Amsterdam concert goers enjoy the warm acoustic of the Concertgebouw, a hall where music has been performed since 1888. There are two halls, the large hall, seating just 2200, is shaped like a shoe box with a flat floor and small galleries at the sides and back, so quite unlike the fan shape of more recent concert halls.
You might think the acoustics would be dreadful but quite the opposite: at this evening's concert, we could hear clearly and separately the four voices of the Hilliard Ensemble and had plenty of volume from the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra. Both benefited from the generous and forgiving reverberant acoustic from the numerous arches and curved surfaces which make up the attractive decoration. Amsterdam’s trams run close by two sides of the building on major roads but are inaudible.
"Nikolić meets Hilliard" was an interesting programme idea, contrasting almost mystical twentieth century music inspired by the liturgy of the Russian Orthodox Church with three motets from the twelfth century by Guillaume de Mauchaut and book ending more familiar pieces of Beethoven and Mozart.
The Three motets of de Mauchaut must be some of the earliest written music still available to be performed, the eerie and sometimes dissonant harmonies coming down to us through the ages. Strangely ascetic sounds but sumptuous in the luxurious acoustic of the Concertgebouw, appropriate for the sound but socially entirely the opposite of the monastic acoustics in which they were presumably conceived.
I found Gordan Nikolić’s performance of the Beethoven Violin Romance ponderous, the turgid side of sentimental.
Mozart's G minor Symphony as a racy finale seems at first sight unlikely but that was the final surprise of this programme and it took us up and swept us away. The Netherlands Chamber Orchestra played with style, fast and accurately. The first movement exposition was first played looking backwards, as sturm und dram with the repeat observed but played looking forward to the style of Beethoven and Schubert. The slow movement was dynamic and gripping with its adagio tension. The dances were elegant symphonic dances, not peasant stomps. The finale exposition was first played fast and then repeated, faster.
In this case, the standing ovation was merited - I'm told they are frequent at the Amsterdam Concert Gebouw. The programme did seem a bit short but the pre-concert coffee and interval drinks and programme were included in the ticket price.
I'd love to go again to the Amsterdam Concertgebouw and hear a full orchestral programme in that acoustic, which must be how London's Henry Wood Hall sounded like before it was demolished to make way for office buildings.
Beethoven - Violin romance in F, op. 50
Raskatov - Obikhod
De Machaut - Three Motets (Tu qui gregem, Qui plus aimne, Felix Virgo)
Mozart - Symphony No 40 in G mino , KV 550
The Hilliard Ensemble
Krystof Maratka - directing
Gordan Nikolić - violin