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Dutch Orchestral Music

Unico van Wassenaer Concerto Armonici No 1
Robin de Raaff Piano Concerto (UK premiere)lovendie
Hendrik Andriessen Miroir de peine
Henk Badings Largo en Allegro
Theo Loevendie The 5 Drives (UK premiere)

London Festival Orchestra/Ross Pople with Theo Loevendie saxophone (pictured);
Ralph van Raat piano; Hanneke de Wit soprano Cadogan Hall 13 September 2007

It is not easy to represent the music of a country in a single concert (or a few, making it a "festival") and the programming often seems to suffer from planning by committee trying to please everyone. In visits to Amsterdam I have heard far more interesting native music than most of the Cadogan Hall items, and there is a rich selection to be explored on CD.

This Dutch Cornucopia of music by our composers from our near neighbour in The Nederlands (the earlier concerts at The Warehouse had passed me by) was typical and typically disappointing. I am sure they could have done better (we had the same feeling about the more extensive from Sweden Festival a couple of years ago). These occasional events rarely change British concert-going habits.

Unico van Wassenaer was a composer new to tonight's conductor, but not unfamiliar to supporters of the Academy of Ancient Music. His Concerto Armonico was a mildly pleasing forgettable starter, which won't have offended anyone, but it was minor 18 C stuff, unsurprisingly since it was written by a shy aristocrat who was secretive about his hobby and had his music published as ostensibly by Pergolesi - we told that story in a 2000 concert review.

Hendrik Andriessen's songs were well sung and OK, but nothing more, and Badings' Largo en Allegro (the latter stopped abruptly, the material seemingly not fully worked out) was solid string orchestra fare. Loevendie's work for improvising soprano saxophonist (himself) was intriguing and not too predictable; he is a composer I have enjoyed over the years - try his opera Gassir, the Hero and, more recent, his Ibérica & Zeybeck acclaimed at Wigmore Hall and recorded by Conjunto Ibérico [CD Etcetera KTC 1252].

It was, however, pianist Ralph van Raat, known from Amsterdam, on CD and in the Proms, whose UK concerto debut attracted me. Regrettably his near-namesake's 15 minute concerto with chamber ensemble, to which I had looked forward, was in the event found wanting. A spiky modernist score, in a now unfashionable genre, its chief feature was pungent orchestration with winds featured in the extremities of high and low. De Raaff had organised it strictly in two pairs of movements with precisely doubled durations, but unfortunately it gave little opportunity for the solo pianist (who premiered it by memory) to express much beyond rhythmic energy, and it is not likely to get many further hearings here.

The concert attracted a small audience, which was stiffened by embassy guests; or was it the other way round? The Times critic deplored the absence of his newspaper colleagues. Perhaps they will join London's small band of determined musical explorers in the same hall for Malaysia's Golden Anniversary concert, to be given on 14 November by London Sinfonietta, with music by Britten and the world premiere of a Malaysian work for piano and orchestra.

Peter Grahame Woolf