START OF AN ERA at the Delft Chamber Music Festival, Holland

Last night’s spectacular multi-media performance of Start of an Era was the world première of a new work co-produced with the Gergiev Festival in Rotterdam and was set in undoubtedly the most spectacular venue of the whole festival.

Taking place in a sprawling former glue factory, now the Lijm en Cultuur arts center, the concert told in words, music and pictures of the early days of the Russian Revolution. The vast playing area had, at one end, a shiny black Steinway piano and at the other, three chairs and a battered table upon which stood a lamp, an old typewriter and piles of papers and notebooks.

The back of the stage was dominated by a huge screen onto which grainy old black and white photos and juddering film from Russia in 1917 were projected. The three performers entered in darkness, two of them sitting, while the Prologue was delivered by actor Thom Hoffman, best known for his starring role in Doktor Tinus, the Dutch version of the British TV series, Doc Martin. The text, which punctuated the music, came from the diary of Nobel Prize nominated Russian writer Konstantin Georgiyevich Paustovsky, and was nicely delivered by Mr Hoffman who spent the intervening time unobtrusively at his typewriter or sorting his notes.

The first piece of music was Sergei Prokoviev’s Visions Fugitives Op.22, beautifully played by Ole Christian Haagenrud on piano and an all-in-white Liza Ferschtman on violin. Not only is Ms Ferschtman a sensitive and expressive musician but she is also the driving force behind the Festival, performing at many of the events. Alternating with spoken word and projections, she wandered around playing at four different music stands placed around the stage, thus adding visual interest to the already impressive setting.

The concert also included Konstantin Paustovski’s Reminders of the Russian Revolution and culminated with Arthur Lourié’s 1928 Intermezzo and A Phoenix Park Nocturne, played by the exceptional young pianist Mr Haagenrud.

A very successful and exciting concert during which the torrential rain pummelling the roof only added to the already dramatic atmosphere in the disused factory.    Michael Hasted   30th July 2017