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The Concertgebouw Withdraws Jerusalem Quartet Concerts Due to Planned Protests

The concert hall has canceled the quartet’s performances, citing safety concerns due to planned demonstrations 

 

Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw has canceled Jerusalem Quartet’s May 16 and 18, 2024 concerts, citing safety concerns regarding “announced demonstrations and the recent developments surrounding protests in Amsterdam,” the venue wrote, according to Gramophone.

“This decision was not taken lightly,” a spokesperson said, as reported in DutchNews. “But we want to guarantee the safety of our staff, our visitors — who are often elderly — and the musicians.” 

The spokesperson added that there was contact with both the mayor’s office and the police, but it was ultimately the Concertgebouw’s decision to withdraw the quartet’s performances.

Since news of the cancellation, the British pianist Danny Driver launched a petition calling for the decision to be overturned; to date, the appeal has garnered over 10,000 signatures — including violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, pianist Martha Argerich, and Esa-Pekka Salonen.

Part of the petition reads:

“We, the undersigned, as musicians and presenters who celebrate mutual respect across different disciplines and specializations, who regularly collaborate and who draw inspiration from one another, are appalled at the recent announcement of the Concertgebouw to cancel the May 16th and 18th performances by the Jerusalem Quartet. 

“Threats to the safety of musicians, concert hall staff, and the general public, fly in the face of hard-won democratic values and freedom of expression, and should have no place in our society. The behavior of our arts organizations should reflect this, and should stand up for these values…

“Anything less than permitting the Jerusalem Quartet to continue with its planned performances — and to provide them and the audience of the Concertgebouw with protection and support — amounts to pure moral cowardice … We wholeheartedly protest this act and as musicians call for an immediate redress.”

In an Instagram post, the Jerusalem Quartet has also accused the venue of “capitulation to bullying and terrorism.”

In a later statement on The Concertgebouw’s website, the venue’s General Manager Simon Reinink acknowledged the “disbelief and anger” and expanded on the initial decision to cancel, adding that a later date would be found for the same concerts and ensemble. Part of his response reads:

“Over the past months, our intention has been continuously to ensure these concerts would take place, despite the flood of messages from people and organizations opposing the quartet. What finally made us decide not to go ahead with these concerts after all has everything to do with the security situation in The Concertgebouw. The Concertgebouw itself is responsible for that. With two simultaneous concerts in the Main Hall and Recital Hall, there are 2,500 people in the building. With that, the security situation can quickly become precarious.

“Two demonstrations had been announced and several people made calls on social media to demonstrate at The Concertgebouw. Until recently, the demonstrations were peaceful and no reason for us not to allow the concerts to go ahead. However, recent developments in and around the University of Amsterdam made that, after extremely intense discussions, we came to the decision not to allow the concerts to go ahead. We could not guarantee the safety within our building of staff, visitors and musicians. We are very sorry for all visitors and not least for the musicians of the Jerusalem Quartet.

“It goes without saying that all musicians will remain welcome with us, while we continue to stand by our mission to connect and enrich people with the most beautiful music. In dialogue with the Jerusalem Quartet, it has now been decided that we will look for a new concert date for a concert where safety can be guaranteed.”

 

Since its founding in 1993 and its subsequent debut in 1996, the Jerusalem Quartet has won prizes including the Diapason d'Or and the BBC Music Magazine Award for chamber music. Their concerts have previously been subject to anti-Israeli protests, Gramophone reports; the Concertgebouw concerts were part of a planned series of performances throughout the world in the coming weeks.

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