Bassoon concert for young and old, beginners as well as virtuoso

Holland Festival Proms:
Grand Subphonia

Merlijn Twaalfhoven, Bram van Sambeek

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The Dutch composer Merlijn Twaalfhoven has been commissioned by the Holland Festival to write a piece for over 100 bassoonists of all abilities, from beginners to Bram van Sambeek, one of the Netherlands’ great bassoonists. His composition will be able to accommodate bassoon players of every level, and it will be the crowning event of the Holland Festival’s contribution to the Save the Bassoon campaign. Children, as well as adults, are more than welcome to play in the concert or come as audience members. In combination with Twaalfhoven’s score, the Netherlands’ leading bassoon virtuoso Bram van Sambeek will perform Mozart’s famous bassoon concerto.


Merlijn Twaalfhoven (1976)
Grand Subphonia for the biggest band of bassoons (2016)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Konzert fur Fagott und Orchester B-Dur, KV 191 (1774)

Holland Festival Proms

Six concerts by world class artists in one day at the Concertgebouw, standing tickets for only 10 euros per concert, seating on the balconies and the stage. That is the Holland Festival Proms, the concerts held on the festival’s final weekend, hosted by Thomas van Luyn. Throughout the afternoon and evening, ensembles ranging from the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra to American singer-songwriter Ben Folds with yMusic, and from the Kronos Quartet to a Moroccan Gnawa ensemble will perform on stage. Opening with a family concert from the Netherlands, the programme will journey through different genres round the world to conclude with a Malian version by Terry Riley’s minimal masterpiece In C. And if you still can’t get enough, you can join our festive afterparty.

Background information

Save the Bassoon

Save the Bassoon will have its roaring finale this June. The campaign was launched during the 2015 Holland Festival to save the bassoon from decline and stimulate children to pick up a classical instrument. Thanks to all our partners, the initiative has been a great success throughout the country. 

World-class bassoonists Pascal Gallois and Bram van Sambeek will give concerts at this year’s festival. Merlijn Twaalfhoven will write a new composition for more than one hundred bassoonists of all abilities, and everyone is invited to join in. There will also be a number of ancillary activities. You can take part in our bassoon course for absolute beginners and there’s a masterclass by Pascal Gallois for bassoon students. After all the media attention at the launch of Save the Bassoon last year, this will be a fitting finale to a successful campaign.

Grand Subphonia for the biggest band of bassoons
During this year's Holland Festival Proms, the Save the Bassoon campaign is getting its fitting finale. Led by the campaign's ambassador Bram van Sambeek, more than one hundred bassoonists will perform Grand Subphonia by Merlijn Twaalfhoven (1976). The event fits in seamlessly with Twaalfhoven's ambition to connect people through music at special locations. His score is a passionate ode to the bassoon's often underrated range of sound. Twaalfhoven: 'We hope it will be an overwhelming, unforgettable and unmissable experience, for the musicians as well as for the audience. We're going to break down the usual configuration that exists in the concert hall, with musicians up on the stage and the audience in the stands or on the balconies. Some of the musicians will play in the stalls, enveloping the audience in sound. The music itself is full of contrast, ranging from contemporary phrases to mottoes from Mozart, demonstrating the bassoon's special and varied range of sound.’ Bassoon players of every level can sign up to perform in the world premiere of this concert. Absolute beginners who want to participate can register for the beginners introduction Crash Course Bassoon offered by the festival on June 5th.

The set-up for Twaalfhoven's bassoon project is similar to his Symfonie voor iedereen (Symphony for everyone) from 2007, in which professional musicians, among them members of the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, performed together with amateur musicians and school children. Twaalfhoven: 'To me as a composer, the most important difference is that then I had the availability of a full orchestra's palette, whereas now I need to produce the full range of sound and contrast from one single instrument. What I like about both projects is that non-professional or inexperienced players can make a valuable contribution to the piece. The fun thing about children is that they are often better at improvising, and much more inventive with unorthodox techniques than experienced adults.'

Exactly how the piece is going to sound, is yet largely unclear to Twaalfhoven. 'The sketches are ready and the musicians will need to study their parts in time. Nevertheless, a part of the final result will only be determined in the last week, when we can introduce improvisational elements and explore the possibilities of the space. Together we'll see what works best and make this into an unforgettable event for the performers as well as the public.'



Dutch composer Merlijn Twaalfhoven (1976) is known for his musical versatility, his talent for bringing people together and his love for unusual performance locations. Twaalfhoven graduated in 2003 from the Amsterdam Conservatory before teaching PopKunst (literal translation: PopArt) at ArtEZ Art School from 2004 to 2008. 

Twaalfhoven has always strived to stage his work in special locations with a view to creating a common experience. He has mounted performances as part of a night-time festival event (La nuit n’est pas un chocolat, 2002-2006), at a market hall (La Nuit de Bratislava, 2004) and inside an old Soviet submarine (Kursk, 2005). In his Symfonie voor iedereen (Symphony for Everyone, 2007) members of the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra are joined by amateur musicians and school children. Twaalfhoven's passion for uniting people is reflected in various international projects as well, including Long-Distance Call (2005), which was performed at either side of the Greek/Turkish Cypriot border; and Carried by the Wind (2009), staged around Bethlehem's 'Separation Wall'. In 2011, Twaalfhoven received a Unesco Young Artist Award for his contributions to the intercultural dialogue between the Arab and Western worlds. Since 2015, Twaalfhoven has been collaborating intensively with the acclaimed Kronos Quartet, as part of Kronos' Fifty for the Future as well as other projects. As a composer, Twaalfhoven is praised for his adventurous, capricious, but also sensual music, controlled by a strong sense for structure and balance.

While still a student, bassoonist Bram van Sambeek (1980) won first prize at the Prinses Christina Councours and the national final of the Stichting Jong Muziektalent Nederland's music competition. In 2009 he was the first bassoonist to receive the Nederlandse Muziekprijs, the most prestigious honour in Dutch music. In 2011 he won a Borletti Buitoni Trust Award. From 2002 to 2011, Van Sambeek was Principal Bassoonist at the Rotterdam Philharmonic. In this period he also gave frequent guest performances with the London Symphony Orchestra and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Since 2011, he has focused on a career as a soloist and chamber musician. As a soloist Van Sambeek recorded Bassoon Concertos (2009) and Bassoon-Kaleidoscope (2012) on Brilliant Classics. Recently he recorded bassoon concertos by the Finnish composers Sebastian Fagerlund and Kalevi Aho on the BIS label. Van Sambeek covers a broad repertoire and with his exceptional technique and appealing stage presence attracts a wide audience. This is why he was asked to be ambassador of the Save the Bassoon Campaign, which was co-launched by the Holland Festival in 2015. Van Sambeek is also artistic director of the 2017 Liquid Music Festival which will be held in Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ in Amsterdam.




Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Merlijn Twaalfhoven
performed by
ao Bram van Sambeek

This performance was made possible with support by