Tuesday, 27 November 2012

In Amsterdam: 2 - Ives Ensemble

One of the more glorious venues in which I have been to concerts in the last few years is an Amsterdam church called De Duif.  It's on a beautiful canal - Prinzengracht - in the centre of the old city.  The Ives Ensemble are regular performers here, and last weekend I went to hear Morton Feldman's  "For John Cage" for piano and violin, written in 1982.

De Duif before the concert
Piano all ready for John
Played by John Snijders (piano) and Josje ter Haar (violin) the piece lasts for about 70 minutes.   It's quite hardcore modernism, and one would have thought anyone coming to it would know what they were letting themselves in for.  Quite surprising therefore that about 20 of the audience of 100 or so left during the first half an hour!  But the remaining 80 of us gave the performance a standing ovation at the end.

John and Josje after the performance

I've known John for a while - he's a great fan of Laurence Crane through whom I met him. The Ives Ensemble, which John founded,  last month played my 2011 Crane commission (Quintet for piano and strings) at a concert in Utrecht which was recorded for Dutch radio.  Public funding of the arts in the Netherlands is becoming more and more constrained, to the point where even groups like the Ives Ensemble - one of Europe's leading contemporary music performers - are really suffering, and likely to have to curtail their activities to a large extent.   The Dutch government has simply stopped a lot of its art funding, telling artists and musicians to find private sector support instead.  In a country with high tax rates this just isn't realistic.

It was fascinating therefore recently in London to meet the new Secretary of State for Culture, Maria Miller, who told me that in real terms funding for the Arts in the UK have only been cut by 1% over the course of the last 2 years.

There's two ways of looking at this:

  1. given the volume of complaints from the UK arts establishment about arts funding, one could wonder at the lack of awareness about our relative good fortune compared to some other European countries (my initial view)
  2. the government is fiddling the books, and counting the lottery as arts funding; but the restrictions on lottery funding (that mostly it is for programme rather than capital costs) and the way it is allocated mean it is a poor replacement for central government funding of core costs of arts institutions (a view expressed to me cogently by the chief executive of one of London's orchestras)

Very fine graphics on the Ives Ensemble's CD covers!

Link to Ives Ensemble here

Link to an erudite review of the CD of "for John Cage"  here

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