The Dutch ensemble Camerata RCO will make its Penn State debut Wednesday in a concert featuring Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet in A and Franz Schubert’s Octet in F Major.
Formed by members of Amsterdam’s famed Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Camerata RCO performs chamber music in multiple formations, from duet to small chamber orchestra. The ensemble focuses on the classical and romantic repertoire for winds and strings and active relationships with living composers.
“The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra is one of the great orchestras of the world,” said George Trudeau, director of the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State. “It’s a very elite orchestra, and the musicians are first rate.”
Camerata RCO features Marc Daniel van Biemen on violin, Annebeth Webb on violin, Jeroen Woudstra on viola, Maartje-Maria den Herder on cello, Rob Dirksen on double bass, Hein Wiedijk on clarinet, Simon van Holen on bassoon and Fons Verspaandonk on horn.
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The Amsterdam-based Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra touts more than 1,000 recordings and serves as one of the main musical ensembles for productions of the Dutch National Opera. Camerata RCO, literally translated as a small chamber ensemble derived from the larger orchestra, was formed out of the musicians’ desire to share an expanded classical music repertoire in a more intimate setting.
“With this group of musicians, there’s a core group and they have friends in the orchestra that they bring in; so it’s really a unique ensemble born out of their love of playing chamber music together,” Trudeau said. “They are a chamber music ensemble, they tour and record, but they all have this other gig of playing in one of the world’s greatest orchestras.”
Camerata RCO is typically a standard professional chamber music ensemble, but the musicians go back and forth between chamber music and playing orchestra music.
“They are also unique because they are very flexible in the instrumentation and the repertoire,” Trudeau said. “So they’re not just a string quartet for example, or a piano trio or a woodwind quartet. They can be all those and more.”
The Clarinet Quintet is one of Mozart’s greatest pieces of chamber music, on a level with his best late string quintets. It’s a masterpiece on a much larger scale than the Oboe Quartet, and it is a much more serious work than any of his four flute quartets.
“What’s really interesting for us is the opportunity to bring a couple works from the chamber music repertoire that typically aren’t on tour because of the instrumentation that’s required,” Trudeau said. “Certainly, the Mozart Clarinet Quintet, which is for clarinet and string quartet, is one example. But an even better example in that regard is a great Schubert Octet — just an extraordinary piece, and the largest scale chamber music that Schubert wrote.”
Camerata RCO is not your typical touring chamber music ensemble, and Schubert’s Octet is an extraordinary piece of its own.
“It’s an hourlong piece, and it’s quite demanding,” Trudeau said. “It requires eight players, including clarinet, bassoon, a string quartet plus string bass. It’s just an incredible work of genius.”
Camerata RCO generally performs about 50 concerts a year in major cities worldwide. It is touring North America twice during the 2017–18 season, including concerts at the Library of Congress and New York City’s Frick Museum.
The New York Times described the musicians’ 2014 New York performance as “warm and glowing,” and TheArtsDesk.com said the group’s Gustav Mahler recording was “magical stuff ... brilliantly played and impeccably recorded.”
The musicians’ recent ensemble highlights include a critically acclaimed tour of South Korea; a weeklong residency at the Festival Musika-Música in Bilbao, Spain; concerts in both halls of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw; a United Kingdom debut in Cambridge, England; and a special benefit concert directed by New York Philharmonic music director designate and former Concertgebouw concertmaster Jaap Van Zweden.
“It’s really going to be a fantastic performance at Penn State, and we’re looking forward to hosting these great artists,” Trudeau said. “They will be in residency with us, working with our School of Music students doing a variety of different master classes during their time at Penn State as well; so it’s a great opportunity for our music students.”
IF YOU GO
- What: Camerata RCO
- When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday
- Where: Schwab Auditorium, University Park
- Info: www.cpa.psu.edu