Peter Martens, Bernhard Gueller – Shaun Crawford Dvořák Tchaikovsky #ConcertReview

Reviewed by Andy Wilding

Conductor: Bernhard Gueller
Soloist: Peter Martens
Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, City Hall Thursday 16 June 2016

Shaun Crawford – Overture
The opening is enticing – flutes trill enchantingly over a soft bed of strings that blushes in Debussiesque tones. The pastoral air is thick with magic and the promise of exciting adventures to come. A show-piece of Crawford’s talent as a film and symphonic composer, Overture is a resolutely successful journey full of optimism and idealism. It was originally conceived to inspire young musicians, and as such it was well placed on National Youth Day. Crawford encourages international film-makers to take advantage of the Rand by completing their scores in Cape Town, with our world class musicians and production facilities. Examples of his work can be found on SoundCloud:


Peter Martens, Bernhard Gueller, Andy Wilding, Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, #CapeTownPhilharmonicOrchestra, #CTPO, #ConcertReview, #ClassicalConcertReview

Peter Martens and Bernhard Gueller after performing the Dvořák cello concerto with the CTPO


Dvořák – Cello Concerto
Martens has an innate ability to communicate through his instrument. Far beyond technique, he plays “with the blood”. The composer’s intentions seem to make sense to him as a fluent language spoken by his cello, expressing states of being, emotions, states of mind, thoughts, and sensations. His performance was an exploration of the mind and soul of the concerto, delivered in the sheer beauty of his phrasing and clear understanding of line.

Beneath all this, Martens walks on the solid ground of polished fundamentals, which shine in astonishing octave runs, soaring projection over the orchestra at full gallop, and hummingbird trills that hover for a while and then shoot off to another chord note. His pronunciation of staccato consonants and legato vowels is effortless. Vibrato is like a column of incense smoke – beginning strait and undulating as it accelerates.

Dramatic colours emanated from Gueller’s pallet, and the CTPO responded with distinction. The full tutti entry in the adagio was sudden and frightening, immaculate, totally in unison. Alluring solos by concert master Suzanne Martens and Caroline Prozesky horn.


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Bernhard Gueller’s final upbeat of the Tchaikovsky 5th Symphony with the CTPO


Tchaikovsky – Symphony no. 5
Over the last two decades of this writer’s experience, the manner of applauding at the City Hall has passed through a number of behavioural changes. In the mid 1990s it was fashionable to stamp ones feet while clapping, almost like a drum roll. The effect was rather a pleasing roar, above which could be heard applause and one or two whistles. In the last two years (the duration of this review) the City Hall audience has been reserved to clapping and occasionally standing up. That mould was gleefully smashed after the symphony last Thursday, by elated cheering and a full house standing ovation for Maestro Gueller and the CTPO.


Bernhard Gueller, Andy Wilding, Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, #CapeTownPhilharmonicOrchestra, #CTPO, #ConcertReview, #ClassicalConcertReview

A full house standing ovation for Maestro Gueller and the CTPO after Tchaikovsky 5


Conducting from memory, Gueller delivered an inspired, beautifully phrased performance that portrayed a sensitive and intelligent interpretation. He is a master of dynamics, seeming to nod or shake his head to indicate for a section to play piano or forte, with stunning effect. The composer’s beloved wind section featured excellent solos, and horns were exceptional in their pianissimo triplets. Exemplary ensemble playing by principles Brandon Phillips bassoon, Sergei Burdukov oboe, and Gabriele von Dürckheim flute. Mesmerising solos by Caroline Prozesky horn and Daniel Prozesky clarinet.


Shaun Crawford, Louis Heyneman, Bernhard Gueller, Peter Martens, Andy Wilding

Shaun Crawford, Louis Heyneman, Bernhard Gueller, and Peter Martens after the concert

Next week the CTPO returns with Conductor Daniel Boico and pianist François du Toit:


Christo Jankowitz – Revelation

Schumann – Piano Concerto

Saint-Saëns – Symphony no.3 featuring Erik Dippenaar organ



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