Flemish artists visit U for world premiere

By Sarah Custen, Red Pulse Writer

The Utah Philharmonia hosted guest conductor Jan Van der Roost and clarinet soloist Eddy Van Oosthuyse for the world premiere of Van der Roost’s clarinet concerto Wednesday night. This gave the Philharmonia the unique opportunity to work alongside a living conductor and take part in a historic event.

The guest artists, who hail from the Flemish region of Belgium, arrived in Utah on Monday night. That left just enough time to blast through a whirlwind rehearsal schedule before the concert. Although they’ve traveled the globe several times over and been to the United States too many times to count, this was only Van Oosthuyse’s second time in Utah, and Van der Roost’s first.

The two men became friends and collaborators about 25 years ago and have since worked together on various projects and performances. There’s a real camaraderie between them, and both were in high spirits despite hectic schedules and jet lag. On Tuesday, neither seemed too worried that the concerto, which Van der Roost finished composing only a few weeks ago, wouldn’t come together smoothly.

Van der Roost described the concerto, written specifically for Van Oosthuyse, as “extremely difficult. The second movement is really, technically, almost to the limit.”

But knowing Van Oosthuyse’s capabilities, Van der Roost wanted to push his limits and explore the clarinet’s potential through contrasts.

“The first movement is more atmospheres, but the second one is just very visual and very complicated,” Van der Roost said. “It illustrates the different aspects of the clarinet8212;the melodical, lyrical one and the expressive, but also the possibilities and the virtuosity of the instrument.”

As a performer, Van Oosthuyse said the concerto is “a bit dangerous. Everything is very open. You hear the clarinet from the first note until the end. So if there is something wrong, you’ll immediately hear it.”

The newly composed concerto also afforded Philharmonia members the chance to practice and rehearse in a way that normally isn’t possible. Robert Baldwin, conductor for the Philharmonia, said with living composers, conductors and musicians can find out more information about how to play the piece by simply sending an e-mail.

“You don’t usually get to do that,” Baldwin said. “You can’t e-mail Beethoven.”

Baldwin, Van der Roost and Van Oosthuyse all emphasized the challenge of a concert like this. It’s a big undertaking to bring together an orchestra and soloist in such a short span of time8212;about two weeks of separate rehearsals and then only two rehearsals together8212;especially for a student orchestra. The fact that the piece is brand-new only complicates matters.

“It’s not so easy to read a 20 minute piece which nobody has ever heard,” Van der Roost said. “There’s no recording available, nothing.”

Yet both men seemed confident that everything would come together in time. For Van Oosthuyse, this wasn’t the first time he’d been challenged to learn a piece so quickly. Another composer friend once gave him music for a performance the day before. He practices whenever he can fit it into his busy schedule8212;an hour here, 20 minutes there8212;and is just grateful for the opportunity. He commissioned this piece to get newer clarinet music out there and is pleased with the result.

“I think this is our chance to bring (Belgian) composers to the world,” Van Oosthuyse said. “We have fantastic composers and they write fantastic music.”

[email protected]

Editor’s Note8212;Sarah Custen is a member of the student philharmonia.