"It's a crazy project!" exclaimed New York conductor, Karina Canellakis, on hearing the plans for an innovative new concert by Dutch broadcasters, AVROTROS. And maybe it is; but more than anything, this online project is a quite unique tribute to classical music, classical musicians, and anyone who has missed performing or audiences in times of Corona.

What does the concert involve? The ode takes the form of a video highlighting the music’s emotional aspects, and showing the musicians and conductor as you’ve never seen them before. It’s as though you were standing close enough to touch them, get under their skin, as it were; creating an extraordinary sense of intimacy. The music, Shaker Loops by John Adams and Bartók's Bluebeard's Castle, is fairly conventional, which only accentuates how unconventional all the other elements are around the music: the arrangement, the visuals, the lighting and the atmosphere in the Main Concert Hall of TivoliVredenburg in Utrecht (NL). Something very special is about to occur on NPO Radio 4 and AVROTROS online channels.

Just a little different

For the project, AVROTROS and NPO Radio 4 invited a select group of talented performers: principal conductor and artistic director, Karina Canellakis, with her musical friends from the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, and some well-known image and sound directors. It was the task of the directors to have the musicians play, sit, and be filmed and lit in ways that were just a little different. The prologue is delivered in English by presenter, Ab Nieuwdorp.

Shaker Loops and Bluebeard’s Castle

Shaker Loops by the American composer, John Adams, was originally written for a string septet, with a version for a string orchestra following in 1983. The word 'shaker' in the title refers to 'shaking' the strings of the instruments, vibrating between the notes; but also to Adams' idea of Shakers (members of an 18th century religious sect) dancing to dynamic, repetitive music. For this version, the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra provides eighteen violinists, five viola players, four cellists and three double bass players.

Bluebeards Castle by Béla Bartók is a one-act opera performed in an adaptation by Eberhard Kloke. As well as strings, wind instruments and pianists from the orchestra, you can also hear the well-known mezzo-soprano, Rinat Shaham, and bass, Gabor Bretz. The opera's plot is based on the folk tale of Bluebeard as written by Charles Perrault. In the opera, the fairy tale takes on an extra dimension, both figuratively and literally: an extra psychological dimension achieved through the restlessness, danger and shock effects in the piece; and a 3D dimension through the décor, with its seven closed doors, one or other which is continuously being opened.

Take your seat alongside the musicians

The Crazy Project: an ode to classical music can be seen on the AVROTROS KlassiekYouTube channel on Friday 3 July at 20:00 (Dutch time) and heard on NPO Radio 4. The concert has English and Dutch subtitles.

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