Virtually all of Harriet Krijgh’s fast-rising career has been focused on Europe, but, earlier this year, the 26-year-old Dutch cellist began making a bid to build her profile in the United States. And a big step in that continuing effort will come with her first concerts at Chicago’s two main classical music festivals.
Grant Park Orchestra, Conductor Carlos Kalmar
When: 6:30 p.m. Aug. 16
Where: Grant Park Music Festival, Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, 201 E. Randolph
Recital with pianist Stanislav Khristenko
When: 6 p.m. Aug. 18
Where: Bennett Gordon Hall, Ravinia Festival, 200 Ravinia Park Road, Highland Park
“I’ve never been there, so I’m really excited,” she said from Vienna, where she has maintained a residence since moving to the music capital for studies 13 years ago.
Krijgh will join principal conductor Carlos Kalmar and the Grant Park Festival Orchestra on August 16 in Franz Joseph Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 1 in C major. And two days later, she will perform a recital at the Ravinia Festival, pairing with pianist Stanislav Khristenko for Robert Schumann’s Three Romances, Op. 94, and sonatas by Frederic Chopin and Sergei Rachmaninoff. “I’m happy to present myself with all those different works,” she said.
Haydn’s First Concerto, written around 1761-65, is a staple for the cello, but it does not get played in this country as often as works in the form by such composers as Antonín Dvořák or Edward Elgar. Indeed, this will be its first performance in the Grant Park Music Festival’s 82-year history.
That Krijgh will be showcased in this piece comes as no surprise, considering that she released a recording of Haydn’s two cello concertos in 2012 with the Vienna Chamber Philharmonic and has long championed the works.
“I think the Haydn is one of the concertos that I have played the longest,” she said. “I feel very, very much at home in this very fresh, light, energetic music. Somehow, this really fits me as a cellist and a person. That was also the reason why it was my first orchestral recording. So, it’s very deep already in my soul.”
“Indeed, Krijgh is so committed to these concertos that she wrote her own cadenzas – extended, virtuosic solos – for both works in advance of the recording. And she will perform one of those cadenzas when she brings the Concerto No. 1 to Chicago.”
Krijgh, a first-prize winner at several competitions, is an indefatigable musical dynamo, taking part in more than 100 concerts a year. She has appeared with many of Europe’s major orchestras, including the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, London Philharmonic and Academy of St. Martin in the Fields.
In addition, she is something of an arts entrepreneur and administrator. In 2012, she founded an intensive chamber-music festival in Feistritz, Austria, called “Harriet & Friends,” (this summer’s edition took place in July). And in June, she replaced violinist Janine Jansen as artistic director of the International Chamber Music Festival Utrecht in Holland.
“Chamber music is really one of my, well, main things in life,” the cellist said. “To be able to get together your own group of wonderful musicians and friends and then play together, it’s just lovely.”
Krijgh made her American debut as a soloist in the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s world premiere of the Triple Concerto for Violin, Cello and Bayan by esteemed Soviet-born composer Sofia Gubaidulina. In addition to performances Feb. 23-25 in Boston Symphony Hall, Krijgh traveled for the first time to New York’s Carnegie Hall for the orchestra’s presentation of the piece there three days later.
“It was unforgettable,” the cellist said, “to work for such a long period with Miss Gubaidulina and, of course, [music director] Andris Nelsons and the Boston orchestra. The piece was so deep and meaningful. You could really recognize that it was a work from her.”
On that American visit, she also performed debut recitals in San Francisco and New York in March and appeared with the Oregon Symphony, where she had her first chance to meet Kalmar, who also serves as its music director. In 2017-18, Krijgh returns to the United States for her first appearances with the Utah and Dallas symphonies.
“So, it’s coming,” she said of her American presence. “And that’s really nice. I feel extremely at home (in the United States) somehow. People are so open and so warm, and they play with such energy and love. I’ve had wonderful experiences.”
In Chicago, Krijgh’s name might be all but unknown for now. But if all goes well with her upcoming Grant Park and Ravinia concerts, don’t be surprised to see audiences welcoming her back to the city soon.
Kyle MacMillan is a local freelance writer.