The mood is mixed at the Organisatie Oude Muziek Utrecht, one of the world’s largest early music foundations, after the close of this year’s summer festival. Despite strong audience figures – more than 50,000 people attended 60 concerts and nearly 150 other events, spread out over ten days in August and September – which continued the healthy growth in numbers seen in recent years, cuts of 70% (amounting to over €600,000/£490,000) have been announced in its government subsidy over the next four years.
The Festival Oude Muziek has always attracted musicians of the highest calibre: at this year’s festival, held under the theme ‘From Sweelinck to Bach’, the two ensembles in residence were Harry van der Kamp’s Gesualdo Consort Amsterdam, and the Bach Collegium Japan.
Alongside them performed a wide international field of soloists and ensembles, including Collegium Vocale Gent, Phantasm, La Petite Bande and the Royal Wind Music, as well as a series of organ recitals given in six of the city’s churches by artists including Ton Koopman, Lorenzo Ghielmi and Bernard Foccroulle.
In addition, the festival has (since 1986) convened an annual symposium alongside the performance events, which this year was dedicated to the achievements of the late Gustav Leonhardt and the influence he had on the early music movement; speakers included Richard Egarr and John Butt.
Although the Organisatie Oude Muziek Utrecht received a glowing assessment from the Fonds Podiumkunsten (the Dutch equivalent of Arts Council England), which praised in particular the festival’s mix of established and younger groups, as well as its programmes of free events in unusual venues in Utrecht, it was unable to escape the reduction in subsidies across all disciplines, in which 60% of applicants received no financial assistance at all.