with the NAC Orchestra

2020-03-21 19:00 2020-03-21 20:00 60 Canada/Eastern 🎟 NAC: Double Dutch


Universally recognizable from its opening four-note passage and spectacular finale, Beethoven’s powerful fifth symphony continues to inspire each time it is performed. Multidisciplinary composer and artist, Michel Van der Aa, has an expansive musical vocabulary that has made him a unique and compelling voice among the young composers of Europe today. Dutch cellist Harriet Krijgh possesses talent in abundance, playing with an almost unrivalled incandescence and warmth. Tonight she returns...

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Southam Hall,1 Elgin Street,Ottawa,Canada
Sat, March 21, 2020

≈ 2 hours · With intermission

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Last updated: March 9, 2020

Reflection: Thema met variaties

This is a work filled with nostalgia. It breathes the air of centuries past, in the grandiose baroque of the opening introduction, then the wistful theme, with its echoes of an old hymn tune – or is there a folk tune also hidden there? There is a playful ambivalence of mood throughout the work, as if moving forward is too dangerous and retreating into the past also has its pitfalls.… The outcome, which so often threatens to be tragic, is only relieved six measures before the end, with a massive C major chord that leads us to the triumphant conclusion.

Reflection: Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony

Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony holds a special place in the hearts of us trombone players. It’s one of the earliest instances in which the trombone was initiated into the world of the symphony. This is a work where the Principal Trombonist, after waiting patiently (and nervously) through the first three movements, begins the fourth movement on a high C, and soon after has to “pick off” ostensibly the highest note in the orchestral trombone repertoire – a high F, almost an octave and a half above middle C. Ah, living the dream!

There is a tongue-in-cheek definition of orchestral trombone playing: “Unrelieved boredom interspersed with moments of sheer terror”. In the case of this piece, the quote definitely has merit. Still, as attitude is so much a part of the job, I prefer to immerse myself in the glorious music of the first three movements and look forward to a successful performance. There aren’t many notes as compared to the violins but we’re talking quality over quantity here! It is an honour and a privilege to have performed this piece many times over my 35 years with the NAC Orchestra!

Reflection: Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony

I always associate Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony with the Classical Kids Beethoven Lives Upstairs CD I listened to countless times as a child. Even now, I can hear stories of Beethoven’s life weaving together with the themes of his iconic symphony as I play it. Even though it is a “high mileage” work from my repertoire, it always poses the same challenges – at times demanding utmost delicateness and balance, and others, maximum energy and power. This performance will be extra special for me, not only because it is full of the kind of musical moments we violists live for, but also because the last time I played it was here on stage in Southam Hall for the final round of my audition for the NAC Orchestra about a year ago. What a joy to get to perform it for you tonight with the entire orchestra!

About the Program

“Forgetfulness leads to exile, remembrance is the secret of redemption,” as the 18th-century Jewish mystic Ba’al Shem Tov once said. This poignant statement seems a particularly appropriate way to frame tonight’s concert, which commemorates the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands by the Canadian Armed Forces during the Second World War. It honours, in musical fashion, the special relationship that Canada and the Netherlands continues to have today.

This program, conducted by Jessica Cottis, consists of two halves that follow similar psychological trajectories that can be interpreted through the idea of remembering as leading to redemption, release, renewal. The first half highlights three works by Dutch composers, opening with Hendrik Andriessen’s Theme with Variations for organ (1949), performed by Thomas Annand. Andriessen wrote this granitic and powerful piece after being unable to compose during the war years, because he had refused, as an act of resistance, to join the Kultuurkamer in German-occupied Netherlands. For the second piece, Symphony No. 2 (“Children’s War Diaries”, 2010/2019), Dutch-Canadian composer Jaap Nico Hamburger took as his inspiration the diaries of five teenagers who were murdered during the war, as well as a trip he took with his mother, who had survived multiple Nazi death camps, to the Children’s Memorial at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Centre in Jerusalem.

Following Hamburger’s musical memorial, the first half of the concert closes with a work that celebrates friendship: Michel van der Aa’s double concerto, akin (2018–2019). As the composer has described, in this concerto, the relationship between the solo parts, performed tonight by Dutch musicians Simone Lamsma and Harriet Krijgh, “is not contrapuntal or a conflict of opposites… but much more an active and engaged discussion between good friends,” with the orchestra as the “alter-ego” of the twinned soloists.

