Reviewed by Andy Wilding
Conductor: Victor Yampolsky
Soloist: François Du Toit
Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, City Hall, Thursday 25 February 2016
The second half of François Du Toit’s birthday party began with a synchronous dominant seventh, leading into a beautiful theme from Beethoven’s immortal beloved winds. Conductor Yampolsky’s perfectionism, precise communication, and exciting interpretation secured this overture as another shining example of the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra’s high calibre. The second subject in the violins was crisp and refreshing like crunchy lettuce. All the string parts are technically demanding, and were well performed to the virtuosic standard of the composer.
Throughout the stunning opening movement of the Third Piano Concerto I could not take my eyes off the keys, watching clean runs, accentuated phrase endings, and passionate legato melodies. The cadenza suspended reason – the trills seemed automated, like the sorcerers apprentice commanding the broom. Yampolsky brought the orchestra into synchronous entries like a single breathing being, voicing a beautiful fugue in the 3rd movement between celli, violas, violins, and double basses and winds, each part sounding as one, a sublime quartet.
The Fifth Piano Concerto commenced in all the regalia and sweeping majesty of it’s epithet Emperor. Du Toit reigned absolute, with such precision of emotive dynamics, like pristine diamonds dropping from the piano. The audience was free to wonder how Beethoven composed this work after becoming completely deaf. Were we the first audience to wonder if perhaps he was able to “hear” better without the distractions of earthly sound? Perhaps only because of his loss of hearing, was he able to engage in the most profound conversations with the cosmos, and take down the dictation of the music he was hearing in that state of consciousness. Certainly, his lofty first movement theme in the high register of the piano had the audience suspended as if by threads from Heaven. Do we hear in Beethoven’s deafness, the Music of the Spheres?
The adagio was exquisite – each note a drop of liquid gold, sustained by stunning control from the horns, holding that mystical space between the 2nd and 3rd movement – and what a finale! A world-class dialogue between piano and orchestra, amazingly balanced. One of the notes I made during the performance read: “How can one instrument match so many? Beethoven!” Clearly I was a little over-excited, but it wasnt just me – an international swallow I spoke to excitedly told me that he would call it “The Event of the Season”.
Next Thursday the CTPO returns with conductor Omri Hadari for the Jewish Community Gala:
Bernstein – Candide Overture
Gershwin – Rhapsody in Blue
Rachmaninov – Symphony no. 2
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