Michael Thornton Daniel Boico CTPO Bartók Strauss Holst #ConcertReview

Michael Thornton Daniel Boico CTPO Bartók Strauss Holst #ConcertReview

Reviewed by Andy Wilding

Conductor: Daniel Boico
Soloist: Michael Thornton, horn
Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, City Hall Thursday 1 December 2016

Program: Bartók The Miraculous Mandarin Suite op. 19 – Strauss Horn Concerto no. 1 in E flat op.11 – Holst The Planets op, 32

The finale to the CTPO Spring Symphony Season was a sold out event featuring an action-packed program creating an atmosphere of high energy and excitement. There really is nothing like being in the audience on a night like this – you can book now for the Symphonic Picnic Concert, Green Point Track on Dec 18. Details of the CTPO Festive Season Concerts at the bottom of this page.

Great solos make exciting performances. Bartók’s primal, alien portrayal of a zombie who just wanted to be loved, offered mesmerizing moments to Daniel Prozesky clarinet, Beatrix du Toit bass clarinet, Sergei Burdukov oboe, and David Langford trombone, who mesmerised obligingly. The augmented percussion section was tremendous and synchronous with the miraculous CTPO.

Michael Thornton, Daniel Boico, CTPO

Michael Thornton’s Strauss Horn Concerto no.1 with Daniel Boico and the CTPO

Michael Thornton’s Siegfriedesqu opening of the Strauss concerto drew murmurs of satisfaction form the audience. We usually hear only glimpses of this heroic instrument shining out from behind the violins for a phrase or two. It was a pleasure indeed to have a concerto dedicated to the lovely mellow-toned horn. Thornton has clearly mastered the barely visible technique of an instrument that uses only 3 valves to produce every note. He demonstrated astonishing accuracy, culminating in semiquaver triplets at an impressively brisk allegro, third movement. His phrasing was dynamically expressive and he always found a good balance with Boico and the CTPO, always audible, never overbearing. I hope to hear Thornton’s Strauss 2 in the near future.

Michael Thornton Daniel Boico, Daniel Prozesky, Beatrix du Toit, Sergei Burdukov, David Langford, Christoph Muller, Stephan Galvin, Frank Mallows, Caroline Prozesky, Susanne Martens, Kristiyan Chernev, Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra #CapeTownPhilharmonicOrchestra, Andy Wilding #CTPO #ConcertReview #ClassicalConcertReview

Daniel Boico with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra Spring Season finale: Holst Planets

After the interval, the atmosphere of excitement returned with the audience as they took their seats for the final act of the Spring Season – Holst’s Planets. Mars burst into synchronous staccato from every string player in a truly amazing performance of rhythmic mastery, brooding suspense, and cataclysmic explosions. In the hypnotic pentameter of 5/4, Boico brilliantly welded together overlapping parts with clear and concise gestures, seeming to play the entire orchestra. Jupiter’s arrival on billowing clouds of strings heralded another complex Rubicon of tempo changes and polyrhythms, nimbly navigated by helmsman Boico and a responsive CTPO. Exceptional performances by the percussion section, two completely synchronous timpanists finishing each other sentences (Christoph Muller and Stephan Galvin) and the immaculate accurate Frank Mallows on the Glockenspiel.

There are four awards for #ShowStealer in the category “Starry Eyed Impressions of Venus”: Caroline Prozesky horn, Susanne Martens violin, Sergei Burdukov oboe and Kristiyan Chernev cello. Aphrodite absolutely.

“The Industrial Sound And Magic” award goes to Marek Pinsky’s invisible angel choir from the realm of Neptune, which had every audience member searching the stage for singers hiding among the violas, guessing at off-stage sopranos, or preferring not to ask in case the voices were inside their heads.

