is the world premiere of “Unbounded” by Thai composer Trisdee na Patalung. At first it feels a bit like a viola joke. The first 5 minutes the viola only plays the open C string and the piano is working like hell. But then it feels nearly magic when finally the viola part finally abandons the C string, ending on a high note where again the piano takes over. The viola goes down again to the C with a cadenza.

The next piece on the program is the sonatina by Akkra Yeunyonghattaporn. It has a great atmosphere. You hear the more Asian sounds and harmonies in the composition, which is overall beautiful and peaceful, but not without astonishing  moments. The composer is in the audience, and gets a warm applause.
[ks] Due to residual jet lag, I missed some last-minute announced program changes, so when Christopher Janwong McKiggan’s Unsilent Knight started playing, I thought we were hearing a new self-composed intro to Piazzolla’s Le Grand Tango. And in a way I was right, as I convinced myself that I heard a slow version of the famous tango theme in the piano part at least once. But the piece ended instead with a reference to Silent Night, so this is where my misunderstanding became apparent,

[kd] Finally then, the real Grand Tango by Astor Piazzolla, originally written for Rostropovich who had a good relation with the tango specialist. After that it is played by so many instrumentalists. What the idea is with the Piazzolla (and Silent Night, for that matter) in the rainbow program, I have to ask.

[ks] A great start to a highly anticipated Congress. And so it is time to go – pardon me, “Grab” a taxi – to the pub. Those of us who thought they could walk that short mile, dearly regretted it (see earlier comments about Thai roads). Anyway, the local Italian restaurant Rustico accepted the challenge of feeding some twenty-odd Congress participants. The friendly owner from Genova looked a bit bewildered at first, but seemed gratified by the massive beer consumption of the Polish, Dutch and Norwegian guests in particular. The pasta was really good too, by the way…

Stay tuned for the next Daily blog… as soon as we can get it ready|

Karin and Kristofer

<next day>

Support the DVS – Become a Friend!

Dear viola friends,

after a relatively quiet period with a pandemic that forced us to limit our activities to low-cost online events, the Dutch Viola Society is once again reaching out to reunite violists with new and exciting LIVE events. If you are following us, you may have noticed that we already organized a couple of successful events in recent months, such as the high-profile masterclasses of Lawrence Power and Timothy Ridout. We were also present at, and contributed actively to the Britten viola competition and the 80th birthday celebration of Nobuko Imai last month.

For the coming months, we have loads of fun ideas in store, starting with the Viola Day in Dordrecht (May 29th), and more workshops and masterclasses after the summer. Organizing live events, however, implies some financial challenges. We therefore hope that you will support our cause by becoming a Friend of the DVS. For this purpose we return to the system of annual contributions / donations that we maintained up to 2019.

Being a Friend of the DVS only costs a few “tientjes” (euro tenners) per year, and in return you get a number of exclusive Friendship benefits, such as:

  • Receive free or discount access to live DVS events
  • Receive exclusive DVS discounts for concerts with top-notch violists
  • Access to members-only viola resources on the DVS website (currently still open for all), such as sheet music, catalogues, course listings, career tips, previously recorded workshops, and more.
  • Access to the DVS physical archive/library, consisting of rare old recordings and sheet music donated by friends.
  • Stay up-to-date with DVS website news, newsletters and social media
  • Your financial contribution is tax deductible (in The Netherlands)!

Only with your help can we become the best possible Viola community!

Find out how to capitalize that ‘f’ (in ‘friend’) and become a Friend – by clicking the Big Green Button below.

Thank you for your consideration!

The Board of the Dutch Viola Society

Viola Day Dordrecht 2023

Some of you may remember how the DVS was first announced 11 years ago at the Viola Festival in Dodrecht in February 2012. After more than a decade of official operation, we return to Dodrecht to celebrate our roots. In cooperation with the International Viola Academy (IVA), the DVS organizes a Viola Day in Dordrecht on Monday, May 29th 2023 (2e pinksterdag).

We are hoping for participation from all viola fans – amateurs, students and professionals – to celebrate the viola together with a full-day programme, including:

  • Masterclasses for Viola Students and Young Talents (aged 26 or younger) with viola faculty from the IVA: Marcin Murawski, Emlyn Stam and Karin Dolman.
    Selected students get a full one-hour masterclass. There are 9 spots available.
  • Viola Ensemble (open to all participants!) led by Jeppe Moulijn
    A four-part orchestra consisting entirely of VIOLAS!
    Players of all levels are welcome (amateurs, students, pros).
    We will be playing Gordon Jacob’s Suite for 8 violins (YouTube link), arranged especially for this viola ensemble with parts in varying difficulty; and possibly also a surprise composition! Sheet music will be sent in advance.
    We rehearse together and give a performance at the end of the session!
  • A Concert with contributions from DVS Delegates to the IVC 2023 in Thailand
  • Second-hand sheet music marketplace
  • Lunch and Afterparty (borrel)

