Lucienne Renaudin Vary Trumpet and François Du Toit Piano – a FOM Soirée at the Table Bay Hotel Cape Town

Reviewed by Andy Wilding

The Ballroom, The Table Bay Hotel, Monday 21 August 2017

I enjoyed the soirée for two reasons, firstly because it showcased FOM as a truly extraordinary organisation. Seeing the unparalleled opportunity to make the most of an exceptional young star’s visit to Cape Town, FOM managed to book trumpet player Lucienne Renaudin Vary for a soirée on the day she arrived, which was three days before she performed with the CTPO. The soirée was enabled by The Table Bay, generously sponsoring their ballroom and stylish canapés during interval; Ian Burgess-Simpson Pianos, who sponsored a gorgeous Kawai, and wine from farms Groenland, Kaapzicht, Mooiplaas, Sterhuis, and Goede Hoop.

In a small city like Cape Town its clear, that far from competing with the orchestra’s audience, soirées such as this increase the interest in the classical music industry as a whole. By offering not one, but two opportunities to see Lucienne Renaudin Vary play, our audience is twice as richly rewarded. The oldest and still the most effective means of marketing anything is word of mouth:

More people talking about concerts = more people thinking they should go = more people coming to concerts.

The second reason I enjoyed the soirée is more obvious: the evening was enchanting. Professor François Du Toit has a wonderful way with the audience that reminded me of Howard Shelly’s presentation at the FOM Gala last year. Easy public speaking and phenomenal mastery of an instrument do not always keep each other company, so its always rather special to have an artist introducing each piece before playing it, giving it something of a salon feel. The duo opened with De Falla, the Siete Canciones Populares, in which 18-year-old Lucienne Renaudin Vary began to weave her spell. Disarmingly subtle, her conversational tone was mesmerizing, and if we expected at any minute to be blasted, instead we heard a beautiful rendering of Spanish poetry. And thus, having established total control over her instrument and the audience, what was left for us but to drift and dream, guided by an angel from a Botticelli painting?

François is simply one of the world’s finest pianists. His scope is tremendous – he seemed equally at home with this modern jazzy program as he seemed playing the Beethoven piano concerti with the CTPO last year. With Lucienne arriving on the morning of the concert, they can’t have had more than a few hours to rehears, and yet their timing was immaculate. Over dinner after the concert, François explained that Lucienne is extremely consistent, which means that all her tempo nuances are the same every time, and that allows musicians to be in time every time. Countering, Lucienne picked up François’ uncanny ability to bend time within phrases, but always land perfectly in tempo. This is one of my favourite characteristic of François’ playing, and places his Schumann concerto among my best 3 interpretations.

Seeing Lucienne play Piazzolla and Arien, Somewhere over the rainbow, I had the distinct feeling like a precognition, that she will very soon be performing to a stadium crowd on a massive stage with other world class musicians. You can laugh all you like, but after the concert she told me that she had in fact played to a stadium full of people in a recent festival! She is a sensation, a rising star, and that leaves me with the distinct feeling that everyone who was in that ballroom at the Table Bay Hotel that night, will be very glad they decided to brave the weather. Like François, she is equally comfortable playing the blues as she is virtuosing Rosini’s La Danza! Vive la Lucienne!

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