With his Symphony No. 5 (1804–1808), Beethoven created a landmark work in which he imbued Classical symphonic form with story-telling capabilities. In it, he used the elements of music itself to take the listener on a journey from darkness to light; there’s even a moment of remembrance in the fourth movement, before victory over the struggle is finally attained. The potency of the Fifth Symphony’s message is the reason it was – for one, the famous opening motive was the rallying cry of the Second World War’s Allied forces – and remains one of the most popular and beloved orchestral works today.

Hannah Chan-Hartley

Dr. Hannah Chan-Hartley is a musicologist, active in the public sphere as a writer, speaker and researcher. On Twitter: @hanchanhartley



Thema met variaties (Theme with Variations) for organ

Born in Haarlem, Netherlands, September 17, 1892
Died in Haarlem, Netherlands, April 12, 1981

Hendrik Andriessen was a member of a prominent Dutch family line of musicians that included his father and his brother Willem, and now his sons Jurriaan and Louis. During his lifetime, he was regarded as one of the leading organists in the Netherlands, having held significant posts at St. Joseph’s Church in Haarlem and later at Utrecht Cathedral. Composing in an idiosyncratic style that blended early medieval music with modern techniques, he created a body of work that became a decisive force in a new direction for 20th-century Dutch music.

Following the Second World War, when his resistance to membership with the Kultuurkamer had severely restricted his artistic activities, Andriessen composed Thema met variaties for organ in 1949, during a particularly fruitful creative period. It is dedicated to Lady Susi Jeans (1911–1993), an Austrian organist, whom he had visited in England in the summer of that year. The work bears all the hallmarks of the composer’s style; after a grand introduction, the theme, a descending modal melody, is presented in contemplative simplicity, after which it is inventively developed through variation technique, a concrete application of Andriessen’s skill as a renowned improviser. With each successive variation, the piece gradually builds – through the addition of counterpoint and polytonal harmonies (the latter referencing the music of César Franck and Anton Bruckner, composer-organists whom Andriessen admired) – to a powerful finish, the minor mode brightening, at last, on the final major chord.

– Program note by Hannah Chan-Hartley


Symphony No. 2, “Children’s War Diaries”

Born in Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1957
Now living in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

“Forgetfulness leads to exile, remembrance is the secret of redemption.” These words by the Jewish mystic Ba’al Shem Tov grace the exit of Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Centre in Jerusalem, which Jaap Nico Hamburger visited in 2010 with his then 89-year-old mother to present her published autobiography about “her experiences in multiple Nazi death camps, including Auschwitz.” The Children’s Memorial there, a tribute to the approximately 1.5 million Jewish children murdered during the Holocaust, was especially affecting to Hamburger. About a decade earlier, he had read We Are Witnesses, a compilation, by Jacob Boas, of five diaries by teenagers who were among those children. From remembering those diaries by David Rubinowicz, Yitzhak Rudashevski, Moshe Zh’ev Flinker, Eva Heyman, and Anne Frank, combined with his feeling of being, as he described it, “overwhelmed by the starkness of the Children’s Memorial, leaving the building, and stepping into the blazing Jerusalem sunlight, the contours of a new symphonic work came to mind. I went home and wrote it down.”

Written for chamber orchestra, “Children’s War Diaries” features crystalline textures throughout, with a wide range of percussion instruments employed to evocative effect. There is a somewhat naïve quality to the music, as if “hearing” the war through children’s ears, though this makes it all the more dark and disturbing, considering the atrocities they witnessed, as each of their cities and towns – in the case of the teenage diarists, within the countries of Poland, the Netherlands, Lithuania, and Hungary – were systematically invaded and occupied by Hitler’s troops.

The first movement, with its propulsive drive, conjures the fear and terror in anticipation of war; in the second movement, the flugelhorn, and later, the viola and cello, voice angst and confusion. A final memory of family life is given poignant expression in a trio for piano (child), violin (mother), and cello (father), according to Hamburger, in the third movement. This mood continues into the fourth movement: a sorrowful string “chorale”, with piano, later enhanced by trumpet, horns, and bassoon, and framed by the sound of murmuring voices. In the finale, the urgent atmosphere and sound colours of the first movement return, though ultimately ending with a defiant cheer, thus evoking the inability of the worst of human evil to destroy the human spirit.

