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Voyage to Victory

img  Tobias

Like most stories, this one gets off to a pretty unspectacular start. Frederieke was studying violin at Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington with Mr. Mauricio Fuks, an honorary member of the Royal Academy of Music and a fervent globetrotter, teaching young students in masterclasses all around the world. One day, a small leaflet dropped into Frederieke's mailbox, inviting her to participate in the Long-Thibaud Competition, to be held in France at the end of the year. Even though Saeijs was extremely busy with her own string quartet as well as repetitions with one of the school's orchestras, she decided to take on the challenge and find out how much her technique had developed since moving to the States 1,5 years ago.

Maybe we should mention an important detail right at the beginning: The Long-Thibaud is not just any violin competition. In fact, it is considered by most to be one of the two or three top awards in this category. Winning it has kickstarted many fledgling career - such as Midori's, now an internationally renowned soloist and recording artist. So while things may haven gotten off to a relaxed and almost casual start, the pressure was sure to rise in the course of the proceedings. Already the repertoire set Saeijs' heart racing: A mixture of old favourites and some new pieces, it was both challenging and beautiful and included a piece written especially for the competiton (Dupin's "Pour Elia"). She was all but ready for preparations, when she heard the news: Mauricio Fuks was not going to be in Bloomington in the Summer, giving masterclasses in Canada and Europe instead.

This meant that she would have a strenous summer ahead of her, travelling in the path of Fuks and following his courses, while finding the time for rehearsals. She went for it. The locations she visited included Sarasota (USA), Orford (Canada), Salzburg (Austria) and Villefavard (France) and each one offered a different program.
The Sarasato class was to focus on chamber music, bringing students together under the auspices of various coaches and then seperating them again for individual training. The week ended with all participants joining forces in an orchestra, supporting pianist Robert Levin (who improvised all cadences on the spot) in a Mozart-performance. While students enjoyed the luxury of staying at a grand hotel in Sarasato, lodging in Orford was much more to Frederieke's liking (a simple youth hostel). The surroundings were beautiful and she discovered a wonderful little world of her own: "Because rehearsal rooms at college were mostly occupied, I started looking for one in the woods. I finally found an empty, simple house, which is normally let to walkers and people on vacation. It was a great place to concentrate and to find inspiration by listening to the wind blowing through the trees and the noises of little animals shooting by". (see picture above)
The following course took place in Salzburg (see picture below) and with a city as wonderful as this one (German writer Thomas Bernhard once remarked that it was so beautiful he coulnd't stand it), it was nobig surprise it was a success. Saeijs got to perform at Schloss Mirabel and of course, there were more concerts and meeting fellow instrumentalists from all around the world. At the very last day, she immediately stepped into the night train to Paris and was taken by cab to Villefavard, a place so small and rural that it seems like heaven on earth or, as Frederieke put it, "just like a painting". Lessons and performances were situated in an old farm house, with chickens running about and cows mooing. Apart from the wonderous village, Frederieke enjoyed the music most: "I got the chance to perform with cellist Michel Strauss and his wife Mascha Beloussova on piano in a rendition of Brahm's piano trio in c minor. It truly was a magnificent experience!"

When she got back to Bloomington, the real work started: With only two months to go, she had to get deeply aquainted with the competition repertoire, learning all compositions by heart. And then there was a recording to be done: All applicants had to submit a CD containing an interpretation of Ysaije's 6th solo sonata as a sort of preliminary round. It didn't take too long for the good news to arrive: Saeijs was allowed to travel to Paris along with 46 other contestants. The first round took place in the somehwat "dry" premises of "Radio France". Still, there was an audience present at each performance, turining this part of the concours into a simple question of "making good music". It sure worked for Saeijs, who had to wait one night to hear that she had reached the next stage. She was alloted a Japanese piano player and found it inspiring to try and be able to perform together after such a short period of getting to know each other. It was only on the next day that results were disclosed: "I don't think I ever heard my heart beating as loud as it did then..." Frederieke remembers, "The six participants who were to go through to the finale were being read by the chairman of the jury... wow! I got to play! I just couldn't believe it."

And there was more good news: The jury decided to go for the Alban Berg concert for the last round, a piece she particularly loved and which she had already performed on one major occasion before (in 2004, with conductor Jaap van Zweden). She also found the modern piece, "Pour Elia", inspiring to play and was thrilled by the location: "The Salle Gaveau was as hot as a Sauna and packed with people... It was really exciting. I closed my eyes and tried to deliver myself to the music as much as possible". The next day, proceedings continued with a more chamber-musical edge: "I really looked forward to playing! It was already a reward to be able to play with an orchestra and to perform all of the pieces I had prepared in front of the French audience." Present among the listeners was also her Dutch teacher Jaring Walta and he was not to be disappointed: On the 65th birthday of Mauricio Fuks, Frederieke was declared winner of the Marguerite Long-Jacques Thibaud Concours 2005.

This will mean that she is to give solo performances and recitals in Japan, France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. Without a doubt, she has moved on a few steps in her career. But life has definitely not suddenly turned into a miracle: As you read this, Saeijs is preparing for admission to the Performer Diploma, just like any other student.

Homepage: Frederieke Saeijs

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