Concert Review: Milhaud, Francaix, Debussy, Ravel – CTPO, Maria du Toit, Martin Panteleev

Reviewed by Andrew Wilding

Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, City Hall, Thursday 12 February 2015

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I solute each and every audience member for attending this performance despite the road closures and general mayhem caused by our ridiculous president.

The turnout was remarkable, and I was encouraged by the display of resistance and defiance, both in those who refused to pay the new fee of R50 at the morning rehearsal, and in those (fortunately for our orchestra, many more) who braved the chaos and showed up for the evening performance. Please note that there will not be an open rehearsal next Thursday 19th, but in future please also bear in mind that your R50 for the rehearsal is collected by the Friends of Orchestral Music (FOM, who are volunteers and are not paid) to fund marketing events such as soirees and gala concerts, and these events attract sponsors who bring out international soloists such as Joshua Bell (August 26 and 27). “Big” concerts are well attended and ensure that the musicians who make up the orchestra remain employed.

Thursday’s concert was sponsored entirely by a generous dentist from Germany, Dr. Axel Horvath, who chose to celebrate his birthday by having a symphony concert in Cape Town! Great party Axel! Thank you! The CTPO has other friends in Germany, and thanks again to Dr. Horvath for setting up “Procapericcio”, they can now donate funds to the CTPO as a tax benefit in Germany! Info: procapericcio@t-online.de

So, even if you don’t attend the expensive events, thank you for your R50 at rehearsals, it enables the whole marketing system to keep ticking!

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Milhaud, The Ox on the Roof (Le Boeuf sur le Toit) – CTPO, Martin Panteleev
I am going to miss Martin Panteleev very much. He has a way of getting inside a work, hearing it’s essence, breathing it’s atmosphere, and then brining it to life as if part of his own history. This work is fun and has many flavours and solos, making it a great showcase for both orchestra and conductor. The sound was a fusion of post-grad technique and the freedom of busking – tempo undulations, Brazilian rhythms, Bohemian lilting, and Arabian serenades. Trumpets and horns did particularly well, with excellent, tricky, sudden entries. Milhaud’s ballet hit the spot – the insanity outside the hall literally faded into distant memory as the orchestra beckoned us into an exciting romantic delightful evening.

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Francaix, Clarinet Concerto – Maria du Toit, CTPO, Martin Panteleev
Performing what surely must be an extremely challenging work for her instrument, du Toit demonstrated masterful control over dynamics and breathtaking technique. We are very accustomed to seeing finger-to-eye co-ordination, like a pianist or a cellist, but the clarinet is a case of finger-to-tongue coordination that somewhat bends the mind – how are all these notes being produced? – and with such subtlety and sensitivity! The cadenza was paradigm-shifting, sounds I had never heard before, coming from a clarinet – soft trills, light runs, and a passage of rolling arpeggios that magically supported a tune hovering at the top of each arpeggio. Du Toit’s unaccompanied moments were mesmerising. She has an amazing sense of timing, knowing precisely how long her pauses need to be, as if waiting for the echo to disappear into the ceiling before continuing. By the second movement I was completely in love with this instrument’s beautiful range of tones, and fascinated by its complexity.

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Debussy, Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun (Prelude a l’Apres – Midi d’un Faune) CTPO, Martin Panteleev
Here we saw Panteleev’s extraordinary ability with layering the sound produced by the orchestra. He seems to separate the parts in order to balance the entire score, always keeping harmony in a softer layer than melody, and this accentuates the highlights in the sound and gives the soloists their own space to be heard. What an experience to hear such an impressionistic work with such clarity! Such gorgeous rich colours and tones from the orchestra – dancing in a misty shiny dream, deep within the folds of time, in an enchanted dappled forest. Very supernatural!

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Ravel, Mother Goose Suite (Ma Mere l’Oye) CTPO, Martin Panteleev
The conductor’s style could not be better suited to present program music such as this – he shows off the orchestra brilliantly! Solos and melodies emerged like leaping dolphins from a sea of strings that seemed to fill the hall in a rising tide. This concert was the last of a demanding season for both conductor and orchestra, mastering and performing at least 16 works in the space of four weeks. Panteleev takes a well deserved break, and we hope to welcome him back to Cape Town very soon.
Wishing the instrumentalists of the CTPO a restful and productive hiatus from symphony concerts!

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Next season begins Thursday 2 April, Conductor: Dmitri Yablonsky
Borodin, In the Steppes of Central Asia
Rachmaninov, Piano Concerto No. 1 – Oxana Yablonskaya
Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 3

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