Reviewed by Andy Wilding
Bryan Wallick piano, Peter Martens cello, David Juritz violin, Suzanne Martens violin, Janna Thomas violin, Matthew Stead violin, Karin Gaertner viola, Emile de Roubaix viola, Marian Lewin cello, Barbara Kennedy cello, Eddie McLean cello, Cheryl de Havilland cello, Dane Coetzee cello
Old Mutual House, Saturday 14 May 2016
The soirèe was an initiative of the Friends of Orchestral Music in Cape Town, an annual event.
The histories of ancient Egypt, Sumer, India, and China, all describe a situation that persisted into the courts of western Europe and the modern age: fine culture thrives in the ideal environment where society places a high value on supporting the arts.
The perfection of high art and music has always thrived under patronage. Heydays are the result of the ideal social environment that permeated the soirée last Saturday. As it has been for thousands of years, those who are passionate and able attended and gave generously, and in return identified themselves and their organisations with the values of artistic genius. The result of nurturing and acknowledging a system of lofty cultural values may well be another approaching heyday for classical music in Cape Town.
Rachmaninov – Vocalise
Cello sextet: Peter Martens, Marian Lewin, Barbara Kennedy, Eddie McLean, Cheryl de Havilland, Dane Coetzee
The evening began with a deliciously smooth aperitif, sumptuous and rich like the cream sherry I was offered upon arriving. Originally written for cello and piano, the arrangement for cello sextet by Hans Erik Deckert features beautiful extended voicings and counterpoint. In shades of maroon and violet, Martens’ leading legato meandered heart-tuggingly between billowing velvety curtains of the accompanying quintet.
Rachmaninov – Cello Sonata in G minor
Peter Martens Cello, Bryan Wallick Piano
Entertaining us during the brief scene change, Martens modestly described the imminent work as a piano concerto with cello as accompaniment. His meaning regarding the piano part soon became clear, the wonderful second subject not unlike the second piano concerto op. 18. In fact the sonata was Rachmaninov’s very next work, op. 19 – a beautiful younger sister to the concerto. Wallick’s technique is crisp and sensitive, blending and balancing exquisitely with the cello. The effect was rather like a Renoir – a lovely dreamy hazy impression that on closer inspection reveals articulate precise brush strokes. We certainly were in the presence of two masters. Martens’ cello is one of the most beautiful sounds – a deep rich harmonic wooden stringed singing being. His playing is superb, compassionate elegant phrasing, and flawless technique. His bow knows the exact line between the tender softness and the hard edge, and this extra dimension is masterfully applied to his dynamics. He expresses a full range of emotion, from angst and agitation to acceptance and wisdom.
Mendelssohn – Octet in E-flat
David Juritz violin, Suzanne Martens violin, Janna Thomas violin, Matthew Stead violin, Karin Gaertner viola, Emile de Roubaix viola, Peter Martens cello, Dane Coetzee cello
Lest we forgot Mendelssohn’s childhood talent (as I had) we were reminded that he was 16 when he composed this masterpeace. And what a treat it was to hear these pretty, pretty phrases peeling off the stage in real time and total synchronism. With four violins, two violas, and two cellos, it was an incredible demonstration of dynamic variation and clean technique in a large chamber group that could also qualify as a small orchestra. Eight instrumentalists shredding in unison – it’s difficult not to clap after that! And what a contrast in the second movement, shrouded in mist and mystery, ending on the dominant, the Andante is an unspeakable enigma, beautifully captured by these artists as they crossed that ghostly Rubicon into the Gypsy-like Scherzo. One had to wonder how on earth a 16-year-old prodigy could be so worldly – and other-worldly. The octet delivered amazing dialogue between parts, and such a vibrant, dramatic finale – they just went for it, and their accuracy was exhilarating!
Bryan Wallick returns with violinist Rachel Lee Priday on 11 June for a Winter Matinée by the Cape Town Concert Series at the Baxter Concert Hall. Details here
Peter Martens performs the sublime Dvořák cello concerto, opening the CTPO Winter Symphony Concert Season on June 16. Details here