Herdenkingsdag: Pianist Marc Wielart plays in an empty Concertgebouw

4 May 2020

Today, we commemorate all victims of World War II and other military conflicts during the ‘Nationale Dodenherdenking’ in the Netherlands. At 8pm, all trains, busses and cars will stop, all shops will be closed and everybody will take two minutes of silence to remember the dead. World War II is inseparably linked to the Holocaust, the genocide of six million Jews in Europe.

75 years later, the Jewish Amsterdam Chamber Ensemble had planned to play a concert in celebration of Israel’s Independence Day, and that for the first time in the Netherlands. Before the war, professional Jewish concerts were common place in the Netherlands and the JACE wants to continue this tradition.

Due to the current Covid-19 crisis, the Royal Concertgebouw remains closed, but a couple of musicians came together and played Jewish music in front of the 2.000 empty seats. The ensemble played the Hatikvah, which means the hope. In 1945, when British troops were liberating the concentration camp in Bergen-Belsen, Holocaust survivors began to spontaneously sing the Hatikvah, which later becomes the Israeli national anthem.

‘It was a very emotional and haunting moment to stand in the empty Concertgebouw’, alumnus Marc Wielart, tells us. ‘We thought of the empty seats that can never be filled again, the members of the Concertgebouw Orchestra who did not return and the world in which we now live.

I never played with the other musicians before and we were not allowed to rehearse before the recording due to Covid-19, we didn’t even have all the scores. I had to improvise from time to time and yet, we felt an instant connection with each other and with the music.’

As a child, Marc would often visit his grandma in the Beethovenstraat in Amsterdam. The Concertgebouw was their special place that they would visit together. ‘Every time they played one of our favourites, my grandma would squeeze my hand tightly and we would smile at each other.’

Marc Wielart studied piano at the Classical Music Department of the Royal Conservatoire and now works as a pianist and is a répétiteur at the Royal Conservatoire. Marc is a member of the Platform voor Freelance Musici and sits in the steering committee of de VAK, centrum voor de kunsten in Delft.