Stars Shine at Janine Jansen's International Chamber Music Festival 2015

June 30, 2015, 1:08 AM · Festivals of all sizes, shapes and orientations burst forth with special gusto in the summer season. From the well-established master-meets-artists-of-the-future formats embraced at Marlboro (Vermont, USA) and Kuhmo (Finland) to the glitterati dance of the big names at Verbier and Aspen, classical music aficionados can choose from an embarrassment of musical riches as temperatures soar. In the intimate chamber music sphere, festivals that bear the signature of famous musicians are trending. Janine Jansen's 5 day June fest in Utrecht (NL) boasts no less than 46 events including several musical marathons, a complete children's program and repertoire ranging from the early Baroque to the improvised. Visitors can even indulge in a musical Tour de Bike that offers performances throughout the city or enter a mobile concert hall dedicated to young talent.

The Dutch violinist Janine Jansen, a star on the international music scene in the enviable position to call the shots in terms of appearances and repertoire choices with leading orchestras, finds her grounding in chamber music. "In this, the very essence of musical communication with a small group, your deepest emotions come to life. Chamber music has been my guiding light since my first introduction to music as a child." Reverence for spontaneity and truth in music making and a love for her 'hometown' prompted Jansen to take make her dream public.

Photo by Ben Bonouvrier, used with permission

The quaint, canal-lined streets of Utrecht have provided Jansen with artistic sustenance since birth. Several family members were associated with the city's ancient Dom Cathedral where her father Jan served as organist for over two decades. The legendary violinist Philippe Hirshhorn and Boris Belkin exerted an indelible influence on the teenage Jansen at the Utrecht Conservatory. For the 12th consecutive year, Jansen gifts her heart and prodigious lust for music to her hometown community in a madcap five-day musical voyage.

Like most invitational festivals in which a top artist takes center stage, the line up of 'friends' is spectacular: Amihai Grosz (viola), Andreas Ottensamer (clarinet), Denis Kozhukhin (piano) violinists Alexander Sitkovetsky (violin) and Boris Brovtsyn are all well-known to discerning audiences worldwide. Yet, Jansen is not concerned with star-studded players lists or crowd-pleasing programming. "For me, music and friendship are intertwined by understanding and energy and of course the ability to learn pieces like the Penderecki Sextet in no time and be able to laugh. That we enjoy each others' company is part of our music making!" Unknown repertoire and a plethora of undiscovered performers are cornerstones of Jansen's Festival. And, her programming calls for great ingenuity on the part of her distinguished counterparts. To witness how artists of this caliber connect their energy from classical repertoire to improvised music sets this festival apart from others.

In an evening devoted to the essence of Hungarian music, an 8 pm program of challenging chamber music compositions, Brahms Clarinet Quintet and Bartok's early masterpiece, Piano Quintet Sz. 23 was followed by hours of Hungarian gems in which The King of cimbalom performers, Oszkár Ökrös joined Jansen and co., in a tear-jerking, foot-stomping romp through Hungarian dance forms. Berlin Philharmonic cellist Stephen Koncz provided intriguing arrangements in which The King in his breathtaking virtuosity and Ottensamer as folk music clarinetist nonpareil vied with Jansen, Sitkovetsky and Brovstyn to interpret a dizzying array of tempo variations and mood swings.

Gertrude Stein quipped, 'there is no there, there' referring to a soulless place without a sense of cultural identity. Jansen's Utrecht is more than THERE during a festival that is as much of a celebration of life as it is a celebration of an artist and her musical choices.

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From 2014: Rachmaninoff's "Trio élégiaque in d klein" and Tchaikovsky's "Souvenir de Florence" - Janine Jansen with a star-studded line-up: Vilde Frang, Lawrence Power, Julian Rachlin, Nicolas Altstaedt, Jens Peter Maintz, Torleif Thedéen, and Alexander Gavrylyuk.

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