Salomé Bonnema sweeps to victory in the Netherlands Violin Competition

NetherlandsNetherlands Netherlands Violin Competition [1] – Concerto Finals: Salomé Bonnema, Kira van der Woerd, Enzo Kok (violin), Residentie Orkest / Jonathan Bloxham (conductor). Grote Zaal, Tivoli/Vredenburg, Utrecht, 27.1.2024. (LV)

Salomé Bonnema playing Mendelssohn with the Residentie Orchestra conducted by Jonathan Bloxham © Foppe Schut

Mendelssohn – Violin Concerto in E minor

Lalo – Symphonie Espagnole in D minor

On a blustery night in Utrecht, 22-year-old Salomé Bonnema swept to victory in the Netherlands Violin Competition with a performance of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. She began slowly, before accelerating through the rocky octaves to a perfect speed. Her serenely elegant phrasing, never distorting time or space, projected brilliantly above the orchestra and flashed with energy at all the right pivot points.

She spun a seamless flow of music with the iconic spiccato arpeggios. Greatest miracle of all, she and the Residentie Orkest under Jonathan Bloxham allowed the usually obscured introduction to the slow movement to bloom like a flower, the bassoons wailing with gorgeous wide vibrato. She played the Andante sweetly, with an open heart – divine. Once launched into the finale, Bonnema played the high harmonic flashes straight on, and did the intricate, insanely fast passagework hand-in-glove with the orchestra. She nailed the great pause before heading into the cadenza where, after three wonderful clarinet sighs, she ratcheted up the tension with increasing variety before soaring above the orchestra for the final chords and rapturous applause.

It is a measure of how fierce the competition was that 21-year-old Enzo Kok, who took home the highly coveted Audience Prize for his impulsively surging performance of the Mendelssohn that led off the evening, only won Third Prize. He had played with a young lover’s poetry and passion – and the kind risk-taking that, as in the finale, surrounded by the sounds of cellos, horns and violas, created music of indescribable beauty.

The award for courage under fire went to the youngest of the finalists, 18-year-old Kira van der Woerd who, weakened by flu during the week, found the necessary enchantments and virtuosity to show off Édouard Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole in all its seductive glory and win Second Prize.

While the jurors were making their decisions, the stage gave way for a set evoking Paris and Django by Moon Garden, winners of the Jonge Makers Competition for violinist-led ensembles in genres other than classical: jazz, folk, Arabic or Indian, urban or pop. This commitment to the new and young carried through in the main competition itself, which required the semi-finalists to create multidisciplinary performances including guest musicians and artists.

The night before the concerto finals, the competition threw a six-hour-long party called ‘Night of the Violin Festival’ that took place in the upper halls and performance spaces of the Tivoli/Vredenburg, during which nothing much was classical. Improv guru Tim Kliphuis curated a series of concurrent and overlapping concerts that included Irish and Romanian folk music, jazz and rock, improv and silent disco, played by a line-up featuring Tessa Lark, Baroque master Shunske Sato, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra deputy concertmaster Tjeerd Top, the Nordic Fiddlers Bloc, Diamanda La Berge Dramm, Anna Al-Kadami and Isobel Warmelink.

More on ‘Night of the Violin’ in my next report.

Laurence Vittes

Featured Image: Salomé Bonnema, Enzo Kok and Kira van der Woerd © Foppe Schut

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