Dont miss more CTPO magic on Dec 9, Dec 18, Dec 31, Jan 7, Jan 14, and Jan 22!!
CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS http://www.cpo.org.za/calendar/

Michael Thornton, Daniel Boico, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra

Michael Thornton and Daniel Boico at the reception after the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra Spring Season finale

Concert Review: Dvořák, Tchaikovsky, Saint-Saëns, Grové, Sibelius – Gerber, Schoeman, Shinozaki

Concert Review: Dvořák, Tchaikovsky, Saint-Saëns, Grové, Sibelius – Gerber, Schoeman, Shinozaki

Reviewed by Andrew Wilding

Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, City Hall, Thursday 11 June 2015

Andy Wilding #ClassicalReview Anz‎él Gerber, Ben Schoeman, Yasuo Shinozaki, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra

1st half: Dvořák Hussite Overture, Tchaikovsky Pezzo Capriccioso for Cello and Orchestra, Saint-Saëns “Africa”, Grové Bushman Prayers – Anz‎él Gerber Cello, Ben Schoeman Piano, Aviva Pelham narrator, Yasuo Shinozaki Conductor, CPO

The overture began at the heart of the orchestra, with opening winds projecting a tranquil pastoral scene, delivered with the excellent control that extended throughout the orchestra. The climaxes were hair-raising, with all the grandeur and commitment of a medieval Hussite army, charged with goose-fleshy thundering bass drum rumbles, and the accelerando into the coda was exhilarating! After last night’s performance, this may well have become my new favourite overture.

Anz‎él Gerber’s Tchaikovsky was a delight in it’s complexity – her dexterous fingers and graceful souring melodies concealing a clearly hard-earned technique within this virtuosic work for cello. And virtuoso was the flavour of the evening… If Saint-Saëns is occasionally overlooked as a great pianist, there was no doubting it after Ben Schoeman’s performance of the Africa fantasy. This highly technical, syncopated work is a juicy challenge for both piano and orchestra. Schoeman rose to that challenge with accuracy and sensitivity, and the orchestra held his syncopated framework together with the kind of wonder that one finds in architectural structures that have much of the load-bearing rhythm removed, and seem to defy possibility. It requires a master navigator to hold a flight like this together, and we were fortunate to have an experienced pilot such as Shinozaki on the podium.

I enjoyed the “Bushman Prayers” by Stefans Grové more than I expected after hearing his “Figures in the Mist” in October last year, which I found difficult to access. To quote Ben Rabinowitz: “In art we know when we like, but in music we like what we know.” – It’s quite possible that my ear is tuning in to Grové’s extended tonalities and rhythms, or perhaps Aviva Pelham’s passionate delivery of the prayers (poems by Dia!Kwain) helped connect the awkward, hungry, dissonant sounds, particularly in the first movement – Prayer to the Sun. But it was with the second movement that I connected most deeply: Prayer to the Moon. Gerber and Schoeman, to whom the work was dedicated, created a most beautiful, hauntingly mysterious Moon-rise that seemed to hover larger than life, as if we could see every canyon and crater on the Moon’s surface. The work is rhythmically extremely challenging, and well handled between Shinozaki and the percussion section.

Grové Bushman Prayers narated by Aviva Pelham, with Anz‎él Gerber cello and Ben Schoeman piano

Grové Bushman Prayers narated by Aviva Pelham, with Anz‎él Gerber cello and Ben Schoeman piano

2nd half: Sibelius Symphony no. 1 – Yasuo Shinozaki, CPO
There are few mediums beyond religion in which a gifted artist can describe God, but symphony is one such medium, and Sibelius is one such artist. From the eerie opening by Beatrix du Toit and Christoph Müller, (clarinet and timpani) conductor Shinozaki demonstrated a level of comfort that enables him to alternate between crystalline precision in his direction of details, and relative freedom in sections where the orchestra can safely continue at their present tempo. Another highly technical and rhythmically unusual work, the performance of this symphony requires the highest level of skill from both conductor and orchestra, and last night we were reminded of the world class calibre of the CPO. Shinozaki was dynamic and pragmatic in his interpretation, highlighting melody and subduing background, and the resulting sound was the symphony that the composer intended, an accessible print of Sibelius’ experience in lofty profundity and dogmatic human limitation.


Is this your favourite symphony? Please take the Classical Top 100 survey!



Next week the CPO returns to the City Hall with conductor Victor Yampolsky, Olivier Charlier violin, Elizabeth Frandsen mezzo, and Esewu Nobela tenor:
Glinka – A Life For The Tsar
Mozart – Violin Concerto No.3
Scriabin – Symphony No.1

Concert Review: Borodin, Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky – Oxana Yablonskaya, Dmitry Yablonsky

Concert Review: Borodin, Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky – Oxana Yablonskaya, Dmitry Yablonsky

Reviewed by Andrew Wilding

Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, City Hall, Thursday 2 April 2015

The Yablonskys From Left: Oxana Yablonskaya, Dmitry Yablonsky, Janna Gandelman. Dmitry is Oxana’s son, and takes the masculine form of the family name Yablonsky. In Russian, the feminine form of the family name ads an “a” or in Oxana’s case, “aya”. Janna and Dmitry are married.


