Bach’s Goldberg Variations on Ivo Janssen’s houseboat

Ivo Janssen playing Bach in his boat (above)

On a perfect sunny evening on our second day in Amsterdam, we all walked down the street next to a broad canal heading for Ivo Janssen’s houseboat. To my great surprise, we were suddenly joined by Servaas van Beekum, my good Dutch friend from Sydney, visiting his family in his home town of Amsterdam. He was with his and his daughter Silke and we all crowded on to a large house-boat crowned with a fully fledged garden across its entire roof. Ivo, one of Holland’s leading pianists, had become sick of dealing with agents and travelling the world playing concerts, so decided to convert an old concrete barge to both a home and an intimate concert hall. Over several years, he rebuilt it himself with help from friends and it is now a beautiful double level recital hall seating 140 people, and includes his own apartment at one end of the boat.

We were treated to a mesmerising performance of one of the greatest works of the keyboard repertoire, JS Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Having met Ivo some years before through out mutual friend Don Ross, I rang him from Sydney to ask if he would play for our group and he agreed provided we didn’t mind if he sold the remaining tickets to the public. Asking me what I’d like him to play, I had no hesitation in asking for the Goldbergs. It was an evening none of will forget and afterwards I bought his recording of all Bach’s keyboard works – on a set of 20 CDs!

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