Oranjewoud Festival’s vision to “strengthen openness, solidarity and acceptance of diversity through a mutual passion for music” is a much-needed antidote to elitist attitudes so-often present amongst the concert-going public. Set in the idyllic surroundings of the Oranjestein Estate in the Northern Dutch municipality of Heerenveen, the festival prides itself on its ability to make classical music accessible –without compromising quality – and, since its establishment in 2012, it has garnered a reputation for booking acts that give fresh insight into the classical canon.

The Stegreif Orchester © Roman Novitzky
The Stegreif Orchester
© Roman Novitzky

Examples are Salut Salon – the Hamburg-based string quartet who will be opening this year’s festival with their own "playful" renditions of works by Prokofiev, Bach and Vivaldi – or the Berlin-based Stegreif Orchester, who have memorised Brahms’ Symphony no. 3 in order to improvise around it. Nothing, it seems, is safe from reinterpretation, as piano and violin duo Matthias Susaas Halvorsen and Mathieu van Bellen hope to prove in a stripped-back arrangement of Puccini’s La bohème – set against a backdrop of projected passages from Henri Murger’s original novel. Austrian-American troubadours The Erklings join the cause with pop arrangements of Schubert’s song cycle Die schöne Müllerin, whilst seminal orchestral works like Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring are to be given a solo-piano makeover by Dutch pianist Ralph van Raat. Even Bach's St John Passion is to be re-explored, sung entirely by Icelandic tenor Benedikt Kristjánsson and accompanied by Elina Albach and Philipp Lamprecht on harpsichord and percussion respectively.

New imaginative pavilions immersed in nature are created every year © Majanka Fotografie
New imaginative pavilions immersed in nature are created every year
© Majanka Fotografie

Classical puritans are equally well catered for. The internationally renowned Busch Trio will perform a programme that explores one of classical music’s great platonic relationships, juxtaposing works by Clara Schumann and Brahms, whilst pianist Daria van den Bercken will attempt to unravel the mysterious Italian composer Domenico Scarlatti through a selection of his 560 keyboard sonatas. The Dudok Quartet will also be performing Beethoven’s String Quartets no. 1 and no. 13, whilst cello sonatas by Brahms, Fauré and Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů will be presented by Quirine Vierson, accompanied by his long-time collaborator Enrico Pace and set in the bucolic surroundings of the estates’s Orangerie.

Indeed, few festivals offer visitors such a great opportunity for escapism. The Orangerie is just one of ten sites across the estate used for music-making, at the heart of which is the Garden of Delight, where you can buy food and drink at one of the various stalls whilst listening to relaxed performances that run throughout the day. Most of the concerts will be taking place at either the Rabobank or Oranjewoud Pavillions, but if you enjoy a spot of yoga, you can take your mat over to the De Overturn park and garden and observe your sun salutations to the soothing sounds of the Nederlands Saxofoon Octet – all under the guidance of yogini Daphne Koken.

Yoga in concert © Oranjewoud Festival
Yoga in concert
© Oranjewoud Festival
In what promises to be a similarly meditative experience, the Cello Octet Amsterdam will be presenting a new work by American composer Michael Gordon, 8. The cellists will be arranged in a circle around an audience – to be seated on benches and cushions – as the 50-minute “ocean of sound” unfurls around them. For an even greater dose of introspection look no further that Joost Lijbaart and the Matangi Quartet, who will be presenting Wolfert Brederode’s Ruins & Remains, a suite for piano, percussion and string quartet in ten contiguous sections that lasts almost 70 minutes.

Jazz will also take centre stage in a number of Oranjewoud’s concerts. There will be performances from the Rembrandt Frerichs Quartet and harmonica player Hermine Deurloo – whose impressive CV includes collaborations with the Metrople Orkest and New York jazz legend Tony Scherr – as well as piano and violin duo Julia Philippens and Xavier Torres, who hope to prove their classical training can take the expressiveness and refinement of jazz to new heights through a selection of pieces composed for each other. The pair will also be hosting a workshop for festival-goers who want to explore improvisation. Perhaps the biggest hitter on the programme will be Swedish soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, who, along with the American string quartet Brooklyn Rider, is to present a fusion of jazz, pop and classical music through works by Caroline Shaw, Björk, Elvis Costello and Kate Bush.

And there’s plenty happening at this festival to keep you occupied well into the night. Friday’s Late Night Mystery Concert for example – or the Night of the Park: running until 1am on the Saturday night, this nocturnal affair will feature performances in hidden locations around the park from members of the Stegreif Orchester and harpist Lavinia Meijer. If you’re a lark rather that a night owl, on the same day there will be a sunrise performance of Sibelius’ Violin Concerto from Dutch violinist Rossanne Philippens and the Stegreif.

Kids are encouraged to have a hands-on approach © Oranjewoud Festival
Kids are encouraged to have a hands-on approach
© Oranjewoud Festival

For those with children, Oranjewoud also provides plenty of opportunities to get youngsters excited about music. The festival offers a selection of “Hands On” sessions – each focussing on a different solo instrument – and Beat Box Studios, whilst the ‘Overtuin Challenge’ combines musical discovery with nature in an estate-wide outdoors adventure. Percussionist Tatiana Koleva will also be running short workshops alongside the Youth Percussion Pool to prepare audiences for an interactive concert: How to Play the Triangle. Here, the triangle serves as a metaphor for the the ‘uneasy trio’ of immigration, adaptation and acceptance.


This article was sponsored by Oranjewoud Festival