Arthur Klaassens: “It is a super special experience for me”

On May 21, Arthur Klaassens will perform the piece Oboi, Che Melancolia by composer Klaas de Vries. This piece is somewhere between an installation and a performance, in which the audience is allowed to sit, lie down, walk and of course: listen. We spoke with Arthur this extraordinary piece.
Renowned composer Klaas de Vries wrote Oboi, Che Melancolia for you. How did this collaboration come about?
I was looking for a composer to write a piece for my first CD ‘Ratio’ and I thought it would be a good idea to ask De Vries for it, as I was playing one of his oboe quartets at the time, which I really liked. It was also very pleasant to work with him and I immediately seized the opportunity to ask him. After some deliberation, he said he would like to write a piece, but a few months later he came to me and said “I’m afraid the piece will be three hours long…”. Of course that was too long to fit on a CD so it became a separate project. In the end it turned out to last ‘only’ two hours and it has become the piece that will be played at Festival Dag in
de Branding.

The audience is encouraged to become part of the performance. Why did you choose this form?
It was Klaas’ idea that the audience should be allowed to walk around during the performance. So it is not a normal concert, but also a kind of installation artwork. Most of the time I’m not live on stage either, and there is only sound from the speakers. Because Klaas quotes a lot of music history in this piece, such as the Matthäus Passion, Debussy and Luigi Nono, the effect is that you are in a kind of audio museum, where it makes more sense, according to De Vries, to be able to view/listen to the artwork from different angles. Of course, just like in a normal museum, it is also perfectly fine to just sit and enjoy.

What is it like for you as a performer if the public will be walking around freely?
What’s so nice about performing this piece is that for a large part I also feel like I am part of the audience, since I can also walk around freely for the most part. The only difference is that I occasionally get to comment on the piece by playing a big solo with one of my three instruments. Experience shows that people stop walking around for a while during the solos, which creates a very special atmosphere change. All this makes it a super special experience for me, which feels much more informal than ‘normal’ concerts, but is still very meaningful.

Oboi, Che Melancolia by composer Klaas de Vries will be performed on 21 May by Arthur Klaassens at 11:00 am in the Nieuwe Kerk. More info and tickets.

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