silence #36: different trains

5 May 2022

In the early morning, the Oude Kerk is a special oasis in the city, with a striking sunrise through the high church windows. At this early hour, the music programme Silence sounds monthly, a counterpoint to the often hectic city centre. Today, a special edition of Silence will be played on Liberation Day: 5 May 2022, 77 years after the liberation of the Netherlands.

In 1988 Steve Reich (New York, 1936) wrote the three-part ‘Different trains’ for the Kronos Quartet. The title refers to a simple but powerful contrast: a Jewish boy, Steve Reich, travels back and forth between New York and Los Angeles between 1939 and 1942 and realises many years later: if he had lived in Europe during that same period as a Jewish boy, he would have ridden on different trains and to different destinations. In the composition, sound references to trains and air raids, phrases of text, synchronise with musical themes in the string quartet. In the Oude Kerk, Different Trains sounds without a film track, in the emptiness of the grand and at the same time intimate church space. Different Trains is preceded by the 8th string quartet by Dmitri Shostakovich. Shostakovich dedicates the work ‘to the victims of fascism and war’. According to insiders, he was also referring to all victims of totalitarianism, and indirectly to himself. At that time, as a prominent composer, he was under great pressure from the Russian authorities and is said to have considered ending his life.

the musicians
The Mondrian Quartet exists since 1982 and is dedicated to adventurous quartet repertoire, with a focus on 20th and 21st century music. Numerous composers have dedicated works to the Mondriaan Quartet, including John Cage, Iannis Xenakis, Luca Francesconi, Paul Termos and Guus Janssen. With the Mondriaan Kwartet, boundaries between composed and improvised music, jazz and pop change. The quartet has frequently sought partnerships with film, theatre, dance and literature, and has played at festivals all over the world.

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)
String quartet no. 8 in C
I Largo
II Allegro molto
III Allegretto
IV Largo
V Largo

Steve Reich (1936)
Different Trains
I America – Before the War
II Europe – During the War
III After the War

music in the oude kerk
The Oude Kerk is not only the oldest building in Amsterdam, it is also the oldest music temple in the city. It is a place in which musical traditions have been created, passed on and renewed for over 700 years. In the Silence music series, musicians explore the acoustics of the Oude Kerk with both contemporary music and older repertoire. In the Saturday evening series Monuments, leading organists from the Netherlands and abroad play music by composers in whose oeuvre the organ occupies a central position. Playing the Cathedral is an annual residency programme in which nationally and internationally renowned musicians are invited to create new work especially for the church space. In the Oude Kerk, you get to hear well-known masterpieces in new ways and pioneering works by living legends. The concert is organized in collaboration with Amsterdam cultural platform Subbacultcha.

Thursday 5 May 2022, 8:00 am
*(Due to Liberation Day, this special edition of Silence takes place on a Thursday instead of the first Friday of the month)

The concert series Silence is supported by the Fonds Podiumkunsten. The concert is made possible by the Amsterdams 4 en 5 Mei Comité.

Photo: Maarten Nauw