For Masterclass students €50,00 *
For Ensemble playing €35 *
For Audience €30 (students €20) *
Concert ticket only €17.50 (students €7.50)
*) Rates include Lunch and Concert, and DVS Friends get additional 10% discount!
(these conditions do not apply for Concert ticket only)

10.00 Masterclasses session 1
11.15 Masterclasses session 2
11.00 Ensemble playing (for everyone)
12.30 Lunch
13.30 Masterclasses session 3
15.30 Concert
17.00 Afterparty with sale of 2nd hand sheet music

Venue: Trinitatiskapel (and auxiliary locations to be announced)
Vriesestraat 20, Dordrecht (10 minutes’ walk from Dordrecht railway station)

Are you as excited as we are? Sign up through the registration form below!

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Nobuko Imai Awarded the IVS Golden Alto Clef

Last Sunday (March 19th), viola legend and DVS honorary member Nobuko Imai celebrated her 80th birthday with a festive concert in the recital hall of Concertgebouw Amsterdam. Friends, colleagues, students and admirers (in many combinations) travelled from all over the world to be there. The recital hall had been sold out months in advance, and one literally had to search continent-wide for the very few second-hand tickets from people who ended up not being able to come.

When Nobuko first was invited to appear on stage by the well-spoken concert announcer Sven Arne Tepl, she was greeted with a loud cheer from the audience that would befit a rock star! In response, she gave an epic rendition of Schumann’s Märchenbilder, accompanied by Martijn Willers. No concessions to uninvited constraints of age or time, neither in the sweet slow movements nor in the furiously racing 3rd movement.

Next to a birthday celebration, the key concept of this concert was to bring about a reunion of Nobuko’s many students from all around the world. They were teamed up in ensembles of viola duos, trios and quartets representing Nobuko’s viola classes in Detmold, Geneva, Kronberg, Madrid and Amsterdam. Highly appreciated solistic performances were given as well by her students Veit Hertenstein, Takehiro Konoe and of course Tim Ridout.

A specially delightful “surprise”  reunion came with her former colleagues of the Michelangelo string quartet, Mihaela Martin and Frans Helmersson joining her in a Schubert trio.

After a flowery word of gratitude from the DVS chairman on behalf of the entire Dutch viola community, Nobuko was awarded the Golden Alto Clef, the highest distinction of the International Viola Society (IVS). The President of the IVS Jutta Puchhammer (flown in from Montreal) read a carefully researched summary of Nobuko’s many achievements for the viola in the most global perspective. This took a long time to summarize! Finally, IVS Vice President Karin Dolman proceeded to decorate Nobuko with this unique golden clef, which has only been awarded twice before in the 55-year history of the IVS (prof. Franz Zeyringer in 1988 and dr. David Dalton in 2013).

The celebration was capped off with a joyous rendition of Bach’s 3rd Brandenburg concerto, with a full viola orchestra on stage.

The DVS once again wishes to thank Nobuko Imai for all that she has done for the Dutch viola community throughout almost half a century of teaching and playing here, and we congratulate her with the well deserved IVS Golden Alto Clef award!

Media Coverage:

The IVS published a video impression of this whole event on their YouTube channel:
A plethora of Interviews has also appeared in the press and online media on the occasion of Nobuko’s 80th birthday. Here is a selection:

17/03/2023: Dutch Viola Society (Kristofer G. Skaug)
17/03/2023: The Violin Channel (Heather Kurzbauer)
15/03/2023: Trouw (Stella Vrijmoed)
10/03/2023: NRC (Rahul Gandolahage)
… and finally this one, a very interesting in-depth interview from almost 40 years ago:
27/12/1984: Musicalifeiten (Jan de Kruijff)

Interview Nobuko Imai

The world famous violist (and DVS Honorary Member) Nobuko Imai turns 80 tomorrow. In this interview, she tells us about her teaching career and her long-standing special relationship with The Netherlands, having lived and taught here – albeit on a part time basis – for more than 40 years.

by Kristofer G. Skaug, DVS

On a brisk late-January day, we meet in her daughter’s house in Amsterdam, only a few minutes’ walk away from the Concertgebouw. We are seated in the living room with a cup of tea.

DVS: More than 5 decades of teaching Viola at the highest level. Tell us how it started, and what has kept you going.

It started in America, where I became a member of the Vermeer Quartet, named after the Dutch painter, of course. The quartet was founded by Shmuel Ashkenazy (violinist) at the Northern Illinois University near Chicago, so I started teaching there, I was about 30 years old. I stayed there for 5 years. I didn’t know much about teaching, it was “learning by doing” for me, and I liked it very much.

