Vincent van Gelder



London Musical Opinion, British Liszt Society newsletter

Vincent van Gelder at Goldsmiths College – Deptford Town Hall


The distinguished Dutch pianist Vincent van Gelder gave a memorable piano recital on 12th June 2015, presented by Goldsmiths in conjunction with The Liszt Society.


Van Gelder is essentially a poetic artist rather than a barnstormer, and his programme, whilst it by no means avoided the technically challenging, was notable for the range of beautiful sounds it allowed him to extract from the Steinway D.


He began with four of the splendid piano pieces that Prokofiev made from his balletic masterpiece Romeo and Juliet: ‘The Street Awakens’, ‘Montagues and Capulets’, ‘Dance of the Girls with Lilies’ and ‘Mercutio’, all played with acute sensibility to the characterisation and with fastidious attention to detail. 


Gaspard de la nuit is Ravel’s piano masterpiece, and one of the pinnacles of the repertoire. Vincent van Gelder’s performance made light of all the extraordinary difficulties, and got straight to the nub of the work in three musical portraits of deep imagination, with the ability to tell three stories, conjure three scenes to perfection, and even manage, amid its legendary complexities, to find a great deal of wit in ‘Scarbo’.


The music of John Corigliano is less often heard in Britain than it merits to be, and it was revelatory to hear his Fantasia on an Ostinato in concert.  It is a well-crafted work, and very easy for an audience perhaps wary of the unknown, helped by the very familiarity of the theme – from the Allegretto of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony.  Van Gelder proved a very convincing ambassador for the piece.


The recital ended with three Liszt rarities, played with obvious affection: the Feuille d’album no. 2 (S167) – the third fantastic reworking by Liszt of his song ‘Die Zelle in Nonnenwerth’; Liszt’s only left-hand work: a transcription of his noble song ‘Hungary’s God’ (S543bis); and the extravagant and intricate outpourings of the early version of Vallée d’Obermann, as found in the ‘Album d’un voyageur’ (S156/4).  Despite the severe demands on the stamina of the performer, Vincent van Gelder remained a proudly sensitive performer to the end, and even found the energy to add his own thrilling and original Fantasy on the Miller’s Dance from Falla’s ‘The Three-Cornered Hat’ as an envoi.


Leslie Howard

Twentse Courant Tubantia

The Spanish Dances by Granados were jewels, each with its own character and story.  Vincent van Gelder’s performance of the “Andaluza” could be a in a tv commercial for the area.  

New York Concert Review

Vincent Van Gelder made his New York recital debut at Weill Hall on May 11 as a recipient of Artists International’s Special Presentation Award. Mr. Van Gelder, who was born Rotterdam, The Netherlands, began playing the piano at age 12 and holds BM and MM degrees in piano performance from the Conservatory of Hogeschool Enschede. His teachers were P. Zandmanis at Latvian Academy of Music, also P. Ruhlman, F. Oldenburg, B. Pierweiweijer, Arnis Carbondale and Wilfred Delphin. Van Gelder holds another Master’s degree from Southern Illinois University, and also a DMA in piano performance from the University of Missouri in Kansas City. Dr. Van Gelder is a formidably equipped, no-nonsense virtuoso and his diversified program of music by Beethoven 32 Variations in C Minor, Chopin Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise, Op. 22, Prokofiev Two episodes from Romeo and Juliet along with his Suggestion Diabolique, Rachmaninoff his Prelude, Op. 23 No. 2, Etude Tableau, Op. 33 No. 5 and Serenade, Op. 3 No. 4 as arranged by Arkadi Volodos and Liszt the ubiquitous Liebestraum No. 3 and two Hungarian Rhapsodies, Nos. 3 and 12 commenced in an unfrivolous, honest and un-egocentric manner. The Chaconne-like Beethoven variations were held together with arrow-straight directness and imposing structural firmness. I liked much of the Chopin too, and though the refreshingly severe, unfustian regularity of its opening Andante Spianato was, of course, a welcome departure from the usually encountered hydrant-sniffing and simpering “feeling”, the following Polonaise danced in (well), wooden shoes. Dr. Van Gelder’s interpretative and temperamental style is remarkably redolent of what I would have expected from a stereotypical “Dutchman”. In fact his playing at this concert made me recall Cor De Groot, a splendid artist whose Philips LP recordings from the 1950s (released in America by Epic) gave me much pleasure.

St. Louis Post

[performance of the four Chopin Ballades]: “He brought out the different layers with the precision of a brain surgeon”.

Classical Voice of North Carolina

[performance at UNCG's 'Focus on Piano Literature Conference'] The program concluded with Maurice Ravel's 1919-20 La Valse, an orchestral work that was on the composer's mind as early as 1906. Ravel provided both this two-piano version, performed by Vincent van Gelder and Inara Zandmane, as well as a solo piano arrangement. The work is less of a straight-ahead dance as it is an exploration of the inner spirit of a waltz. The composition opens with hallucinogenic whiffs of waltz-like fragments before coalescing into a full-blown dance under bright lights. Van Gelder and Zandmane (a husband-wife team) brilliantly brought the work to life. Full of rhythmic give and take, virtuosic glissandos and, curious, sudden halts, the duo caught the essence of this 12-minute composition that alternates between the dreamy and the grotesque, the elegant and the maniacal.

Kansas City metropolis

The most memorable performance of the evening was certainly Vincent van Gelder’s, who played the “Le gibet” and “Scarbo” movements from Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit. He produced lovely variegated tone colors in “Le gibet.” The repeated B-flats kept their distinct color against Ravel’s other evolving orchestrations. The planed quintal harmonies were round and unwavering. In “Scarbo,” van Gelder created palpable tension with the long-held silences directed by Ravel. The piece’s many arpeggios and flourishes which taper away to a pianissimo volume were often exaggerated by van Gelder, who sometimes achieved a pianissississimo volume on the gesture’s final tone. There was a great deal of flawless execution in this piece, which remains one of the most technically demanding pieces in the entire repertoire of keyboard music.