– Program note by Hannah Chan-Hartley

“I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever-approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions, and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again. In the meantime, I must uphold my ideas, for perhaps the time will come when I shall be able to carry them out.”

ANNE FRANK diary entry dated July 15, 1944 (translation by B. M. Mooyaart-Doubleday, from The Diary of Anne Frank: The Critical Edition, Doubleday, 1986)


akin, double concerto for twinned strings

Q & A with Michel Van Der AA

by Hannah Chan-Hartley

About composing

What are your main influences and inspirations as a composer?

My influences and inspirations are a very fluid thing for me – they basically change every week. I follow a lot of different art forms and each, in their own way, influences or inspires me. I love theatre, film, dance, and the visual arts, and I listen a lot to the music of my colleagues. I’m quite eclectic in my musical tastes – I listen to contemporary classical music, world music, indie pop, and electronica.

What is your view on the role and responsibilities (creative, political, social) of the composer today? How do you try to meet these goals in your work?

I consider myself a humanist in this respect. My works don’t often have a big political or social theme, but I do tackle larger humanistic topics like dealing with loneliness, anxieties, and disconnectedness. A recurring theme in my operas and my instrumental pieces is people trying to find a connection to one another. It’s often about the relationship between one individual or a few, versus their surroundings.

Could you give us an insight into how you compose?

I tend to combine composing the “old-fashioned” way, with pen and paper and trying things out at the piano, with working on a computer. If I work with electronics, I use the computer to add them and time them. For opera, I like to sit at the piano and try to sing the lines. For works that are conceptual and instrumental, I try to write directly on paper or on manuscript.

How important is it for you to closely work together with the artists performing your work? What does the term “interpretation” mean to you?

This is incredibly important to me, especially when I write solo concertos or for specific singers in my operas. I choose my collaborators because they inspire me to write for their instrument or their voice. Often, it begins with the performer, and then secondly, their instrument. Obviously, once the piece is written, it’s completely fine for other people to perform it but while creating it, I need to have a muse, to be really inspired by the performers themselves.

What in your view is the relationship of the listener to your work?

When I’m writing, I really try to be myself – I don’t have any criteria other than my own tastes. Once the work is done, I’ll do everything in my power to bring it to as large an audience as I can, and it’s also important, in that respect, how an audience reacts. It’s obviously nice if an audience loves the work but this is quite disconnected from the creative process for me; when I create, I try not to think too much about the audience or write towards an audience.

About akin, double concerto for violin and cello

Describe this work using three to five adjectives.

Theatrical. Adventurous. An active and engaged discussion between good friends.

Describe your artistic goals for this composition.

This piece is very much about the kinship between the two soloists, and between the two soloists and the orchestra. In their communication, I see the soloists as forming one voice, kind of like that of identical twins. But like identical twins, they each also have their own personalities and individual challenges.

akin was originally composed with violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and cellist Sol Gabetta in mind. Could you describe to what extent they as musicians and as people influenced the composition?

I love Patricia and Sol as performers, the way they perform and the theatricality of their performances. When I see them on stage, I just believe what they do, the way they play. As a listener, they grab me by the collar and draw me in. I also found their friendship and the chemistry between them really inspiring to write for.

I’m super happy and very excited for Simone Lamsma and Harriet Krijgh to perform this work in Ottawa. It’s always very interesting for me to hear various people perform my works because they will do things differently and give me new ideas as well. Each performer adds their personality to the piece.

What is the orchestra’s role in this work?

The orchestra is not only a companion to the two soloists but it has a very important autonomous role as well. There are moments when the soloists feed their energy into the orchestra, and then the orchestra takes it to the next level. So, there’s a dialogue going on but there’s also a real voice for the orchestra, with some sections for them only.