Borodin, In the Steppes of Central Asia – CTPO, Dmitry Yablonsky
The enchantment of the opening melody was immediate – we were transported exactly as Borodin intended, to a windy grassland of lakes, yurts, and distant snowy mountains. We were treated to world class solos from the wind section and excellent low volume control by the horns. Yablonsky conducts with an unassuming confidence that communicates well with the players. They kept a suspenseful pace that highlighted the dynamic ability of the orchestra, and held this tempo as the work transforms into the majestic coda, richly embellished by warm shiny trombones and full juicy strings. It was a most delicious hors-d’oeuvre!


Rachmaninov, Piano Concerto No. 1 – Oxana Yablonskaya, CTPO, Dmitry Yablonsky
An extremely technical and difficult work, this concerto was first written when Rachmaninov was 16, and then underwent a number of revisions. It contains all the ambition and imagination of the young prodigy’s developing signature style, with occasional splashes of Tchaikovsky and Grieg. The pianist plunges immediately into a virtuosic, rapid melody in octaves, and it was a genuine pleasure to watch an artist of such calibre as Yablonskaya taking the roll of the story-teller in this spectacular show piece. Beyond her jaw-dropping technique, she creates amazing dynamics within phrases that bring to life Rachmaninov’s journey through beautiful mindscapes, with sudden changes in temperature and scenery.

The cadenza was explosive – a thundering, powerful narrative told by an enchanting orator, utterly compelling – spellbinding. Yablonskaya interpreted with the charisma of one performing a solo sonata, which I find perfectly placed in this concerto as the piano is undoubtedly the hero of the story. I enjoyed her dramatic sense of timing, good volume above the full orchestra, and when needed, her fingers run like clockwork! We are very fortunate to have procured Yablonskaya for this and the next concert, Beethoven’s Triple concerto.

After much encouragement, Yablonskaya presented a Scarlatti sonata – the perfect encore. It was like relaxing with a refreshing ice tea after an exhilarating voyage.


Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 3 – CTPO, Dmitry Yablonsky
Conductor Yablonsky’s style is easy on the ears. His subjects and sections were sensibly phrased and well built, which highlighted the form of this remarkably influential work. His beats are clear, at the top of his arc, causing concise entries even with the full orchestra in fragmented rhythms. The symphony, 1875, contains many themes from the Swan Lake ballet, 1875-1876, which Yablonsky presented lyrically and with a wonderful sense of movement. Another noteworthy influence is the amazing running section by the flutes, reminiscent of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumble Bee, 1899-1890. Tchaikovsky’s beloved winds had plenty to do, performing the balletic melodies with allure and grace. Bassoonists Simon Ball and Brandon Phillips are to be commended, mastering alternating octaves and tricky triplets; horns were stunning with an unusually long, seamless pedal tone requiring expert breath control; and clarinets Beatrix du Toit and Oscar Kitten were magical with rippling arpeggios over a deep sea of cellos.

Yablonsky maintained his majestic style that carried him into the phenomenal, ground-shaking coda, releasing all reserves, and leaving the audience with a smile.

At the reception after the concert, I was talking to a retired architect who described how he likes to go on a journey or “trip” in his imagination, while listening to a piece of music, which is exactly how I first connected with music from the romantic period. I wondered how many others accept the invitation of the composer and performer, to allow the participation of our imagination with the story being told. Are composers and performers are like hypnotists, offering us the choice to follow the journey, or remain unmoved?


Don’t miss the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra next week!
Beethoven Triple Concerto
Schubert Symphony No. 8 “Unfinnished”
Stravinsky The Firebird Suit

Conductor: Dmitry Yablonsky
Soloists: Oxana Yablonskaya – piano, Dmitry Yablonsky – cello, Janna Gandelman – violin
Thursday 9 April 20h00, Cape Town City Hall

Bookings: Computicket or Artscape Dial-A-Seat: 021 421 7695