Bryan Wallick Arjan Tien – Britten Prokofiev Mendelssohn #CTPO #ConcertReview

Bryan Wallick Arjan Tien – Britten Prokofiev Mendelssohn #CTPO #ConcertReview

Reviewed by Andy Wilding

Conductor: Arjan Tien
Soloist: Bryan Wallick
Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, City Hall Thursday 19 May 2016

Britten – Passacaglia from Peter Grimes
Tien’s second performance with the CTPO this season reaffirmed his style as easy to follow with clear tempo. At times his movements are minimal, which is a great compliment to the orchestra as it implies that they listen to each other for timing. This minimalism also frees up the conductor to express the nuances and dynamics of his interpretation, to which the CTPO were highly responsive. A dark Victorian scene emerged, featuring Paula Gabriel’s sonorous melancholy viola, and haunting celeste by Joanna Majksner-Pinska, peppered with precise percussion.


Bryan Wallick, #CTPO, Arjan Tien, Andy Wilding

Bryan Wallick with the CTPO and Arjan Tien after the Prokofiev Piano Concerto no.2

Prokofiev – Piano Concerto no.2
There is an understated kind of charm about this concerto. Beginning rather ordinarily, the work is embalmed with Prokovief’s unmistakable mystical logic. We find ourselves in the most unexpected places as if by magic, and somehow arrive back in the tonic. Wallick’s interpretation of this musical sorcery was Renoiresque – a hazy impression that on closer inspection reveals articulate precision. His playing was relaxed, contemplative, and very clean, portraying a healthy blend of confidence and intuitive accuracy. His fingers have a way of finding the right notes. As enchanting as the first movement is, the cadenza does rather stand out as the reason why any fiery pianist would perform the work. Growing in layers, the developments on the first subject become progressively intense, each new layer seeming to be the ultimate hight of extremism, only to reveal another even higher pinnacle. Time suspended as Wallick’s left hand plucked melody out from between the dangerous moving parts of his right hand arpeggios. With increasing conviction, it dawned on the audience that we were in the presence of a remarkable pianist, who plays like a Tai Chi master – organic and fluid, surging and ebbing, gathering and centering, accurate and intense.

The third movement Intermezzo was phenomenal – a magical macabre slow scary march from the CTPO, great interpretation by Maestro Tien.


Arjan Tien, #CTPO, Andy Wilding

Arjan Tien and the CTPO after the Mendelssohn with stereo double-basses!!

Mendelssohn – Symphony no. 3 “Scottish”
In the first half, Tien positioned the orchestra in the same way as the previous week, where the cellos and second violins swapped places so that the second violins were on his right. The double basses were placed on his left, behind the first violins. This of course changes the stereo effect completely and I enjoyed this very much, since the violin parts are panned left and right. Having the double-basses on the left, moves the bass into stereo, as opposed to being panned right. After interval, however, the four double-basses were balanced two on each side, as there is no bass brass in the symphony. Talking to two of the double-bassists afterwards confirmed my suspicion, that separating the section would present a challenge for them to stay together, but their timing in the performance was unaffected. The stereo effect was glorious – surround-sound double-bass!

Some would deny much of a difference to the sound on the grounds that, in a concert hall such as this, the sound from the stage bounces off all the surfaces, and by the time it gets to our ears, it’s all mashed up. It certainly is true that sound is shaped by the room, and reaches our ears from many different directions. Was there really any difference? Was my visual perception influencing my auditory perception? From my seat in the back row of the balcony, I conducted an experimented. I closed my eyes and listened, I heard violins playing on my left, opened my eyes and saw the first violins playing, and the second violins resting. The stereo effect is amazing. In the adagio, Mendelssohn’s theme was sublimely bowed by first violins on the left, with pizzicato accompaniment by seconds on the right, like a panorama photograph. Exceptional solos by Daniel Prozesky clarinet and Simon Ball bassoon.

The CTPO returns next season – Winter is coming.

Maestros Bernhard Gueller and Peter Martens

Shaun Crawford Overture
Dvořák Cello Concerto
Tchaikovsky Symphony no. 5.

Crawford is UCT, hear some of his work here.


FOM Soirée – Rachmaninov Mendelssohn #ConcertReview

FOM Soirée – Rachmaninov Mendelssohn #ConcertReview

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.


Bryan Wallick, Peter Martens, FOM soirée, #ConcertReview, Andy Wilding

Bryan Wallick and Peter Martens after the Rachmaninov Cello Sonata

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.


David Juritz, Suzanne Martens, Janna Thomas, Matthew Stead, Karin Gaertner, Emile de Roubaix, Peter Martens, Dane Coetzee, FOM soirée, #ConcertReview, Andy Wilding

From left: 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

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