Birth of an ensemble
Having studied Pierrot Lunaire, the group coached by Reinbert de Leeuw went on
to tackle Schoenberg's Serenade op. 24 and the Suite op. 29. As there was no one
who could or even wished to play the mandolin in the Serenade, the part ended
up with Bob Zimmerman, who at the time studied clarinet and piano. "That
was when I got lumped with the mandolin. I'd never played it but - not entirely
ham-fisted - I started to learn it phonetically, just as one might learn Arabic.
After two months of grinding away at the part I was able to play it. At the end
of that time I was able to play the part, but not the mandolin itself."
By this time the ensemble proved to be quite a nice visiting card for the Royal
Conservatory. In 1974, in commemoration of the centenary of Schoenberg's birth,
they were invited to appear at the Festival of Flanders, where they performed
Pierrot Lunaire and the Serenade. The reviewer for De Gentenaar newspaper panned
the students for their appearance. Zimmerman well remembers being slated. "Obviously
people dressed sloppily at the time and I was most likely the sloppiest. We thought
we probably ought to dress a bit respectably for the Festival of Flanders so we
decided to put on neat, clean tee-shirts and jeans instead of torn and dirty ones.
We were told that although our playing was full of passion, we looked like tramps.
And we'd done our very best! Looking back on it, though, they were quite right."
It was immediately following that concert in Ghent that the ensemble adopted the
name Schoenberg Ensemble. Two years later Van Vlijmen once again had the group
fly the flag for his conservatory. On the occassion of its 150th anniversary the
ensemble made a Schoenberg recording for the Harlekijn label, one side of which
comprised the Serenade and the other the Suite. The record jacket lists a company
of musicians that was by that time quite familiar with the composer's oeuvre.
Also mentioned are names that were to loom large in the future of the Schoenberg
Quartet. Bob Zimmerman for instance, who in years to come was to be in charge
of most of the Schoenberg Quartet's recordings, performed the same task for the
Suite. And although at the time he was not yet a member of the ensemble, Wim de
Jong's name is also present, as photographer for the record sleeve.