(Timings are approximate)

“The first movement develops from an intimate opening, bottling up energy like an incubator, while the second movement is much more energetic and virtuosic, as if the valve on a pressure cooker has been released.” – Michel van der Aa


0:00 | Introduction, two harps, calm, contemplative

0:25 | Solo violin enters, then solo cello, a lyrical duet; orchestral texture gradually thickens

2:25 | Cello introduces ascending gesture, sparks dialogue with violin

2:55 | Lyrical duet returns; intensifies

4:05 | Agitated section with rapid repeated notes traded between soloists and strings

5:20 | Lyrical duet returns; supported by strings

7:25 | Tempo picks up; soloists together in dialogue with orchestra

9:15 | Energetic, rhythmic theme played together by violin and cello and by orchestra; reaches climax

10:10 | Cadenza-like passage for violin & cello with string interruptions

10:55 | Final return of lyrical duet; fades out with bell chimes


13:10 | Violin and cello in a rigorous, virtuosic duet

16:30 | Orchestral episode, with brass chords

16:45 | Violin and cello resume duet

18:00 | Soloists in dialogue with strings

19:00 | Orchestral episode, with chorale-like layers in brass

19:45 | Violin and cello re-enter with energetic duet

21:05 | Orchestra takes over; soloists join the texture

22:10 | Intensity relaxes, violin and cello in lyrical episode

23:20 | Energy picks up again with ascending gesture in violin; drives forward

24:35 | Orchestra builds to climax… but in the end, violin and cello have the last word


Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67

Baptized in Bonn, Germany, December 17, 1770
Died in Vienna, Austria, March 26, 1827

“How irresistibly does this wonderful composition transport the listener through ever growing climaxes into the spiritual realm of the infinite,” commented E.T.A. Hoffmann, on Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in 1810. Two years earlier, the work premiered on December 22 at the Theatre an der Wien to mixed reception; no doubt the context of its performance – the massive length of the concert (spanning four hours, the program also included the premieres of the Sixth Symphony and the Choral Fantasy, plus the Fourth Piano Concerto, with Beethoven as soloist, and excerpts from other works), the bitterly cold temperature of the theatre, and an under-rehearsed orchestra – contributed to the lukewarm response. However, with Hoffmann’s landmark critical review, general opinion about the Fifth Symphony shifted; it was soon established as a cornerstone of the classical music canon…and there, it has stayed. Today, it remains one of the most frequently performed symphonies, continuing to draw audiences to concert halls all over the world.

Whether it’s the first or the umpteenth time you’ve heard this symphony, it’s simply impossible not be grabbed by the explosive opening of first movement: the famous “short-short-short-long” motive, the so-called “fate knocking on the door.” With this germ, the Allegro con brio propels forward with furious energy, developing as if organically. The motive becomes like an obsession, and appears in the later movements as well, transformed into different guises: as a triumphant second theme, proclaimed by French horns and trumpets in the second movement; as a militaristic march tune, also intoned by French horns, in the scherzo; and as a vivacious contrasting theme, played by the violins, in the finale.

Ultimately, the potency of the Fifth Symphony that Hoffmann rapturously describes in his 1810 review arises from how Beethoven conveys the psychological arc of victory over struggle across the work’s four movements. Indeed, the “short-short-short-long” motive is just one of several methods through which the composer connects them into a cohesive narrative design. Another is his specific use of mode: from the pathos and stormy drama of C minor in the first and third movements, which bracket a lyrical slow movement in A-flat major, to the jubilant C major of the fourth movement. Moreover, in each movement, the C major triumph is foreshadowed – in the recapitulation of the second theme in the first, the bright theme in the second, and the energetic trio of the third. A wonderfully mysterious transition that directly connects the third movement to the fourth – beginning with the timpani tapping the main motive on a low C, over a long A-flat in the cellos and basses – further heightens the dramatic progression towards its final fulfillment. Yet, even in the exultation of the concluding Allegro, Beethoven briefly reminds us – in a recall of the scherzo “march” theme – of the darker C minor anguish, before we are finally released into the light, encumbered no more, towards the symphony’s ecstatic conclusion.

– Program note by Hannah Chan-Hartley


During the Second World War, the opening motive of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony became a potent symbol for the Allied forces. They adopted the musical motto as their rallying call due to its coincidental likeness to the representation of the resistance symbol “V” (for Victory), in Morse code: three dots and a dash. As part of the campaign, a V for Victory postcard was produced with the musical quotation of this motive surrounded by the flags of the Allied forces.


  • conductor Jessica Cottis
  • lamsma-simone-otto-van-den-toorn-1
    violin Simone Lamsma
  • f4a488c8-krijgh-harriet46-c-marco-borggreve
    cello Harriet Krijgh
  • bio-orchestra
    Featuring National Arts Centre Orchestra
  • Flentrop organ Thomas Annand

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees