Joanna MacGregor Arjan Tien CTPO – Prokofiev Shostakovich Stravinsky #ClassicalConcertReview

Joanna MacGregor Arjan Tien CTPO – Prokofiev Shostakovich Stravinsky #ClassicalConcertReview

Reviewed by Andy Wilding

Conductor: Arjan Tien
Soloist: Joanna MacGregor
Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, City Hall Thursday 2 February 2017


Pressure makes diamonds – or rubble, depending on the conditions. After a busy holiday season, the CTPO Express barrelled headlong into rehearsals for Rigoletto and a gruelling schedule of four symphony concert programs in the space of two weeks! Pressure indeed, but such is the pace of international orchestras. Perhaps CTPO management upped the pressure to ensure that our orchestra hardens, to attract international recognition as the glimmering diamond in the centre of the city. The marketing technology is already here, we just have to plug it in. Imagine using the rising tide of internet publicity to carry words and videos of CTPO performances to booking offices across the world. Cruz ships arriving in the harbour could provide organised tours to symphony concerts, ballets, operas, and recitals around Cape Town. Conductor Arjan Tien seems to provide the right conditions for diamonds to form under the pressure of this international dream. Last Thursday was an evening of un-square timing that required the steady hand of an experienced conductor to hold the orchestra on course.

Opening the Lieutenant Kijé suite, the off-stage trumpet of David Thompson interrupted the last few words of conversation in the audience, creating a delightful moment of wondering whether there was some kind of parade going on outside. Maestro Tien must have known all too well that he was catching the audience by surprise, in one of many ways that he has of creating an exciting performance of well known works. As the audience grappled with “have we started?”, trumpet was joined by feather-light snare drum and soft accurate piccolo, flute, and brass – an impressive demonstration of military precision and excellent control of the pianissimo dynamic. Three or four YouTube clips of comparative listening will reveal that few other orchestras manage such a soft touch to Prokofiev’s opening, which clearly portrays an army approaching from the barely audible distance. The suite is rich in solo performances such as the gorgeous melody of the Romance, with Christian de Haan on double bass, to the soft accompaniment of violas.

Shostakovich’s second piano concerto of 1957 is uncharacteristically accessible to the Romantic ear. Like Bartók’s third piano concerto 12 years earlier, it has the feeling of a work written by a mind that has travelled far beyond the cloistered walls of Classical counterpoint and Romantic harmony, searching for a more accurate expression of life’s suffering, tyrannical dictators, and massacres. In contrast with the chaos of both composers’ predominant “Modern” style, where the listener is sucked down into the abyss, the melodies in these two concerti convey an eerie sense of knowing true madness without actually going into it. There is compassion, as the safety of the harmony and tonal structures which the listener understands is respected, albeit using 12 instead of 8 notes. Psychologically this may represent the transcendence of trauma, letting go and moving on – both composers having survived the second world war. Of course a trauma like this leaves a scar, and there is an other-worldly, alien feeling to the melodies in these works. Shostakovich 2 is among my favourite concerti because I can understand and follow it, but it sounds like nothing else on earth.

MacGregor immersed herself in these bewitching, mind altering, pointy melodies, letting her fingers follow their training with astonishing accuracy. She is an outstanding performer and her love for the work infused the orchestra, her attention acutely focussed on synchronism, which is a big challenge in this work. Shostakovich gives us recognisable melody, but in exchange he takes away our concept of four beats in a bar – square timing. Conductor, soloist, and orchestra are tested to their limits, but the results last Thursday were phenomenal. The final movement features one of my favourite un-square timings, 7 quavers. Here MacGregor revealed a glimpse of her encore to come, seeming as comfortable accompanied by Senegalese congas, singers, and brass as a full symphony orchestra. She has in fact performed with Moses Mololequa on her previous visit to the City Hall. A classical musician who also plays jazz (to put it simply) has a noticeable connection via eye contact with the other instrumentalists, and this was visible in MacGregor’s Shostakovich, her eyes often on the orchestra, barely looking at her hands. Her dynamic range is wonderful, from the intense ecstatic accuracy of the outer movements to the sensitive tenderness of the Andante.

And then she played an encore.

In two works by Astor Piazzolla, Milonga del Angel and Libertango, MacGregor’s delivery was of Lisztian proportions. Arranging Latin music for piano must already be regarded as Lisztian in that Tango is played by at least three instrumentalists not counting piano: bass, percussion, and a melody instrument or singer, usually more. Piano transcriptions are extremely rhythmically complex to capture the offbeat bass rhythm, accompanying harmony, and melody – Liszt’s symphonic transcriptions are not far off. Even more entertaining was that, just a week earlier, the CTPO’s new piano was presented and inaugurated by Paul Lewis playing Brahms 2, review below. When MacGregor leaned under the lid of the new baby to mute the base strings of the rhythm she was playing, I could only imagine the inner gasps of horror from the audience! “Noooo!!! What is she doooooing to our new baaaaabyyyyy!!!” But the new Steinway sauntered out of its trial by Latin fire, brushing the ash off it’s collar without a hair out of place. The encore was an uproarious success.

Joanna MacGregor, Arjan Tien, CTPO, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra

Joanna MacGregor after the encore: Milonga del Angel and Libertango, Piazzolla

The evening of un-square timing was complete with Stravinsky’s Firebird, orchestra members fondly referring to the timing in places as merely “1”. Requiring focussed rehearsal, and clear indication in performing, Tien’s conducting style is ideally suited in its precision. Like a dancer at times, his movements are accurate, beats clearly visible at the top of his baton. This must be a huge relief for an orchestra, allowing the soloists to shine – sublime oboe and celli in the “Round of the Princesses”, and beautiful performances by principals Brandon Phillips bassoon and Sergie Burdukov oboe. Caroline Prozesky’s horn made the most goose fleshy spine tingly entry into the finale, the phoenix reborn, rising though the smoke of its ashes. It is among the more challenging works for orchestra and the CTPO’s synchronism was amazing. In this case, pressure certainly does make diamonds.

Arjan Tien, CTPO, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra

Arjan Tien and the CTPO after Stravinsky The Firebird

Arjan Tien, Joanna MacGregor

Louis Heyneman, Arjan Tien, Joanna MacGregor

Paul Lewis Arjan Tien CTPO – Berlioz Brahms Beethoven #ClassicalConcertReview

Paul Lewis Arjan Tien CTPO – Berlioz Brahms Beethoven #ClassicalConcertReview

Reviewed by Andy Wilding

Conductor: Arjan Tien
Soloist: Paul Lewis
Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, City Hall Thursday 26 January 2017


The 11th CTPO International Summer Music Festival opened with a refreshing sense of excitement and optimism that infused the concert from start from finish. In a quick speech from the stage before the overture, Cape Town Deputy Mayor Ian Neilson announced the budget of 46 million Rand to be invested in the refurbishment of the City Hall over a period of 4 years!! This music to the ears invited smiling high spirited applause and renewed our long standing hope that the city’s iconic centre of orchestral music would be restored to its former elegance. There was something of a Christmas morning to this concert, as if we had all been very good and Santa was giving us all the presents we always wanted. Lurking under the tree behind the other presents (second violins and violas) was a brand new Steinway, complete with red ribbon and bow. In another mini presentation before the concerto, orchestra CEO Louis Heyneman presented the keys to the piano to stage manager Salie Paulse, to further delighted applause. But this concert will be remembered for more than its heart warming sense of family, support, and success after perseverance far beyond expectation. The orchestra was on top form, and they had one of their favourite conductors leading them through a program that seemed as enjoyable to play as it was to hear.

Ian Neilson, Paul Lewis, Arjan Tien, CTPO, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, Andy Wilding #ClassicalConcertReview

Cape Town Deputy Mayor Ian Neilson announcing the budget of 46 million Rand to be invested in the refurbishment of the City Hall

Unusually, one noticed two conspicuously giraffe-like double-basses seated where the second violins would normally be on the left, and on closer inspection the second violins were sitting in the cello section and the celli were sitting in the violas and it was all rather confusing. But there is method in the madness, as Maestro Tien explained to me last year when he chose the same layout to conduct Melvyn Tan’s Mendelssohn 1 and Brahms second symphony with the CTPO on May 12. For practical and acoustic reasons, the layout of the orchestra has always been at the discretion of the conductor. Until Mahler’s time (1860 – 1911) it is very likely that the treble and bass were balanced equally across the stage: The violins are in front – 1sts on the left, and 2nds on the right. This creates a wonderful clarity as violins almost always play in two parts, and these two parts are more identifiable when panned left and right. Celli are in the centre for warm-heartedness, and double basses flank the cello section two on either side. Maestro Tien prefers this layout for works conceived before Mahler’s time – the entire classical period and a great number of romantic composers. Wagner (1813 – 1883) conducted his own works using the layout that is now considered modern, which is how we most often see the CTPO seated. The use by modern conductors of Wagner’s layout is due to his extremely high influence on composers like Debussy and Strauss and his continued legacy through Furtwängler into the recording age.

Arjan Tien has a precise clearly defined conducting style that seems to have a reassuring effect on the audience. His rhythmic visual upbeats project a demeanour of someone completely in control, calm, and easy to follow. His swelling crescendos are exhilarating, always leaving enough in reserve for a hair raising climax. Berlioz’ rousing galloping Roman Carnival theme recurs a number of times and each received a unique treatment. The overture may also be remembered for a stunning cor angles solo by Carin Bam and succinct precise percussion.

Paul Lewis, Arjan Tien, CTPO, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, Andy Wilding #ClassicalConcertReview

The CTPO’s new piano being carefully positioned for its inaugural performance by Paul Lewis

After some delightful ado to much applause involving the removal of a giant bow and ribbon from the shiny new piano, Maestro Paul Lewis took the stage. Things became somewhat surreal as the opening bars of Brahms’ 15th registered work erupted from tympani and brass. At this point the audience had a number of things to be excited about and it was hard to tell which was more fascinating: the sound of the new piano and how it differed from the previous one, or the phenomenal and faultless performance by a visiting international super star. The exposition of the concerto was for me quite a dreamy bemusing state of hypnosis where Lewis’ exceptional performance was unsurprising. I found my attention drawn to the bright singing tones of the decidedly beautiful new instrument, chosen from the factory in Hamburg by our own Maestro and professor François du Toit. The new piano is like the Mediterranean in sparkle, depth, mystery, and clarity all the way to the bottom.

In the second subject, I came to Lewis’ performance – gorgeous notes falling from the piano like soft rain. Lewis has mastered a remarkable artistic skill and control that stretches the timing of phrases in the span of his hand, never late, and yet so fluid. The development of the first movement rumbled in darkness and thunder… We were in the presence of Apollo! Such power. Accuracy. Elegance. It was a hair-standing-on-end performance that had us floating in our seats – a technically polished delivery of which any great pianists would be proud, imbibed with lyrical soul. He pronounces the profound in Brahms. The lilt in his line conveys a spontaneity as if improvising a story, the enchanted audience hanging on every word.

Paul Lewis, Arjan Tien, CTPO, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, Andy Wilding #ClassicalConcertReview

Pianist Paul Lewis and Conductor Arjan Tien after the Brahms piano concerto no. 1 with the CTPO

The interval was astonished.

Beethoven 5th Symphony, although standard repertoire, must be among the greatest challenges for a conductor. There is so much comparison, so many individuals in every audience and every orchestra having their own favourite version which they consider to be the benchmark. Arjan Tien led the CTPO in a distinct and individualistic interpretation that avoided the obvious without upsetting widely accepted norms. His treatment of the immortal and beloved ‘knocking of fate’ theme was crisp and dogmatic, with the answering line closely following the first, keeping a sense of movement and not over-labouring the obvious.

The City Hall has hosted one or two notorious cases of Beethoven Espresso performances, which many audience members and orchestra players found ridiculously fast (although this reviewer rather likes the pacey interpretations of David Zinman and Krystian Zimerman). As a piano student of Beethoven expert Dr. Stewart Young, I always enjoyed hearing about his internationally acclaimed doctorate research into Beethoven’s tempo markings. To present an all-too-short summery that no doubt excludes volumes of important facts: many modern researchers believe that Beethoven was using a faulty metronome and hence, some of his given tempi are not only impossible in many cases, but also contradict the Italian terms he gives (eg. Allegro con brio). Hence the wide scope for interpretation of the tempo of Beethoven’s works. A reliable source of reference is Beethoven’s student Carl Czerny who attended many contemporary performances of Beethoven’s works and played them himself, and from his notes it is possible to arrive at some astonishing reinterpretations of Beethoven’s tempi.

Tien’s tempi in the 5th symphony were exciting without raising too many eyebrows. My silent iPhone metronome app measured around 96 crotchets per minute for the first movement. This is by no means dawdling, but in my understanding Beethoven expected no less of a virtuosic performance from his orchestras as he did from his soloists. The languid opening bars of the second movement inspired a collective deep breath from the audience after the intensity and excitement of the Allegro. An easy 80 crotchets, it was a sensitive and lovely performance of perhaps the most well loved work in the classical repertoire, immaculately performed. Tien’s control over dynamics and the responsiveness of the CTPO is astounding: mid-phrase, an instrumentalist’s level can be brought up or down as if on a mixing desk.

The bridge into the fourth movement demonstrated Tien’s ability to make something old into something new, incredible suspense and trepidation as tympani and strings cross over thin creaking ice through the mist into the final movement. Even though we all knew what was coming, Tien brought the burst of triumphant fanfare that opens the finale in all its joy and relief, as if for the first time. He has an almost child like energy, irrepressibly jumping with excitement that is of course highly contagious and translates directly via the CTPO to the audience. However in that ecstatic state, Tien retains such attention to detail, artfully articulating Beethoven’s phrasing and accented notes. There seems to be a great sense of two-way trust between him and the CTPO as he brings them from full after-burn down to single threads and then back into glorious exploding fireworks. His tempo in the final movement accelerated to an exhilarating 110, and the CTPO obligingly ripped it up. They really are a formidable orchestra!

O reader, if you had a similar experience of this concert and feel strongly about supporting classical music in Cape Town, you can easily contribute to the already growing presence of the younger generation at symphony concerts by sharing this review amongst your friends, let them see what all the fuss is about, and bring a few of them with you to the next concert!

Arjan Tien, CTPO, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, Andy Wilding #ClassicalConcertReview

Arjan Tien with the CTPO after performing Beethoven Symphony No.5


Paul Lewis, Arjan Tien, CTPO, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, Andy Wilding #ClassicalConcertReview

Paul Lewis, Louis Heyneman, Arjan Tien

Yevgeny Kutik Violina Anguelov Daniel Boico CTPO Haydn Wieniawski Prokofiev #ConcertReview

Yevgeny Kutik Violina Anguelov Daniel Boico CTPO Haydn Wieniawski Prokofiev #ConcertReview

Reviewed by Andy Wilding

Conductor: Daniel Boico
Soloists: Yevgeny Kutik (violin) Violina Anguelov (mezzo-soprano)
Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Choir of Cape Town, City Hall Thursday 24 November 2016

Program: Haydn Symphony no.104 in D “London” – Wieniawski Violin Concerto no.2 in D minor – Prokofiev Alexander Nevsky op. 78

Boico’s signature exciting tempi and dynamic surprises at phrase endings were a perfect fit for the festive business of Haydn’s London. His clear time keeping ensured synchronous entries from the orchestra that gave the evening a brilliant showcase as an introduction.

The great performers that we have recently hosted at City Hall, amongst whom are Joshua Bell, Maria Kliegel and Howard Shelly, all share something in common. The moment they begin to play there is a discernible shift in the audience, as if every breath is held in fascination. We may or may not admit it, or acknowledge the ability in others, but I believe that we can recognise mastery even in the first phrase, from the way the line is expressed, just as we immediately recognise a pleasantly captivating voice from the first sentence uttered. Yevgeny Kutic’s first words were a mesmerising blend of passion, intensity, accuracy, and sweetness of tone. Continuing, it became apparent that his sound is gorgeous and his virtuoso passages are outstanding. He definitely plays “with the blood”. Seemingly without effort he manages to produce snare drum staccato without moving his right hand. Could be bouncing, could be magic.. Perlman might know: He tells a story about how Joseph Gingold (Joshua Bell’s teacher) learned staccato. Gingold was playing a piece that involved a lot of staccato but he wasn’t playing it so well. His teacher Eugène Ysaÿe (quite big and frightening) was in the audience and afterwards came backstage and asked Gingold “Where was the staccato?” Gingold replied “I’m sorry Mr Ysaÿe, I dont have a staccato.” So Ysaÿe said “Ok I’ll give you a staccato, dont worry just put the violin under the chin, ok now put the bow in the string, ok… GO!!

…But it seemed to be Kutic’s encore that won the heart of the audience: the Adagio from Bach Sonata no. 3 in C – a perfect balance to Wieniawski, gentle calm after the exhilarating roller-coaster.

Yevgeny Kutik Daniel Boico, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra

Yevgeny Kutik Daniel Boico CTPO Wieniawski #ConcertReview

Itzhak Perlman Virtuoso Violinist, I know I played every note – Documentary of 1978 youtube

Opening on beautiful winds, Alexander Nevsky brought smiles of recognition, with interval leaps that only Prokofiev could write. A complex work, this Cantata for Mezzo-Soprano, Chorus and Orchestra adapted from the original film score, seems on the surface to be a celebration of a Russian hero, 13th century Prince of Novgorod and Grand Prince of Kiev, Alexander Nevsky. But as the supposed triumph unfolds, the undertones reveal a highly sarcastic and horrific portrayal of Stalin, who felt that he should be seen by his people as a modern Alexander Nevsky. Stalin directly supported the propaganda film, for which Prokofiev wrote the score, released in 1938.

Boico brought a necessary sense of ruthlessness to the work, fearlessly unleashing the full power of Prokofiev’s unflinching criticism of propaganda that justifies horror as honour. The nightmarish Crusaders in Pskov and hellish Battle On The Ice are both extremely rhythmically complex and technically challenging works, but equally important is the sentiment that there is no honour in war, only horror. No winners, no victory, no heroes, no reason, only trauma – an unmitigated mistake. I had the strong feeling that Prokofiev wanted us to pay particular attention to this message, no doubt intended for those who still believe the propaganda that makes it ok to use military force to control people.

In sublime contrast were with the sweetest moments of humanity, family, love, safety, and reason, voiced by the Philharmonia Choir of Cape Town, and Mezzo-Soprano Violina Anguelov. I didnt understand the Russian, but her emotional communication and body language conveyed the sadness and disgust of an angel walking through a battle field after it’s over. She entered during the opening of the Field of the Dead, as if picking her way between fallen bodies who died in “honour” (horror). Giving a deeply moving performance of serenity and excellent control, she exited during the close of the movement, as if refusing to take any further part in the atrocity.

Richard Haigh, Violina Anguelov, Daniel Boico, Philharmonia Choir of Cape Town, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra

Choirmaster Richard Haigh, mezzo-soprano Violina Anguelov, conductor Daniel Boico, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra and the Philharmonia Choir of Cape Town

Easy music is easy listening, but great music reminds us to make great decisions about who we choose to be. Perhaps because of the music of Prokofiev and Shostakovich, we will recognise the propaganda of the next Stalin or Bush.

Louis Heyneman, Daniel Boico, Violina Anguelov, Yevgeny Kutik

Orchestra CEO Louis Heyneman with Daniel Boico, Violina Anguelov, Yevgeny Kutik

Beethoven 9 Schubert 8 CTPO Omri Hadari NAC Choir #ConcertReview

Beethoven 9 Schubert 8 CTPO Omri Hadari NAC Choir #ConcertReview

Reviewed by Andy Wilding

Conductor: Omri Hadari
Soloists: Siphamandla Yakupa, Elizabeth Frandsen, Lukhanyo Moyake, Mandla Mndebele

Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, New Apostolic Church Choir, City Hall Thursday 17 November 2016

Program: Schubert Symphony no.8 “Unfinished”; Beethoven Symphony no. 9

Hadari’s “Unfinished” was Zeus-like, a majestic and unwavering rule of lightning rod severity contrasting with tenderness and the sweet rocking of babies. At a breezy 114 bpm, his Allegro moderato was compelling, bringing the audience immediately into the adventure with a sense of movement and excitement. The CTPO was crisp, clean, light, and accurate, giving the impression of a chamber performance. From row D, the synchronised bow movement of the strings is quite striking, visualy affirming the precision in the sound. I enjoyed the contrast between the agitato violins in the first subject, and the wonderful sweet lyrical celli in the second subject.

Sawallisch has a recording of the Andante at around 80 bpm. Schubert’s indication Andante con moto – with movement, may well have inspired Hadari’s interpretation at around 104. Of course this is entirely a matter of opinion and personal taste, and a highly debated topic: one should never sacrifice a work for the display of speed or technique. My 2 cents worth: If the emotional integrity of the work is present, I like the feeling of moving through it. It gives me a clearer understanding of the shape and form of the work. At slower tempi I tend to become distracted in the detail, and lose sight of where the composer is going. Hadari gave us this masterpiece complete in its poignancy, serenity, pristine peace and perfection. Beautiful ensemble playing from the winds.

Omri Hadari, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, NAC Choir, New Apostolic Church Choir

One second after the last note of the Beethoven 9th symphony, Omri Hadari with the CTPO and NAC Choir

Hadari’s Beethoven seemed to take the CTPO to their limit and then hold them there while they annealed, integrated, and grew stronger. Here is the work of a world class conductor forging and tempering an orchestra while simultaneously giving a phenomenal performance that could make mountains weep.

In the first movement Hadari’s brilliant building, moulding, and shaping of phrasing described the feeling of enforced separation. The second subject, suggesting friendship and working together, is denied by the recapitulation of the first subject: dogmatic, primal, controlling, and domineering. Beethoven seems to be describing the human tendency to separate and control one another instead of working together and combining our skills to create win-win situations, as if to say “Muss es sein? Es muss sein.” – Are humans really that dumb? Yes they are.

Omri Hadari, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, NAC Choir, New Apostolic Church Choir, Farida Bacharova, Siphamandla Yakupa, Elizabeth Frandsen, Lukhanyo Moyake, Mandla Mndebele Cape Philharmonic Orchestra #CapeTownPhilharmonicOrchestra, Andy Wilding #CTPO #ConcertReview #ClassicalConcertReview

The second movement gravitated around 122 but Hadari’s tempo was fluid, highly expressive and always tasteful. The Presto picked up to 160, as steam rose from the bassoons and horns – excellent, well controlled, virtuosic playing. It was around this time that I noticed the extent to which Concertmaster Farida Bacharova fulfilled her roll as orchestra leader. With a challenge like a Beethoven symphony in which every member of the orchestra is expected to be a highly skilled virtuoso instrumentalist, the work is very demanding and the conductor simply can not look after all sections at once. Bacharova lead confidently and kept the orchestra integrated through some of the most challenging material ever written for orchestra.

