April 7th, 2017. The fifth and final day of the fiftieth Spring Festival of the Composition Department of the Royal Conservatoire The Hague. For the Ensemble Royaal, consisting of Conservatory students, a special viola project was set up. Under the guidance of viola teacher Mikhail Zemtsov this years edition of the Ensemble consisted of only viola players. And students of the Composition Department wrote pieces for them and some special existing compositions were chosen to be performed.
Kuba Krzewinski's piece Shapes kicked off the concert. A investigation into the traces of touch in music. So the players only touch their instruments with their hands, first by massaging the strings. An occasional pizzicato disturbing the serene string stroking sounds. Then the body of the viola is used to generate sounds. All the while holding the viola as a cello between the knees. With five players detuning two of their strings and the other five detuning the other two strings.
The painter turned composer from Portugal, João Ceitil, placed eight violas on stage and four up on the balcony. The stage viola players produce long notes, with the four balcony violas 'interfering' with short staccato comments. The definition of Chatoyant is in this case: Varicoloured when seen in different lights or from different angles changing in lustre or colour.
About his piece Mist Remco Gerritsen wrote: In Mist you find yourself in a moving geometric plane, passing through a desolate landscape shrouded by fog. The ambiguous atmosphere of the landscape will organically reveal itself through different iterations of glassandi, harmonics and other techniques played by twelve players, who individually scan their respective field of vision, translating it to the resulting grand panorama we hear. Mikhail Zemtsov said:"The piece exploits the instrument, the viola, in two ways. The distance between the bridge and the fingerboard. Every place, every move with the bow would give a different colour. And for the left hand the composer is experimenting with different types of vibrato. But all this is not just pure experiment, but is to express how we feel when we get into a cold fog." A contemplative composition.
Mikhail Zemtsov introducing a piece
Ivan Babinchak composition IUIUIUIUIUIUIUI TI TUTA TE TITO O O O O O O O O is next. Mikhail Zemtsov announced Ivan's piece:"I don"t know if I am allowed to say it. But I will say it, you know. So the piece was called some day Dialoguing. But then the name was changed. And now it is called ....." With Mikhail bursting out the new name like a machine gun. Laughter by the audience. Mikhail:"So it can be still dialoguing off course. But which kind of dialoguing it will be?" Well modest parts against highly dynamic outbursts.
Mikhail: John Cage one of the most famous avangarde composers of the twentieth century, from America. The name of the next piece: Dream. What is the most dreamy instrument of the world? Who said celesta? It is the viola. Three minutes of John Cage with Maria Kropotkina as a soloist." A very lyrical piece.
Up next was Emil Tan Erten with his composition - The Second Vague School: Dances by Praetorius and Phalèse for 12 violas. Mikhail Zemtsov said:"Ladies and gentlemen. About the next piece. I cannot say anything. I may not say anything. It is a well kept secret. It is a so well kept secret. That I may not conduct it. So the composer will conduct it himself. So prepare yourself for a surprise." A very free adaptation of the renaissance music with short parts of melodic Preatorius and Phalèse themes.
Louis Andriessen wrote his piece, Remembering that Sarabande, in the ninetees especially for Anne Moreau, an English lady, for her sixtieth birthday. He wrote a piece for viola and a group of four violas. Louis ordered it should not vibrate like Max Bruch. Mikhail Zemtsov said:"OK, we play it with Dutch vibrato." A quiet, meandering composition.
A very derserved ovational applause followed for Mikhail, his 13 viola players and the composers.
Soloist Maria Kropotkina (left) and Anna Jurriaanse
The line up of Ensemble Royaal:
Violas: Elena Santana de la Rosa, Clara Garcia Alonso, Anastasia Krivosheina, Kardelen Buruk, Oksana Mukosii, Daniil Zemtsov, Anna Jurriaanse, Ursula Skaug, Evgeniya Peschanskaya, Lois Loos, Maria Kropotkina, Christina Schoonakker and Rosanne Sloots
Conductor: Mikhail Zemtsov.