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Muziekgebouw, Amsterdam

Without wishing to rank such things, I believe we in Amsterdam may have had the worst of this weekend's storms. Stepping out for some groceries, Suzanne's picture captures the moment when two very tall trees in front of the supermarket started to heave over, taking a big chunk of pavement and pile of bikes with them. All public transport immediately stopped, and it was with difficulty that we found a taxi driver heroic enough to drive me to the Muziekgebouw. At 5.15 a scary text (with accompanying alarm signal) appeared on the phone of everyone in the country, telling us that if we stepped outside, the emergency services would be too busy to save us.

The Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ, as its name suggests is basically built in the middle of a sea inlet, up which winds were roaring, and waves breaking over the usually relaxed patio. Clutching the outer walls, I pulled myself in through the weighty stage door. I was in the building to join the live final, and radio broadcast, of the much postponed 2020 Alba Rosa Vietor composition competition. Not surprisingly, the expected live audience had been swiftly uninvited. In fact, sitting in the empty hall, with its suave Japanese-style wooden interior constantly pulsing with slowly changing coloured light was a gorgeous experience.

Oh yes, and the competition. It's named after an Italian composer and violinist (1889-1979) who settled in the US with a Dutch businessman husband. A few of her charming songs were sung during our concert. To this day, her devoted Netherlands-based Foundation funds events like this. Young composers worldwide had been invited to set a text (all were in English) with chamber accompaniment. The quality of the performances by young Dutch musicians were a highlight for me. Out of the four finalists, I particularly enjoyed a setting of Edgar Allan Poe by Gérman José Mercado. It was a pleasure to chat to my friendly and distinguished jury colleagues. But after a lot of complicated competition experiences lately, I think I might adopt Poe's most famous line as my motto : Quoth the Raven "Nevermore".





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