Wessel Reinink has been going to the Holland Festival for 75 years

July 6, 1949

Kathleen Ferrier

His most special memory of the Holland Festival is after a performance, says Wessel Reinink (88): he received a red rose from Kathleen Ferrier. The legendary alto had it in the Concertgebouw Magnificat sung by Bach. Afterwards there was supper at the Italian restaurant Mirafiori on the corner of Vossiusstraat, with festival director Peter Diamand and his wife, pianist Maria Curcio, among others. Reinink sat in shorts next to Ferrier, who took a rose from a bouquet she had received after her performance and gave it to him.

Lawyer and art historian Reinink (1933) was not alone there, as a fifteen-year-old. He accompanied his father, Henk Reinink, who, as secretary-general of the Ministry of Education, Arts and Sciences, had conceived and co-founded the Holland Festival. Reinink Sr. appointed Peter Diamand as the first artistic director and remained chairman of the board for a quarter of a century. During that period, the Holland Festival grew into a leading European institute for the performing arts. “Of course I kept that rose, but it was recently lost,” says Wessel Reinink in his home in the city center of Utrecht.

Kathleen Ferrier on June 23, 1949 as Orfeo in the opera ‘Orfeo et Euridice’ with Greet Koeman (as Euridice). Photo JD Noske/ Anefo


Ferrier again

“My father was a remarkably creative man. He had the guts to approach wealthy people like Anton Kröller or Frits Lugt and ask what they wanted to do with their collection. He was wise enough to give others the idea that they were taking the initiative, but as a result his role has remained underexposed,” says Reinink. His father was also one of the founders of the Van Gogh Museum and the Institut Néerlandais in Paris. “He lived in The Hague with his second wife and I saw him little. But every Holland Festival he had four tickets for me and my brother. I have great memories of that.”

In 1951 Ferrier was back at the festival to sing one of her favorite pieces, The Song of the Erde by Mahler, with the Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Otto Klemperer. Reinink was there again: „Julius Patzak was the tenor. I hated that at the time, that drunken scream, although he sang well. But Ferrier has always stayed with me. The moment halfway through the closing song, ‘Der Abschied’, when she sings ‘Er stieg vom Pferd’, left an indelible impression on me.” Ferrier was already ill at the time and died two years later, aged 41.

June 19, 1948

Leonard Bernstein

Ferrier’s rose is not Reinink’s earliest memory of the Holland Festival. A year earlier, in the very first edition, he saw Leonard Bernstein conducting the Residentie Orkest in the Kurhaus in Scheveningen. Bernstein had made his debut with the Residentie Orkest a year earlier and was a regular there at the time. Almost every evening there was a different repertoire on the program and the concert that Reinink heard took place on June 19, 1948. „I will never Second Symphony of Schumann, as Bernstein did, especially the third movement, the Adagio. Bernstein was a spring-in-the-field, young and up-and-coming, with that shiny black hair. As a boy, the Adagio appealed to me so much because of the great desire Bernstein was able to express in it. The acoustics of the Kurhaus were not special, but during the break you went to the terrace and saw the setting sun.”

I will never forget Schumann’s Second Symphony, as Leonard Bernstein did in 1948

Presale crowds Holland Festival at the Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam, June 1955.
Photo Henk Jonker /Maria Austria
Bart van Beinum conducts 28 harps at the Holland Festival, July 8, 1969.
Photo Anefo/ National Archives
June 1955: Presale crowds Holland Festival at the Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam.
July 8, 1969: Bart van Beinum conducts 28 harps at the Holland Festival, July 8, 1969.

Photos Anefo/ National Archives, Henk Jonker /Maria Austria

1981 & 1982

Bertolt Brecht and Pina Bausch

Reinink continued to visit the festival and thus embodies a unique archive of 75 years of festival history. In his own words, however, his memories contain ‘a gap’ of two decades, in the seventies and eighties. “I had a busy job and a growing family, I often worked in the evenings and going to concerts usually fell short.” He is emeritus professor of architectural history at Utrecht University and also managed the Linschoten Estate for decades, where he spent a large part of the war years as a child and about which he wrote several books.

However, the Holland Festival did not disappear completely from the picture during that period. Among the highlights that he immediately has on hand are two German performances from the early 1980s: The Saint Johanna der Schlachthofe by Bertolt Brecht, in the midst of the audience in the Beurs van Berlage (1981), and Das Fruhlingsofferthe illustrious choreography of Pina Bausch on Stravinsky’s Sacre du printempsin Carré (1982).

Leonard Bernstein with Queen Beatrix and Prince Claus at the Holland Festival, June 1, 1985. Photo Rob C. Croes/ Anefo/ National Archives



Reinink has seen the festival undergo major changes in three quarters of a century. In the early years it was really a ‘Holland’ Festival, with concerts in places like Bloemendaal, Delft and Scheveningen. Today the festival is concentrated in Amsterdam. The ideal of bringing ‘high art’ to the Low Countries was given a different accent, with more emphasis on the avant-garde from the 1960s and more attention for lighter genres (cabaret, jazz) and art from other cultures. The closing performance of the 2011 festival by the Lebanese singer Fairouz, a living legend in the Arab world, is an example of this. “I didn’t know her, but it was really beautiful,” says Reinink. The NRC called it “a historic event”.

Poster Holland Festival 1963design Dick Elffers
Photo Poster Museum Hoorn
Poster Holland Festival 1976design Gielijn Escher.
Photo Poster Museum Hoorn
Poster Holland Festival 1981design Benno Wissing
Photo Poster Museum Hoorn
Posters Holland Festival from 1963, 1976 and 1981.
Photos Poster Museum Hoorn


Stockhausen, Aus Licht

Reinink spoons them up like this, the great performances from the past: Il barbiere di Siviglia led by Carlo Maria Giulini in The Hague, Otello in Amsterdam, also with Giulini, concerts with Antal Dorati, the legendary performance of Mahlers Symphony No. 8 with Eduard Flipse in Ahoy’ in Rotterdam – he was there. But it is precisely recent projects concerning the post-war avant-garde that are sharply in his mind, such as Prometeo by Luigi Nono (2014) or response by Pierre Boulez (2015).

Reinink calls the highlight of recent years from light (2019), the three-day multimedia event with music by Karlheinz Stockhausen, directed by Pierre Audi. “I’ve been there all three days. It took you like this, a meta world was opened up for you there. And all those conservatory students who have committed themselves to it: fantastic. Many people have experienced these performances as something very special. Pierre Audi is surely a great artist.”

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