Dvořák 9 Explained 28 april 2016

9e Symfonie van Dvořák


It seems there is still a need to lure people to classical concert in a accessible way. At Tivoli Vredenburg there was a masterclass in how you do this.

´… (fill in composer) Explained´ was organised for the second time this season. ´Dvořák 9 Explained ´ was the last one of four concerts. Because of the success of this seasons´ series, there will be five concerts next series. To get straight to the point; I understand the success if the other concerts were only remotely like the one we attended.

Me and  Miss Snel entered Tivoli Vredenburg easily without any long queues at the cloakroom.  The audience is clearly another kind of audience you normally see at the ´Pop´ part of the venue (these visitors are clearly older, better dressed but not too posh). The room is square and is build rather high so most of the audience surrounds the orchestra instead of sitting on the same floor as the orchestra. With all this woodwork it all looks a bit scandinavian in design.

Jules van Hessen tijdens een ander concert

Conductor Jules van Hessen makes a swift entrance.  He has a distinctive voice which reminds me of the voice of (Dutch) Ernie from Sesame Street. The (Gelders)  orchestra is informally dressed (the hornsection is dressed in shiny, brightly coloured 7os style blouses).
From Hessens introduction I deduct that some people in the audience have attended ‘….Explained’ multiple times. He asks ‘are there any people here who are first timers for visiting this series ?’. There are quite a lot of these (I estimate about 60%) and then he asks’are there any people  here who visit a classical concert for the first time ?’. There are very few of these. He then tells us what is about the history of Dvořák (fonetically ‘dvoorzjak’) . It appears that Dvořák was mixing up the numbers of his Symphonies. Symphony number 9 is written in America and written solely for America. This Czech citizen didn´t do this for free because there was some big numbers involved for his being in the United States: $ 15,000.00!mcdvorakeng


Van Hessen uses small snippets of the 9th Symphony to let us hear what themes are hidden inside this piece. Dvořák got his inspiriation from all over the world: Negro spirituals, native Americans, pigeons (!), dances from Bohemia and a big dose of American bombast. He invites a member from the audience to sing a little part and someone from the public is allowed -like the BBC TV show ´Maestro´- to direct a little piece of the 9th.

Listening to Jules van Hessens´story is not exactly a form of punishment, it´s really contrary to that. If you imagine he would have a dogs´ tail, he would wiggle it off because of his enthousiasm. Between talks van Hessen shows how a pentatonic scale works with the use of some pink balloons. There even is (it seems this occurs every concert of this series) a little quiz for the audience. The prize is a fucking Toaster! The whole show is just very entertaining. When Jules directs small pieces he shows he´s a serious, skilled director on top of his game. You also can easily see that he has a great connection with the Gelders Orchestra. The first part is over before we know it.

orkestAfter the break (during the break we admired the 70´s styled part of the building) the Gelders orchestra is dressed formally in dress suits. The 9th Symphony is performed without any comments. The ´inspirations´ are being projected on big screens. We don´t really need the screens. Some of the bombastic and quiet parts of the piece have a lot in common with parts of the film music of ´Star Wars´.  I suspect that the composer of  ´Star Wars´, John Williams, has ´borrowed´ even more stuff because I even heard the first notes of the theme of ´Jaws´.

Before the break the audience got to vote if Jules was allowed to sneak in a tiny addition to the piece (a thundering strike with symbals during a somewhat bombastic part). The audience, luckily for the cymbalist, voted in favour of the change. With a firm bow Jules indicates that the piece has been played. He and the orchestra receive a standing ovation of course. The encore is ´Stars & Stripes Forever´ A very militaristic and American piece that fits the 9th symphony well.

Next season me and the missus will be attending at least one of the concerts because this way of listening to classical music is great fun!




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