#ConcertReview: Peter Klatzow 70th Birthday Concert – Liesl Stoltz, Frank Mallows, Victor Yampolsky

Reviewed by Andrew Wilding

Works composed by Peter Klatzow

Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, City Hall, Thursday 29 January 2015


Peter Klatzow at his 70th Birthday Concert with conductor Victor Yampolsky

Peter Klatzow at his 70th Birthday Concert with conductor Victor Yampolsky


Three Paintings By Irma Stern – “Arab Priest” “River Landscape, Congo” “Peach Blossoms”
Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, Victor Yampolsky
The orchestra opens on a mysterious romantic scene, rich in colours, with an appropriately arabesque mode. Before long, I found myself wondering why we do not hear more from Klatzow, since he really is very listenable even to the untrained ear. His signature percussion-rich scoring adds excitement and punctuation to his vibrant often playful style. Not long into the concert I was already making notes to play these pieces on FMR – I feel that we should know them and celebrate them.

The second movement is modern sounding yet fittingly pastoral, with (call me crazy) strings hinting of Brazilian Bossa Nova?! Loved it! The river builds into a turbulent section with tricky passages by flute and clarinet – reliably handled by Gabriele von Durkheim and Beatrix du Toit – then sweeps into expansive majesty with adventurous under-currents.

Understandably, copyright allowed only a black and white thumbnail reproduction of Irma Stern’s paintings in the program, but if Klatzow’s last movement is anything to go by, then we are to believe that these are by far and wide the most extraordinary, magnificently out of this world peach blossoms in all of existence! Splashed entries from across the orchestra would not be out of place describing Jackson Pollock, and I enjoyed searching for the instrument that was surprising us with so much exquisite wonder, in a delicious blend of modal melody structures and extended romantic tonalities.


Liesl Stoltz flute, Victor Yampolsky conductor, Frank Mallows marimba

Soloists in Klatzow’s Double Concerto for Flute, Marimba and Strings: Liesl Stoltz and Frank Mallows


Double Concerto for Flute, Marimba and Strings
Liesl Stoltz flute, Frank Mallows marimba, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, Victor Yampolsky
From the insanely technical introduction by strings (very well played) that leads directly into the marimba entry, it is clear that this work is highly demanding for soloists and orchestra. Mallows’ Marimba playing had my full attention for the entire exposition. He has a good balance with the orchestra – no easy feat in this hall, which has been known to swallow up the performances of lesser soloists. His four-mallet rotation technique is mind-bending and far reaching, creating a rippling effect like the surface of a pond in which two fish are frolicking. The part is witty and quirky, as if spoken by curious and fascinating alien who’s language one somehow understands, watching and listening enamoured as each sentences concludes with a satisfying and reassuring fifth or octave.

Stoltz’s flute was a lyrical soaring melody, occasionally passionate and insistent, overlaying the marimba’s rapid ostinatos. She brought her own fire, standing her ground in a stunning rich mezzo tone, often independent from the orchestra and marimba. I enjoyed the nod to Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances and again made a note to play this work on FMR – coming up!

At the epicentre of all the excitement, Yampolsky was the mast on which everything hung at various angles and tangents, holding it all together.


The Healing Melody
Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, Victor Yampolsky
I had a similar feeling about this work as I had for Klatzow’s “Congratulations!” written last year to celebrate the orchestra’s 100 year anniversary – I immediately engaged with it, swept up by it’s pace and excitement, wondering at it’s vibrant colours and shining peeling layers of brilliance, and then it was gone! It is not a short work, but so packed full of action that I feel quite unqualified to comment further before hearing it at least a few more times!


Brahms Symphony No.5 (Orchestration of String Quintet Op.111)
Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, Victor Yampolsky
Few among us are in a position to explore the musings that we may have at some point listening to great classical composers, that move along the lines of: If Brahms had written a 5th symphony, what would it sound like? Musing is easy, manifesting requires a composer of great skill, even if the answer is an orchestration of an existing work. I am both flabbergasted and excited by this chamber work that Klatzow has augmented into a symphony.

There are many examples of works, largely for piano, that have enjoyed the destiny of becoming symphonic works: Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition orchestrated by both Ravel and Rimsky-Korsakov, Ravel orchestrated many of his own piano works, Tchaikovsky’s orchestration of Schumann’s Carnival … but not so many can become a symphony as conveniently as this sonata-form viola quintet. As Brahms’ last work, it strikes a believable candidacy for becoming a 5th Symphony. Klatzow reveals in this work as much ear and soul in it’s accomplishment as he does in academic accolade. I found his part assignment convincing to the ear and believable of Brahms’ own voicings, and it boggles the mind how a 5 voiced quintet can become 10 voices or more in orchestration – where on Earth does he find all those extra notes?

I would agree with Klatzow’s observation in the program, that “Brahms would [probably] have composed a more substantial finale for the work, had it ended up a symphony”, and perhaps this observation applies to the whole work – Brahms may have reworked the entire piece for a much thicker, more substantial sound, perhaps developing one or two themes into the kind of anthems that we associate with the other symphonies. However, I found the arrangement delicious and easily repeatable.

Please take the Classical Top 100 survey!



2 thoughts on “#ConcertReview: Peter Klatzow 70th Birthday Concert – Liesl Stoltz, Frank Mallows, Victor Yampolsky

  1. A great review. Just one point – Op 111 was not Brahm’s last work – at the time he was considering retirement, but of course composed several piano and clarinet works after that.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s