13 mei – opening Uilenburgersjoel

Gisteren was de feestelijke heropening van de Uilenburgersjoel, het was een prachtige middag. Mokum Symphony, dat werd verwelkomd als vaste ‘bewoner’ van de sjoel, had de eer dit muzikaal te begeleiden. Joan Berkhemer, Lestari Scholtes en Nadia David vertegenwoordigden het collectief en speelden Bloch en Schubert voor een volle zaal genodigden met de burgemeester op de eerste rij.

3 dec. 2015 – Berkhemer and Mann: Unparalleled in Early Beethoven Sonatas

On the 3rd of December around the corner from the aptly named Beethoven Street in Amsterdam a select audience huddled into the hall of the Brahms Street Auditorium to hear the first recital of a complete cycle of the Beethoven violin sonatas with violinist Joan Berkhemer and pianist Robert Mann. In preparation for their upcoming recording of the cycle the duo are presenting the sonatas in concert throughout the 2015/16 season. We were treated to the first three of the ten sonatas op.12 numbers 1 to 3, all written in 1798 and dedicated to Antonio Salieri who taught Beethoven vocal composition in the Italian style. The youthful vigour and humour in the outer movements is often reminicent of the young Beethoven’s other mentor Franz Joseph Haydn. The melodic invention of late Mozart is never far away in the slow middle movements of these sonatas especially in the incomparable Adagio con molto expressione of the third sonata in E-flat major. Berkhemer and Mann through three decades of partnership show great rapport in their collaborative artistry. Mann’s glowing and well balanced tone is never dominant yet his lines are always beautifully phrased and inventive. The piano is richly complimented by Berkhemer’s spontaneous, humorous and often lyrical approach on the violin. Berkhemer’s playing is of a grace and charm that reminds one of the violinists of the golden age. His tone sings with a beauty that resembles Fritz Kreisler’s yet the wit and charm of his approach to these early Beethoven Sonatas keeps them fresh and lively. The first movment of the second sonata in A major was played with a boyish lilt and dance-llike ardour full of inventive dialogue between the partners while the contrasting Andante carried the listener from the realms of Italian art-song to the introspective and philosophical meanderings of a Beethoven more akin to the composer of the late great string quartets. Among their numerous appealing qualities, the Berkhemer-Mann duo balances an insightful and philosophical approach to Beethoven with an inspired and piquant spontaneity giving us the best of both worlds in these formidable performances. I can only hope that we will hear much more of this kind of stirring music making from these musicians in the future.
Author: Emlyn Stam

21 nov. 2015 – Concert ‘Tijdloze Beethoven’

Mokum Symphony mocht in de Uilenburgersjoel na de verbouwing de herstart inluiden
met een zeer pakkend Beethoven-programma.
Na een verdiepingsslag in de tijdsgeest van de muziek door Joan Berkhemer en Emlyn Stam
speelde het strijkkwartet met een overtuigende vrijheid vol passie en emotie
het laatste kwartet en de Grosse Fuge.

Joan Berkhemer – viool | Rada Ovcharova – viool | Emlyn Stam – altviool | Willem Stam – cello

29 aug. 2015 – Huisconcert tbv presentatie Mokum Symphony (als crowdfundingsproject)

Het eerste crowdfunding huiskamerconcert op een stralende zomerse dag.
Een middag van gastvrijheid, enthousiast publiek, prachtige muziek en geweldige musici.

Beethoven Archiduke trio
Bach  ”Erbarme dich” uit de Matheus Passion
Mendelssohn Scherzo uit het pianotrio in D mineur

Helena Rasker – mezzo sopraan en pianotrio Klara Würtz – Joan Berkhemer – Nadia David

Emlyn Stam: early-20th-century recordings

The widespread availability of early-20th-century recordings has revealed to us the rich and changing performance history of the 20th century. The evidence presented to us by historical recordings conflicts with many current day narratives about our own performance practices in Western Art Music. Current performance practice is greatly influenced by the ubiquitous presence of highly-edited digital recordings and structuralist, textual approaches to music. The performances we hear on early recordings on the other hand, can often be characterized as unpredictable, live, rhetorical, and based on a moment-to-moment approach. In light of these considerations, I feel that examining and working with early recordings is of vital importance for contextualizing our current performance practices that so often go unquestioned. Our musical culture is prone to several major assumptions about our performance practices namely, that our performance practices have been passed on through tradition and retain a historical essence of truth, that our practices are fully based on historical evidence or that our practices are fully new and creative. Historical recordings tell us that none of these things tend to be true and can help us to question of the underlying tenets of our current practices. This questioning will likely lead to changes in our own attitudes to performance as well as to the musical content of those performances.

My research focuses on exploring the terrain around the following questions:

-What techniques differentiate the approach or aesthetic of early-20th -century performers from contemporary performers? 

-What differentiates the early-20th-century approach to string chamber music and viola playing from our own?

-Why are a number of stylistic traits of early-20th-century performance practice no longer used in current music-making?

-How can contemporary performing musicians integrate ‘foreign’ stylistic performing practices into their own performance practice?

I will use the analysis and study of historical viola and string quartet recordings to create experimental new performances using historical performing styles to expand the horizons of our current performing practices.  My goal is to proceed from analysis, through copying, to a greater ‘insider-understanding’ of past performance practices in order to infuse new performances with this knowledge.

Emlyn Stam; violist and musician/researcher, PhD student at the Orpheus Institute, Gent, Belgium.