“Forte Piano”: Rembrandt Frerichs and the Jazz

by Francesca Spanò

The Bimhuis Amsterdam, historic jazz club in the Netherlands, is going to host on the 3rd of December the Dutch Rembrand Frerichs. The pianist and composer will perform together with his group, the Rembrandt Frerichs Trio and the Italian trumpet and flugelhorn player Paolo Fresu.

Theme of the evening, specifically chosen by Frerichs, is the improvisation. As he tells to +31mag.nl, he loves defining himself like a “modern Christopher Columbus, who embarks on journeys to explore new musical regions, where never ends improvisation, intertwining with classical music and world music”. A perfect match for the artist, which made the fortepiano (as the piano is called in Dutch) a fundamental instrument for composing jazz, recovering an ancient tradition in modern ways.

Frerichs’ debut occurred at the age of 22 on the stage of the North Sea Jazz Festival, one of the most important events dedicated to jazz music in Europe. “As composer and executor, Major festivals in the Netherlands and abroad are fundamental. There’s the November music festival in den Bosch, giving me lots of opportunities to cooperate with great international colleagues. The Musica Antigua Festival in Bruges, The OudeMuziek Festival in Utrecht and, of course, the North Sea. All great places to develop new ideas”.

Festivals are educational and creative basins which existence is compromised by the “sighted and naive” cuts decided by the Netherlands since 2008, which is continuosly reducing funds (already meager) for culture. “With a sum of money equal to the cost of a wing of a fighter jet” – so much was earmarked for culture in Holland before the cuts, Frerichs explains – “the cultural sector could make programs that brings together older people with youngers, it could develop their talents and provide many people with a way to develop their creative skills. I believe for Europe, it’s a priority to keep developing our creative skills, in order to be competitive in the Asian market.”

foto by guido benschop tunnel
© Guido Benshop

For the Rembrandt Frerichs Trio, with the bas of Tony Overwater and the drums of Vinsent Planjer, that creative capability becomes like a precept.  Recently it has taken concrete form in The Contemporary Forte Piano, a project begun in 2013, which shows the modernity of such an ancient instrument as the piano. “Most of the people know the fortepiano from Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven. What we do is using this great historic instrument, invented by the Italian Bartolomeo Cristofori in 1700 as a modern instrument for avant-garde music in 2015.”

Research, indeed, is a fundamental part in Frerichs’ musical production, since he is Professor at the Conservatory of Utrecht as well as composer. His last experiment, for example, liked the piano to the santoor, the iranian string traditional instrument: “We have just recorded an album with Iranian kamancheh master Kayhan Kalhor”, Frerichs keeps explaining, “With my fortepiano I created new sounds never played so far on this historical instrument.”

Last but not least, improvisation, of which the concert with Paolo Fresu is just an example. We Know Paolo Personally since our bassist Tony used to play with him some years ago”, the composer explains mentioning a tour with european artists. “But, you know, jazz is a form of art in which you create the music while you are playing. With Paolo we won’t have much rehearsal, so the public will experience a concert that’s quite an exciting experiment for us too.

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