Sunday, April 01, 2007

Matthäuspassion in Zwolle

Bach's St. Matthew Passion was probably written in 1727. It was first performed on either Good Friday 1727 or 1729 in the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, where Bach was the cantor. He revised it by 1736, performing it again on March 30, 1736, this time including two organs in the instrumentation. The St. Matthew Passion was not heard outside of Leipzig until 1829, when Felix Mendelssohn performed an abbreviated version of it in Berlin, to great acclaim. Mendelssohn's revival of the St. Matthew Passion brought the music of Bach, particularly the large-scale works, to a public and scholarly attention that has persisted into the present era. (more)

Hence, we decided (with Witho) to see it in a church and not in the Concertgebouw. I haven't travelled to the North before, so I welcomed the idea of going to Zwolle, a tiny town that welcomed its 115.000th inhabitant the day before yesterday (see the news –pls also notice that it is already calculated that the 120.00th inhabitant will move in, in the year 2011). It was one of these places that makes one think, "it is a great place to raise children". It was very neat, picturesque at certain points, with a shopping street and several churches, as many such cities are. It also made me wonder what would small European towns look like if there was no shopping (-street)...

The picture on the right is that of the tower named Peperbus, as some think it looks like a pepper grinder. Knowing enough number of pepper grinders I tend to disagree, but the church we went in order to listen to Matthäuspassion was quite impressive in terms of acoustics, and was very imposing with its high arches and 10 metre long windows. As many other churches in the Netherlands, it is trying to fit into the modern life of the citizen, being used for exhibitions, concerts etc, therefore the pictures I could find on the web are somewhat different than the exact image I had of it. Still, have a look.

After 3 hours of Christianity lesson (the best and by far the most enjoyable one I ever had), and a bit of “sitting lazily under the sun” (an activity which I learned to appreciate in the Netherlands, that takes place as soon as spring arrives and that consists of some sunshine, a beer, a good conversation or a relaxed person nearby, requires not to have a windy day or a not-so-windy corner) we decided to move to have a look at the tulip fields. After a while we figured it out that there were only a few fields that already bloomed, and yet I found it quite magnificent, particularly in combination with the farm we have shortly visited. The middle-aged couple that welcomed us talked of how it was required (almost by law, if not by market mechanisms) to specialise, focus on your competence, and to get bigger or disappear. The husband was particularly unimpressed by these modern marketing terms, as he called himself “a self-made man without any structure but a lot of inspiration.” As you can imagine, I liked the conversation although I had to rely on my non-existing Dutch skills.

Then we had to have dinner somewhere close by so we chose Urk (I know…), a fishing village that I wanted to visit since the elections (see for a picture of the former island of Urk, which is no longer an island). The story is: the morning after the elections, me, Sander, and Harro (with whom I met to have injections together for the Indonesia trip) were checking the newspapers to see who voted what etc. All of a sudden I have seen this town that voted SGP, CU, and CDA almost exclusively. By now, you might already know the Christian Democrats (CDA-the biggest coalition party), and the Christien Unie (CU, Sander’s party) which I wrote a little on. But SGP is even more interesting. In order not to offend anyone, I refer to wiki once again:

SGP is an orthodox Protestant radical conservative party. Its entire existence has been in opposition because of its orthodox political ideals and its refusal to cooperate in any cabinet.

It is committed to
- building a state on basis of the Bible.
- Three Principles of Unity and the old text of the Belgic Confession (that mentions the striving "to avert and exterminate all idolatry and false religions, and to bring to ruin the empire of the antichrist".)
- abolish female suffrage
- the re-introduction of the death penalty in the Netherlands.
- Opposing euthanasia, abortion, same-sex marriage, prostitution and pornography.
- Caring for those in need, the sick and elderly.
- Ensuring the safety and security of Dutch citizens.
- Conserving the Dutch political system, by opposing governmental reforms, like referenda, directly elected mayors and weakening of monarchy.
- a free market.

And some 2% of Dutch citizens vote for them. Most of all, from Zwolle. I cannot recall the exact number but it was really high (the number I remember is 49% but I truly hope I am wrong.) Anyway, that attracted my curiosity and today I was there. And our car broke down, and it was Sunday. So imagine the adventure… If you can’t, let me help you with a story from Witho’s mother (who came by to “save us”): Once upon a long time ago, a reverent went to Urk with his wife, to direct a mass. Because he was driving a car, people would start walking in front of the car, so slow, that he would be punished for using a “technological artefact” on Sunday…

But we were saved (although the black beauty wasn’t). And the fish was fresh (in the only open restaurant we could find). And it is good to be back home after a day of adventures and a wonderful “concert” (it was even applauded, so I can call it a concert).

Thinking about the weekend, I feel that for the first time in the Netherlands I had a weekend of complete relaxation and futility and fun. It was quite brilliant. The Friday night house party with the gals, and discovering a bit of the western part of the city the next morning was a good start. I read/started to read two good books of Geert Mak.One about the Galata Bridge, and the other is a small history of Amsterdam, and finally started to read the Hidden Force by Louis Couperus.

Thanks Heather! Thanks Witho! And thanks Maria, for noticing how much better we felt compared to living in Uilenstede last year! And all the nameless heroes and heroines that took part in it…


Harro van Asselt said...

Getting stuck in has the potential to be scripted into a scary movie, I'd say. Good that you were rescued.

What I forgot to add about the Matthaus Passion, is that my memories are that I am not too fond of it, as my dad liked to sing it early in the morning, on Sundays when I had a hangover...:S

Sander Chan said...

hmm... SGP has some interesting ideas... And I really think they are also slowly moving towards the political center... Anyway, Mattheus Passion is beautiful, although I'm not a fervent music lover (and the whole MP takes too long for my concentration span).