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Best things happen when you least expect them: Janine Jansen in Concertgebouw

I wasn’t even planning on posting about this concert, but as I was sitting in the beautiful Concertgebouw, with my eyes wide-open and unable to take them off stage, there were so many ideas in my mind that sharing them felt like the only right thing to do. I was so excited that I wished I could stop the time to put into paper exactly what I was feeling without losing the momentum. And although I (still) don’t have superpowers, the first thing I did when the musicians left the stage was to take out my phone and write some ideas down. And guess what, by the end of the concert I had a HUGE list.

Let’s go a bit back in time. It was Monday 28th August and I was on a train to Amsterdam - for something very exciting that I’ll tell you about in the following months 😏 - when I got a notification that Jouw Entrée had mentioned me in their Instagram stories and had sent me a message. When I opened it I could not believe my eyes: I had won a giveaway to listen to Janine Jansen, Christian Thielemann & Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden!!!! I mean, one of those hundreds of giveaways in which I participate had to be the one, hadn't it? I wasn’t expecting it at all and I’m glad I wasn’t in the “stilte” wagon, because I have to admit that I got quite a bit enthusiastic and excited 🥹

Janine Jansen in Concertgebouw

Anyway, after drinking some coffee and eating more cookies than what we’d like to admit, it was finally time to listen to Janine again. The hall was almost full and the ovation when Janine and Christian came in was unbelievable. We were clapping so enthusiastically that it seemed as if they would have just finished performing. I got goosebumps by imagining the burst of energy and excitement that it must have been for the musicians to see a full house react like that, even before you play a single note!

And then the magic began. Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto is probably one of the very best known pieces of our repertoire, that almost every student plays at some point in the Conservatorium. Although it’s a masterpiece, It’s been performed so many times that I find it such a challenge to present your own version and surprise the audience. I think it wouldn’t be a spoiler at this point if I told you that she managed to keep us all listening carefully to every note she played. I’m pretty convinced that it’s not only the freshness in her playing that “hypnotized” us, but also her body language. The way she accompanied and enhanced the music was adding so much, as if she’d be dancing to the music in the most natural way possible.

When the first movement finished, I was trying to contain myself not to stand up and start applauding, when unexpectedly the second movement came attacca (don’t worry, I wouldn’t have clapped anyway). I found it so GENIUS! The way they kept the tension and smoothly got guided by the bassoon to an unbelievably beautiful second movement was brilliant. Janine’s sound was especially heartwarming and pure in this movement, and I was flabbergasted by the core of it. It was very loving and singing while keeping the bow “glued” to the string, which made it also very round and deep. And do you know what’s the best thing? That her sound was changing the whole time! All of these qualities were evolving with the music, always surprising us and making us listen with all our senses. That’s something that Sarah (my violin teacher during my Master's) used to tell me a lot: to change my sound and make both myself and the listener interested in what I was playing. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do it, but it makes me SO proud to be able to recognize it in other players. I think I’ve already mentioned it in a previous post, but it’s crazy to realize how much my way of listening to music has changed in the last two years. I can now “see” much more layers to it, which brings the whole experience to another level. What a gift to myself!

Just like it happened when I listened to Janine and the Camerata Salzburg back in May, this time the concert went also in crescendo; therefore, the last movement was my favorite one. The first arpeggios were so incredibly piano that Alba and I looked at each other with surprise in our eyes: we couldn’t believe it! And from then on, the whole movement was - I think - about following her instinct. I felt it was so free and fresh, as I was saying before, that I enjoyed it as if I’d be listening to it for the first time (and not 1304857013th time).

Although I felt more and more connected with the music as the concert went by, I’d say there was a common thread to the whole piece: the momentum. Yet another thing that I learnt from Sarah, to identify and value those magical moments in which time seems to stop and silence can be heard and almost touched. There were quite some occasions in which I felt that everyone in the hall had all our senses stuck on the stage, almost hypnotized. This might actually have been the trigger for me to write this post, as I somehow felt the urge to tell everyone “this is it, this is the magic of music, did you feel it?”.

Isn’t it funny that the things that I struggle with the most (changing my sound, letting go and being free, creating and holding on to the momentum…) are the ones that I realize and value the most? I believe it is because they’re so hard for me to achieve that when I see them in someone else I can’t help but appreciate them.

On a much more personal aspect, this was the first concert I attended after graduating from my Master’s, and I believe that made it extra special in a way. I don’t know how to explain it exactly, there was a kind of calm and relief within me that I hadn’t felt before. Of course I’ve always enjoyed going to concerts, but for whatever reason that I’m still not able to understand, this one was different. Is it because I don’t feel the pressure of having to improve daily/weekly? Is it because what I’ve learnt during all these years is really sinking and I’m learning to be more independent in my playing? Who knows, let’s leave it in the air for now 🤔. And to make it even more special (if possible), Janine played the Largo of Bach’s Solo Violin Sonata nr. 3 as an encore. The piece with which I opened my final exam. I just closed my eyes and enjoyed it more than ever, understood it more than ever and felt calmer than ever.

This brings to my mind one of Hilary Hahn’s quotes (I know, I’m predictable): “I take every performance very seriously because in every concert there’s someone experiencing my current feeling, so if I’m honest with my playing and I really express my feelings, that person who needs that format to understand that feeling in themselves or acknowledge that feeling themselves, that would be really meaningful for them.” I don’t know what Janine was feeling that day, but I felt very much connected to her.

Wow, turns out I really did have a lot to say about the concert! And we still haven’t gotten to the second half 😏. The Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden performed the grandiose Eine Alpensinfonie by Strauss. Not only was this the first time ever I saw the stage of the Concertgebouw FULL (and by FULL I mean FULL, there were around a hundred musicians 😱), but it was also the first time ever I witnessed such a big ensemble live. Now, if we take into consideration the amount of people on stage and the orchestration (which included, among others, 9 horns, 2 harps, organ, celesta, and huge wind and strings sections) and that the symphony is around one hour long, one would never imagine that the conductor could conduct it by heart. Well, he did!!!!! I still cannot understand how he was able to memorize it. My God, that score has to be huge! Did he memorize every line? Did he leave out? Wasn’t he afraid of getting lost? Wow, it’s unreal. I couldn’t take that thought off my mind during the whole symphony.

Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden in Concertgebouw

Listening to Eine Alpensinfonie turned out to be super fun. It’s not a piece that I know as good as the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, and I was amazed by the number of stimuli of the piece. I often found myself having to lean out on the balcony to get a complete view of the stage and try to guess who was playing. The timbre of the instruments was so evenly matched that sometimes it was hard to guess who was playing. Just so that you get an idea, halfway through the piece I realized that there was actually someone sitting on the organ! It also caught my eye that although I am a violinist, most of my attention was on the wind players. There were so many of them and they had so many soli that they didn’t go unnoticed. What brings me back to the point of: how is someone able to learn such a piece by heart?! And if the concert hadn’t been long and intense enough already, they even played an encore, which guess what, Thielemann conducted by heart as well! 🤯

I think that’s all I wanted to say so far! It’s been a long time since I last wrote a post for my blog and I’ve loved writing about it! It has taken me back to the concert and I’ve relieved it from a different perspective 🥰. If you’ve made it this far, thank you for your support, I hope I was able to convey my admiration for these music and musicians!


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