Reviewed by Andrew Wilding
Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, City Hall, Thursday 29 January 2015
Conductor: Perry So
Soloist: Maria Solozobova
“Finlandia” op. 28
Were he alive today, Jean Sibelius would celebrate his 150th birthday on Tuesday 8 December this year, which seems quite a good excuse for an all Sibelius bill, not that any excuse is needed. I was delighted by the selection, as were many other back-seat conductors I noticed sitting in the balcony. The overture had the feeling of a show-piece, demonstrating a dramatic contrast in dynamics and tempo. The composer’s beloved brass section was very much in the spotlight for the evening, beginning with their clearly spoken entry and slightly terrifying swells. The tempo in the first section was sober and respectful, almost funereal, forming a stark comparison to the second section which I felt was more pacey than usual, making for a more exciting overall effect. The winds were gorgeous, perfectly synchronised and beautifully phrased.
Violin concerto in D minor op. 47
The violins fabricated a seamless immaculate misty lake, into which the soloist floated, her graceful right arm seeming to defy gravity, and such a warm resonance coming from her instrument. Her interpretation was quite unique, with unusual emphasis in the arpeggios and an appropriate lilt in her rhythm. The virtuosic Paganini caprice no. 24 encore impressively demonstrated her ability and technical skill.
Symphony no. 2 in D minor op.43
This is a highly challenging symphony – bewildering syncopation with melodic rhythms often off the beat; surprise entries; quick unforgiving ppp passages – and therefore, a successful performance is rare and spectacular when it occurs. Equal accolade is deserved by every member of the CTPO and conductor Perry So, for achieving the rendering that we heard last Thursday. It was very close to Beecham, but without the shouting. This composer is so unique, his part arrangement unlike any other, and although there are sounds of giants like Wagner and Tchaikovsky, there are long passages where no reference can be be heard to the world of Viennese or Russian composing. Both So and Beecham seem to have a deep understanding of the composer, of the subtleties of the anticlimaxes, the slowly building ground-swell of brass, the feeling of the climaxes, like climbing a mountain and topping out, when the magnificence of it all comes into view. Basses and celli were spell-masters beginning the 2nd movement, weaving the entrance into the underworld, very Isle of the Dead! As with Finlandia, we heard an exciting tempo contrast from the 2nd into the 3rd movement – a scorcher, very technical for the whole orchestra, and the finale was a total endorphine rush. The accurate interpretation and competent performance of a great work reveals its innate ability to elevate those who are open to it, like Mahidhara’s Rachmaninov two weeks ago, and I felt that this was again achieved by So and the Cape Town Philharmonic last week. This has always been one of those works that leaves me wondering how the composer express such powerful and recognisable emotions that describe the entire human experience, so that long after the sound has faded, the audience can have a feeling of having being shown all that is. The thought in my mind that sustained through the applause was “How does he know?”
View more photos of the concert here
Book now for next Thursday: Maestro Bernhard Gueller returns!
Respighi “Fountains of Rome” and “Pines of Rome”
Shostakovich piano concerto no 1 – Natalia Lavrova, pinao
Haydn symphony no 83 “La Poule”
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