The Netherlands Violin Competition throws a big party called Night of the Violin

NetherlandsNetherlands Netherlands Violin Competition [2] – Night of the Violin Festival: Tim Kliphuis, Tessa Lark, Shunske Sato, Tjeerd Top, Diamanda La Berge Dramm, Anan Al-Kadamani, Isobel Warmelink, the Nordic Fiddlers Bloc and others, mostly on violin. TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht, 26.1.2024. (LV)

Tessa Lark and Tim Kliphuis jamming at Night of the Violin © Eric van Nieuwland

The evening before the Concerto Finals, the Netherlands Violin Competition threw a six-hour-long party called Night of the Violin. It took place in the upper halls and performance spaces of TivoliVredenburg, and nothing much was classical. Curated by improv guru Tim Kliphuis, the schedule of concurrent and overlapping concerts included Irish and Romanian folk music, jazz and rock, improv and silent dancing.

The lineup of players featured Tessa Lark (Kentucky’s gift to the joys of fiddling), Baroque master Shunske Sato, Tjeerd Top (Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra deputy concertmaster), the Nordic Fiddlers Bloc, Anan Al-Kadamani and last year’s winner of the Competition first prize, Isobel Warmelink. It was a sold-out evening, and the crowds swept me from one concert to another.

The Anan Al-Kadamani Quartet playing at Night of the Violin © Eric van Nieuwland

Among the sounds I did manage to hear was the creative force Diamanda La Berge Dramm. She took the stage in the Cloud Nine hall like a twenty-first-century Tartini, caressing harmonics and devilish double trills from her fiddle, followed by a wonderful gigue. Next, Tjeerd Top and the Leden Kamerata Zuid string quartet were at the Hertz hall, with disarmingly simple cowboy tunes and takes on Brahms amped for a funky sound and sweet playing. His lovely arioso over plucked strings had the feel of a modern jazz quartet with all the associated feints and gestures.

Back in Cloud Nine, there were similarly smooth takes from Albert Lincan on Brahms and gypsy tunes, emphasizing the gentle lyricism and the nostalgic, film-noir sound of father Giani Lincan’s cimbalom. Noah Hassler-Forest’s Moon Garden with cellist Joshua Herwig and electric guitarist Ella Zarina, winners of the previous night’s Jonge Makers Competition for violinist-led ensembles in genres other than classical, made some excellent sounds in original tunes and improvisations, ending with a Mahler Adagietto vocalized by violin and cello and immersed at the end in ghostly harmonics.

Shunske Sato joined Kliphuis and an all-star lineup in Hertz for an extended take on Bach. The audience totally got the countless little rhythmic, harmonic and melodic changes, especially when they slipped into Django mode. The solo riffs were infused with Bach’s sense of delirium, while subsequent bits of Brahms, Shostakovich and Pachelbel, with their attendant tendrils of sound, made no sense at all – but it was unforgettable, not to mention that Sato and Kliphuis had met for the first time fifteen minutes before going on stage.

Next in Cloud Nine, Anan Al-Kadamani, along with lute, double bass and percussion, wound his way through an addicting 10/8 ABB rondo that he instructed us on before playing. He created even more strangely beautiful sounds using a violin strung and tuned to sound like a cello.

Sensing the end, the crowds surged back to Hertz for the Finale, intoxicated by the presence of all the great violinists they had been hearing. There was dancing and a general sense of hoedown on stage before, as seemed only appropriate on such a surrealistic night, the patriarchal Giani Lincan’s spectacular cimbalom riffs brought the Night of the Violin to a close well after midnight.

Laurence Vittes

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