Reviewed by Andy Wilding
Winners: Yohan Chun (Classical, piano) Evan Froud (Jazz, alto sax)
Finalists: Evan Froud, Elizabeth Gaylord, Phathiswa Magangane, Colette Brand, Yohan Chun, Siphokazi Molteno
Judges: Evan Milton, Glenn Robertson, Mark Fransman, Dr Mario Nell, Ms Aviva Pelham, Ms Felicia Lesch
Endler Hall, Sunday 10 April 2016
The Fine Music Radio Bursary Trust Awards is an annual competition for undergraduate classical and jazz students, funded by the Rolf-Stephan Nussbaum Foundation. For the first time in the eight-year history of the awards, Fine Music Radio broadcast the entire event live, giving unprecedented exposure to all six finalists. FMR’s new turbo rocket, station manager Mark Jennings, has in the mere space of 12 months taken the radio station into a new orbit, launching live broadcasts of the Cape Town Philharmonic symphony concerts in February this year. In line with successful international models, exposure like this for classical music and musicians may well be the beginning of a new era for Cape Town’s music scene.
First on the stage was alto sax player Evan Froud, with songs by Winston Mankunku, Victor Young, and Sigmund Romberg. My first impression was of a professional musician, supported by excellent engineers. The sound was beautiful – perfectly balanced, mostly acoustic, with minimal, tasteful amplification. The soloist relied on the exquisite acoustic of the venue. (I was most relieved that the audience would not be blasted by ridiculous volume!)
Alto sax is a challenging instrument to play – one has to overcome the reputation of 1980’s rock solos, and it is surprisingly loud – but within seconds, Froud reassured us that we would enjoy his seductive tone, and skilful control of intonation and vibrato. I enjoyed his lilting rhythm, lazy but somehow always on. His runs were flawless, and demonstrated good breath control. I found him entertaining, dynamic, easy to listen to, and a deserving winner of the Jazz FMR Bursary.
Elizabeth Gaylord (piano) delivered a polished performance of works by Bheki Mseleku, Dietz/Schwarz, and Pamela Watson. She has good technique and dexterity, and wonderful solo dynamics.
Phathiswa Magangane (vocals) is stunning, and she has great stage presence, which is good for a singer. Her set was very technical – Joao Gilberto, Bheki Mseleku, Bud Powel – and she handled the Brazilian vibe very naturally, it suits her well. She has lovely a tone, good range, the scatting was amazing, rhythmically and intonationally tight (pun intended, she can go far!)
Colette Brand (cello) played works by Debussy and Paganini. There were soaring moments where she revealed a warm singing tone and good accuracy. Her Paganini (the devilishly difficult Variations on One String on a theme by Rossini) showed courage and ruthlessness, vital ingredients of success as a soloist.
Yohan Chun (piano) opened with the G# minor prelude by Rachmaninov op 32, with immediate hypnotic effect. The drama in her timing and dynamics showed an emotionally intelligent interpretation and individualistic style. I felt I was listening to the first track of an interesting new solo album. She plays fearlessly, unafraid to control the power of her instrument, which allows her to project her excellent technique and gives the impression that she would be able to balance her sound with an orchestra. Continuing with works by Schumann and Hofmeyr, she revealed impressive control in the repetitive rhythms of the last work, dynamically swelling and receding unpredictably, creating suspense and excitement. She has clearly had amazing teachers, and deserved to win the Classical FMR Bursary.
Siphokazi Molteno (mezzo soprano) has a beautiful mature timbre, good breath control, and accurate intonation. She sang works by Purcell (Dido) Bizet (Carmen) and Rossini (Rosina), revealing a range of characters which she played convincingly. She handled the coloratura technique very well, with good projection and dynamic control. I think she would project well in an opera house over a full orchestra and I look forward to seeing her on the opera stage very soon.
While the judges deliberated, we were treated to a performance of the Horowitz clarinet sonatina with Visser Liebenberg and Sulayman Human #Showstealer! These guys are awesome – extremely technical playing from Liebenberg demonstrating phenomenal breath control.