9 March 2011

A (somewhat extranous) Review: Rossini, Rijnvos and Beethoven

Last saturday I was lucky enough to witness the world premiere of a new piece by Dutch composer Richard Rijnvos, Ponte de la Pièta, a passacaglia for violin and double orchestra. I mostly wanted to go because the solo violin was played by Pekka Kuusisto, my favourite violinist (seriously, look him up on youtube, he's great and hilarious). Besides that, I always feel lucky when I'm able to attend a premiere of a new piece of music (it's exciting), and this time the other pieces on the program were fun as well (Rossini's William Tell Overture and Beethoven's Symphony No.7.

I needed a few days to digest the concert, for several reasons. I completely loved the Rijnvos work, found it beautiful atmospheric and there was something creepy yet soothing about it. But the more I think about it, the more I feel that the musical setting was completely wrong. I love Rossini anytime, the William Tell Overture is as fun a piece as any (although my favourite Rossini is his Petite Messe Solemnelle which is the funniest requiem ever), and I also love Beethoven's 7th, it's probably my favourite Beethoven symphony (this may or may not have something to do with the fact that it's played in The Fall, the most beautiful film in the world) but these pieces completely paled in comparison to the Rijnvos work. And not necessary because they're not as good, they're just so different. 

To the Rijnvos's Ponte de la Pièta is one of those works where it's not about what notes are played and it's not about melodies or rhythm but it's about the atmosphere music can create, and through this alone it can be really emotional. I think it's perhaps similar to listening to Satie's piano pieces, they are so simple yet strangely atmospheric and emotional (apparently Rijnvos is heavily influenced by Satie, I'm not surprised). The Rossini piece, however, seems almost the complete opposite. It is a high-powered endless barrage of notes that make you sit up in your seat and make you want to start running around. Of course it's not like that throughout, but it really ends with a BANG! Beethoven's 7th is somewhat different in that it has a beautiful slow second movement, but most of it is quite similar to Rossini, a lot of energy, a lot of notes, a lot of

And so, it makes me wonder why these pieces were put together. I fear that, compared to the Rossini and Beethoven, Rijnvos's piece may have come across as rather dull because it doesn't really build towards anything, there is no obvious climax, whereas the other two works have very clear and satisfying ones. And for me, the Beethoven and Rossini pieces appeared almost meaningless and emotionless because they're so much less atmospheric. Of course I won't stop listening to them, and I will start listening to Rijnvos so maybe the I shouldn't complain, but I feel like all the pieces might have deserved better. Although of course, it could be a lot worse, I remember one fateful night years ago when I went to the Concertgebouw to see both of Shostakovich's cello concertos and the orchestra also played Haydn's waytoomanieth (seriously, it was like the 97th or something) symphony which is still the most boring thing I've ever heard in my life and I couldn't believe someone thought it a good idea to bill this with Shostakovich. It felt like blasphemy!

Anyway, in order to illustrate the point I was trying to make (there's a point in there somewhere), here are videos from last saturday's concert (orchestra is the Radio Kamer Filharmonie, conductor Michael Schønwandt, violinist the aforementioned badass Pekka Kuusisto):

Rossini - ending of the William Tell Overture

Rijnvos - ending of the
Ponte de la Pièta

Beethoven - Symphony No.7: Movement II.


  1. I liked reading your review. I hope you'll make some more in the future :D

    Your point does make sense after listening to the music you posted. Maybe they were trying to single out Rijnvos' work by comparing it to less atmospheric works?

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