by Henk Neven December 1st, 2010


Schumann with the spirit of Britten

21 November 2010. We just arrived in the extreme darkness in Westleton, Suffolk. After having it for years in my head, the idea of making my first CD (for Onyx) with Loewe Ballades and Schumann Liederkreis op. 39 will become a reality this week.

As soon as I got out of the car, the silence and the smell told me; ‘ you are without any doubt in the countryside’. We found the beautiful Crown Inn opposite a mysterious 14th century church. As if I stept right into one of the Loewe ballades.  I am double happy to have arrived here and to be able to start recording tomorrow with pianist Hans Eijsackers, because ten days ago I had an appendix operation.  It was touch and go, but i feel fine. We met our producer Simon Kiln and recording engineer Arne Akelberg. We had a fantastic supper in the Crown Inn and nice to have the opportunity to start to get to know each other.

22 November. At daylight I found out how beautiful our surroundings were. We drove up the road to Potton Hall – actually, to the middle of nowhere, but just as Hans and I were starting to doubt if we were on the right track, luckily we saw ‘Potton Hall’ sign-posted. What a perfect place. The hall sounds nice, there is a “sonore” steinway, the view is splendid and it is very, very calm and inspiring.

Simon and Arne had installed all the equipment when we arrived. After having found the sound we all liked, we started recording. We had a good first day, but I was a little frustrated, because I would like to have recorded a little more on day 1. I felt that my stamina was not there yet, but what we did was good. And on the other hand I realize that the first day always starts slowly. Simon, Arne, Hans and I are starting to become a good team I feel. We celebrated that with another good meal and beautiful wine.

23 November. The second day was ‘family day’. Susan Rivers of the BBTrust,  Mathew Cosgrove of Onyx and Louise Rayfield of Intermusica came all the way over to Potton Hall to attend an afternoon of the recording.  It’s inspiring to sing and record with the knowledge that you have a small ‘audience’ in the control room.

This day everyone took cakes, pies or flapjacks etc.  😉  Literally enough for the rest of the week. A very good day ended with, you guessed it, good food and wine with all of us. It’s so ideal to be able to sit down by the fire and relax, after a day of hard work.  A very nice evening. Thank you, friends.

24 November. I went out for a walk in the early  morning to this beautiful church and its cemetry. The church door was open, so I let myself in and warmed up my voice in there today. A nice light place.

I wonder how may people can say that they saw deer, looking out of the studio window, while singing  ‘hast ein Reh du lieb vor Andern….’ This day was an intense day and a good one. We recorded many songs of the Liederkreis today. I feel so privileged to be to able sing this music, in this place, with these people. We kept eating left-over cakes from yesterday – Simon: “shall we have another cake…uh..take”

We ended the day with a little pilgrimage to Snape and Aldeburgh. It was freezing cold, winter had arrived in Suffolk, but we walked through ‘Peter Grimes’. It was a very funny feeling, as if I knew the place, although I have never been there before, just by listening to Britten’s music.

Delicious oysters and great fish and chips to finish the day in the manner of our other Suffolk days.

25 November. Very last day. Only four songs to go. But some of the difficult ones. We had a calm, concentrated day and ‘arrived the harbour’ very well and very contented. I can’t believe we did it. Music is an abstract art. As soon you produced it it’s gone. It is a nice feeling that the result of this week will be a touchable one . I think we succeeded to make it a very personal musical moment. I am extremely grateful to Simon, Arne and Hans. I think we were a strong team!! And also to Susan and Matthew who wanted all to go for this disc and organised this week in a perfect way. We couldn’t have been better.

26 November. After a short night, we left at six o’clock heading for Stansted airport. Snow started falling. Flight, trains all delayed I arrived home 5 o’clock in the afternoon. Westleton-Rotterdam… I think the distance is only 160 km; but may be it was better this way, because Goethe said that the soul travels slower than the horse. When you arrive with your horse, the soul only arrives a few days later. Like this my body and soul arrived at the same time. Thank you Easyjet.

Henk Neven’s CD of Loewe Ballades and Schumann Liederkreis will be released by Onyx Classics in 2011.