By sheer coincidence I’d found out yesterday that the Bijloke had a concert scheduled –that same night– by the Cello Octet Conjunto Ibérico. The fact that the concert hall is only minutes away from where I live, quickly removed any doubt that might have been there re: attending the performance.

The architecture of the building itself is still impressive, though the room acoustics tend to be rather bland (even though a lot of research went into improving this). Last time I’d been there, was for the Kronos Quartet performance on their Nuevo tour (in 2002, see also this entry). From the first notes on, the Cello Octet performance promised to become equally good.

Unfortunately the instruments were electronically amplified, and there was a tape accompanying the cellos to fill in for any missing instruments. Completely unnecessary as the performance and sound of the eight cellos proved to be powerful and diverse enough to handle all melody and rythm, but also a bit annoying since –due to the difference in prerecorded sound and the warmth of the live cellos– this made the tape tracks float in front and superimposed on the rest of the performance. Bit of a shame, really.

Unfortunately things got rather bad during Attack and Fall (from the opera Akhnaten). Even though it might have been the intention of Philip Glass to make the music seem chaotic and overwhelming, the chaos was uncontrolled and the sound cacophonic. Fortunately this was due to a technical error, which was corrected in time for the second part from Akhnaten (after the break).

Apart from that, the performance was very good. The Octet gave prime renditions of e.g. parts from The Secret Agent and the String Quartets, and an overall impressive Funeral of Amenothep (a second piece from Akhnaten). At the end we received an encore, introduced by the charismatic Spanish conductor, Elias Arizcuren (in flawless Dutch, no less): Met zulk een prachtige stemmen kunnen we natuurlijk geen kleine stukjes brengen. Dus u krijgt de hele Funeral opnieuw. (With such beautiful voices [referring to the seven singers necessary for the bits from Akhnaten] it is quite impossible to perform a smaller piece. Therefore we bring you the entire Funeral again.). Yes, please.

(De Bijloke offers quite a few concerts by contemporary composers. I’ll try to up the frequency of my visits.)

album cover
Glass reflections
Cello Octet Conjunto Ibérico
» buy the album @ amazon UK

Conducted by Elias Arizcuren
Cellists: Robert Putowski, Artur Trajko, Kepa de Diego, Atie Aarts, Hanneke van de Bund, Esther Iglesias, Fanny Bray, Mikolaj Palosz
Singers: Astrid Lamers, Ilona Stokvis, Ronald Aijtink, Martijn de Graaf Bierbrauwer, Robert Kops, Bert Visser, Jean-Paul van Spaendonk

Programme included:
Parts from The Secret Agent
Attack and Fall (from Akhnaten)
Parts from String Quartets 1 & 2
Symphony for eight
Funeral of Amenhotep (from Akhnaten)