Cycling to a concert is not as unusual in the Netherlands as one might expect. But biking through the city and the countryside from one concert to the next is something that even the Dutch do not do every day. A musical bicycle route is the premise for Janine Jansen’s International Chamber Music Festival's Tour d’Utrecht. On a cycling route through the city of Utrecht, spectators got to attend three different concerts on special locations.

The programme started in brand new music temple Tivoli Vredenburg, which was recently opened by King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands. In their chamber music hall Hertz, different ensembles and musicians presented music by Johannes Brahms. Amihai Grosz and Itamar Golan performed his Sonata in F minor, Op. 120 no. 1 in its version for viola and piano. Both players were seriously dedicated to their play, but during the wilder parts a happily tapping foot on the floor revealed their glee.

Julian Rachlin © Julia Wesely
Julian Rachlin
© Julia Wesely

They were succeeded by Alexander Gavrylyuk who performed Brahms’ Variations on a theme of Paganini. Gavrylyuk's piano playing often overwhelmed, whereas during the softer moments the melody did not quite stand out. He did, however, fully immerse himself in the music, and his virtuosity was impressive. After Gavrylyuk, Julian Rachlin and Itamar Golan took the stage with the F-A-E Sonata by Albert Dietrich, Robert Schumann and Brahms. Rachlin stood out for taking over the atmosphere of the music in his physical attitude: stern at the serious moments, but happy during the final movements of the work.

From Tivoli Vredenburg, the audience cycled to the Muntgebouw, where Wouter Bergenhuizen played a recital in the aula. Bergenhuizen added meaning to the music by introducing each work, which was amusing and furthermore improved the atmosphere. However, Bergenhuizen made a bit of an awkward start with Haydn’s Divertimento in A flat major, Hob. XVI: 46. Playing by heart, he repeatedly made small mistakes at the beginning of musical sentences - but one must give him credit for skilfully blurring them. Being a quarter finalist in the International Franz Liszt Competition 2014, he continued with a solid Rhapsodie espagnole by Liszt – and one expected no less. In spite of the music being less than profound, Bergenhuizen played it with immense virtuosity.

The Tour d’Utrecht ended at the beautiful castle Zuylen, former home to 18th century female composer and writer Belle van Zuylen. In this wonderful setting the Mirovia Quartet shone in Ravel’s exhilarating String Quartet in F major. This was preceded by the Allegro and Très vif from Ravel’s Sonata for violin and cello. During the entire programme, the energy of this group of young talent gave the music just that little bit more – a pleasure to hear and watch.

With its beautiful locations and a programme as varied as the settings itself, the Tour d’Utrecht has proven to be a successful formula. Hopefully this concept will be repeated next year, because what could be better than discovering music and the city in a single day?

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