Later I started teaching also at the Royal (Northern) College of Music in Manchester, as well as in Utrecht and The Hague (at the Royal Conservatoire). And then I taught in Detmold, and in Amsterdam, and at the Kronberg Academy (near Frankfurt), in Madrid, and in Geneva… that’s a very short summary of my teaching career.
Unfortunately I never had a teaching position in Japan, although of course I was there frequently, performing and giving masterclasses.

DVS: Do you hear yourself quoting your own teachers when you teach?

The thing is, I always want to create something. I don’t want to repeat, there has to be something new. Even practicing scales can be done creatively. If you have a weakness, you need to work on it – but you should use your imagination to improve, to create your own scales. That’s the way, I think, avoiding routine. I always find something new, and then I get very excited. I never grew bored of teaching.

DVS: So you regard teaching as a kind of collaborative exploration?

Yes, that’s how you survive 50 years of teaching. As a violist you have to have your own sound. And the viola comes in so many different shapes and sizes, you need to find out how to best “manipulate” your own instrument. You have to investigate.

DVS: What circumstance first brought you to come and teach in The Netherlands?

Well, initially it was because I met a Dutch music lover, after the Geneva competition. He told me he had a big house in Heemstede and I would be welcome to stay there whenever I was in Amsterdam for work or leisure. So I did come, on and off, but never really lived there a long time, a few months maybe. Then eventually I got married to a Dutch man, so that was significant (laughing). But I was still commuting a lot between my different schools.

DVS: Do you see any characteristics of Dutch viola culture or music life?

In my experience, the Dutch are very international in their orientation. They are receptive to new information, and adapt well. In Japan, for example, or Germany, things are quite different in this respect.

The teaching culture at the Conservatory of Amsterdam is strong, I very much appreciate Francien (Schatborn) and Marjolein (Dispa), we’ve been cooperating and creating together. We work together without interfering, creating something bigger. It would never happen quite like this in other countries.

DVS: Are you retiring now from the Conservatory?

I will stop regular teaching in Amsterdam now because of my age, but I hope to continue doing seasonal masterclasses.

DVS: For 15 years now you have been hosting the bi-annual Amsterdam Viola Festival. Looking back, how do you feel about it and what would you hope for the future?

Last time (November 2021), the Amsterdam festival was dedicated to Hindemith, and we had a special recital consisting entirely of Hindemith and Bartók duos. It was very enjoyable getting to know the younger students at the CvA this way, we were giggling a lot (laughs). I hope there could be more programs like that in the future, involving everybody.

DVS: These Bartók duos, by the way, were also special to you.

Yes, I went to Hungary to learn about Hungarian folk music and to play with folk musicians. We ended up travelling to Japan together to play some of this music. Their rhythm and intonation takes a real effort to learn. I spent quite a lot of time with those people. Later, I thought of playing the Bartók duos on the viola. They are not hard, almost beginner level. But I didn’t transcribe them, so we play them in the original (violin) key, which makes it a bit more difficult, but keeps more of the original sound.

DVS: On Sunday (March 19th), you will celebrate your 80th birthday with a special concert in Het Concertgebouw. Tell us about this concert.

I thought it would be nice for my students to meet again, so that’s the idea behind the celebration here in Amsterdam. We will play various pieces for viola ensemble. For example we’ll play the 1st movement of Bach’s 3rd Brandenburg concerto, transcribed for a maximum number of violas. And we’ll play a viola orchestra version of Händel’s “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba“. We may have to remove the 1st row of chairs to fit everyone on stage!

Many of my students are now renowned violists in their own right. For example Timothy Ridout, whom I taught at the Kronberg Academy. He is such an open personality, he’s curious about new repertoire and always finding music in it, an inspiring role model for young people. And Diyang Mei, he’s currently the principal violist of the Berlin Philharmonic, he will fly in from Berlin on Sunday just to play the Paganini “Gran Sonata“, and then fly back the same evening. Just to name a few … it will be a great reunion! I’m looking forward to see them all, and I’m grateful that they make time to come here, even from Japan or Taiwan.

DVS: Final topic: Viola Societies! We were elated that you promptly accepted an Honorary membership of the DVS back in 2013, when we were freshly founded. How do you view the role of Viola Societies?

I first encountered a Viola Society when I was in the U.S., in a festival where female composers were highlighted. I have contributed to several International Viola Congresses since, most recently at the Rotterdam congress in 2018.

Viola Societies are meaningful to a lot of people, but it takes a lot of dedication to run them. I think the Dutch Viola Society has a particularly fruitful climate (mentioned above) to prosper.

DVS: Thank you for your time, and thank you on behalf of the Dutch viola community for all you have done! We have been so lucky to have you here all this time, and we look forward to celebrate with you in Concertgebouw on March 19th!

(P.S. Sunday’s concert (link) is completely sold out – but the DVS will be there, and we will post a report by early next week!)