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The Netherlands

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima enjoy night of classical music

© RVD - Mischa Schoemaker

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima enjoyed a night of classical music, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Netherlands Bach Society. 

On the evening of the 25th of September 2021, Their Majesties travelled to Utrecht, where they listened to the Bach Society ensemble play Die Kunst her Fuge under the direction of conductor Shunske Sato. 

The peculiarity about the piece is that the composer did not specify the instruments that were supposed to be used in playing his composition. 

During the celebrations, the Director of the Netherlands Bach Society Willemijn Mooij and the Mayor of Utrecht Sharon Dijksma gave speeches before the conclusion of the event with the meetings between the royal couple and artists and other people involved with the Netherlands Bach Society. 

The ensemble focuses its work on pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach and the rest of the Bach family. During their national and international concerts, they also play tunes by Bach’s contemporaries, such as Handel, Charpentier, Britten, Telemann, Monteverdi and more. 

The Netherlands Bach Society was created in 1921 with the aim of playing Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion on Good Friday in Naarden. Since then, the performance of the piece on Good Friday has become a tradition in the country, with the former Foreign Affairs Minister Atzo Nicolaï stating that “St Matthew’s Passion during Holy Week is bigger in the Netherlands than Messiah at Christmas anywhere else.”

To celebrate their centenary, the ensemble has started a project called All of Bach, which aims to make the composer’s work accessible to everyone by recording and putting on YouTube all of Johann Sebastian Bach’s pieces in 1080p and with excellent sound quality. 

Since 2013, the society also has a training programme, called Young Bach Fellowship, through which they train young amateur musicians in the performance of baroque music (which requires a different set of skills compared to classical romantic music from the 1800s; for example, instruments are different, and sometimes the sounds are difficult to understand and reproduce, because of a difference in harmonies). 

The concert was a kick-off to the Netherlands Bach Society’s centenary year. It was held in TivoliVredenburg, a space in Utrecht designed specifically with music in mind that hosts concerts of different musical styles and genres.