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Van der Velden, Mieneke

Mieneke Van der Velden

Viol player

Mieneke Van der Welden is a Dutch viol da gamba player. In the world of viola da gamba performers, it is difficult to avoid comparisons with Jordi Savall, whom many consider the great master of the viola da gamba. Thus, Bob Neill, in his Positive Feedback review of Van der Welden's 2002 release François Couperin: Piès de viole, measured her playing against what some have regarded as the canonical performance of François Couperin's (1668-1733) magisterial Pièces de viole, Savall's performance of the work. However, while describing Van der Velden's approach to Couperin as "considerably more forceful and less overtly warm and rich," he conceded that she opens up the instrument and expands its expressive power. Indeed, there is much energy in her playing, but there is, as Dutch reviewers have remarked, extraordinary refinement, poetry, and beauty in her interpretation of Couperin's music. In his discussion of Couperin's harpsichord music in French Baroque Music, James R. Anthony remarked that the music cannot be separated from its instrument, which means that the creative miracle emerges as a dialogue between soloist and his or her instrument. It could be said that Couperin, who was not at all familiar with the viol, approached the instrument with a mind of a harpsichordist. While players may find this burdensome, Couperin's approach certainly sets his two suites in Pièeces de viole

After completing her studies with viola da gamba virtuoso Wieland Kuijken at the Conservatory of The Hague, Van der Velden embarked on a concert career, performing as a soloist and playing in many ensembles, including The Royal Consort and L'Armonia sonora (her own groups), as well as with Concerto Vocale and Anima Eterna. In addition, as principal gambist of the Netherlands Bach Society, she participates in the annual performance of Johann Sebastian Bach's St. Matthew's Passion. In collaboration with the American harpsichordist Glen Wilson, Van der Velden has played in numerous recitals in the Netherlands, under the auspices of the "Ancient Music Network," as well as abroad. A resident of Amsterdam, Van der Velden also teaches viola da gamba at the Sweelinck Conservatory.

The two suites of Couperin's Pièeces de viole are scored for two viols and harpsichord, the second viol intended as continuo accompaniment. On her Couperin disc, Van der Velden plays without the second viol, in an effort to attain a clearer sonic texture. As critics have noted, the absence of one voice in no way diminishes the overall sonic effect. In fact, her heightened tonal precision and clarity do not, as one would expect, result in a starker sound; on the contrary, while appreciating the clarity of Van der Velden's articulation, the listener also experiences the sonic wealth of her playing, which, at times, conjures up intended, albeit inaudible, voices. Unlike the First Suite of the Pièces de viole, with its stylized dance movements, the Second Suite suggests a bewildering array of moods and feelings.

Van der Velden's remarkable Couperin disc also presents her as a virtuoso on the pardessus de viole, the smallest viol, which, because of its size, requires the performer to pay close attention to intonation. In her performance of Couperin's third Concert royal, for solo pardessus de viole and accompaniment, Van der Velden attains an astonishing level of artistry, endowing the seemingly fragile sound of her instruments with heart-warming soulfulness.

Bringing her immense talent to a selection of the music of Marin Marais (1656-1728), including the famous "Tombeau de M. de Sainte-Colombe," on her Marais disc, Van der Velden, as critics have observed, reveals mysterious moments of silence, when the music, as if questioning its being, withdraws into a labyrinth of spectral uncertainty.

Selected discography

Marais: Pièces de viole, Channel Classics, 2000.

François Couperin: Piès de viole, Channel Classics, 2002.

Sources

Books

Anthony, James R., French Baroque Music, Amadeus Press, 1997.

For the Record …

Born in the Netherlands. Education: Studied viola da gamba with Anneke Pols, Jaap ter Linden, and Wieland Kuijken; Conservatory of The Hague, Performer's Diploma, 1988.

Netherlands Bach Association, principal gambist; Amsterdam Sweelinck Conservatory, professor of viola da gamba.

Addresses: Record company—Channel Classics Records, Waaldijk 76, 4171 CG Herwijnen, Netherlands, website: http://www.channelclassics.com.

Online

Channel Classics Records, http://www.channelclassics.com/ (August 25, 2005).

"Francois Couperin's Suites for Viole," Positive Feedback Online, http://www.positive-feedback.com/Issue7/couperin.htm (May 22, 2005).

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