Tuesday 13 March 2018
Double concerto for Lucas and Arthur Jussens (pianos) by Joey Roukens. Netherlands Radio Philharmonic conducted by Emilio Pomarico. 10 March, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam.
Pianist brothers Lucas and Arthur Jussen sparkle as soloists
Joey Roukens (35) is the sort of composer you may recognise after just a couple of measures. He bases his material on both the classical repertoire and what might be described as ‘low-brow’ – from film music to techno: he enjoys a solid beat. We never doubted his abilities, but after hearing his latest work, we wonder if there’s any other composer at work in the Netherlands just now who can draw as much as he can from an orchestra.
The double concerto he has written for brother pianists Lucas and Arthur Jussen and the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic is called In Unison. The title refers to the inseparable – at least to the outside world – brothers, whose musical parts are often barely at odds with each other. How good is it? Possibly akin to John Adams.
The piece, premiered at the Saturday Matinee in the Concertgebouw, is an entrancing three-movement concerto that feeds the mind as well as the gut. Cheesy elements abound, but listen to how cleverly Roukens plays with them. Take that passage in the second movement: the pianos play an easy, comfortable line, while the violins and celesta chirrup on high, but this is offset against a threatening drum roll, so soft that you’re barely aware of it. Just when the music is on the brink of becoming too agreeable, Roukens turns things upside down. We heard Oohs and Aahs after the second movement.
The Netherlands Radio Philharmonic sounded imperious under the baton of Emilio Pomarico, playing with great rhythmic precision, while the Jussen brothers sparkled as soloists. And another nice touch: the solo for the third Jussen, the brothers’ father Paul who is timpanist with the NRP. You might not be too keen on the Prokofiev Second Symphony after the interval, but think again, please!
Merlijn Kerkhof, De Volkskrant 13.3.2018