As the tsunami of light washed over me from the angels of the New Apostolic Church Choir flying high over the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, I blissfully surrendered to the ever breaking wave of consciousness that is Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. There was no time or space, just awareness, and in that space I saw an auditorium full of mostly Caucasian people, and a choir on the stage full of mostly Coloured people, and I wondered whats up with that? Did I time travel back to 1980?

In the depth of such beauty and salvation, I felt the national split of the past, and I saw the thin veneer of “reconciliation” over the top, like a band-aid. I felt the bottomless sadness that perhaps inspired Beethoven to write his 9th symphony. Transcending his own struggle, being criticised for his personality and doubted for his deafness, Beethoven tried to show everyone in the world and in the future world, how to stop hurting each other, see our similarities, and forgive each other for what happened in the past. He knew what we went through in South Africa, it’s a tale as old as time and it will continue as long as people control and dominate other people. Spin the globe, stop it with your finger, you will find the same story there.

I felt separated from my brothers and sisters on the stage and I prayed with every cell in my body that Beethoven’s wish, and Schiller’s wish, and my wish could come true: “Every man becomes a brother… Every sin shall be forgiven.”

From what Iv seen as a therapist working with trauma and abuse, forgiveness happens when individuals decide for themselves that they are ready to make real change in their hearts, and their families, and their lives. Punishing can be replaced by forgiveness, we choose it. There will be objections; criticism; feelings of guilt; questions of betrayal, because the old ways of separation are still very much alive, holding us back in 1980. Forget about government, the only way to melt the shattered heart of our nation into one connected functional organ, is for people to do something real every day until it becomes normal: choose friendship and working together.

Omri Hadari, NAC Choir, Kent Stephens, CTPO

Omri Hadari with NAC Choirmaster Kent Stephens after Beethoven 9 with the CTPO and the New Apostolic Church Choir

Mandla Mndebele, Lukhanyo Moyake, Omri Hadari, Siphamandla Yakupa, Elizabeth Frandsen

From left: Mandla Mndebele, Lukhanyo Moyake, Omri Hadari, Siphamandla Yakupa, Elizabeth Frandsen

Nettle and Markham Mendelssohn Shostakovich Omri Hadari CTPO #ConcertReview

Nettle and Markham Mendelssohn Shostakovich Omri Hadari CTPO #ConcertReview

Reviewed by Andy Wilding

Conductor: Omri Hadari
Soloist: Nettle and Markham
Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, City Hall Thursday 10 November 2016


Mendelssohn Ruy Blas Overture, op. 95
Mendelssohn Double Piano Concerto in E
Shostakovich Symphony no. 5 in D minor, op.47

This concert honored Maestro David Tidboald, congratulating him on his 90th birthday. Tidboald’s contribution to the industry in terms of infrastructure is unparalleled. He established and conducted the KZN Philharmonic and the CAPAB and NAPAC orchestras. He also founded two major youth music festivals that provide vital performing experience to young instrumentalists, and prepares them for orchestra playing. With celebrations for Ruth Allen’s 90th the previous week at the Gala Concert (and again the following week on the 17th, which was her actual birthday) members of the city’s classical musical community experienced a trans-cultural custom as old as stone: honoring its elders. Our modern lives are so unrecognizable from their roots in pre-industrialised, pre-nuclear, tribal, socialist civilisation, that moments like these of gratitude for our tribal elders are strangely reassuring: In the throes of global madness, we are maintaining our humanity.

The overture revealed Hadari’s clear time-keeping and demanding expectation from the CTPO to play at the standard of the best orchestras in the world, to which his conducting style is accustomed. The result was a virtuosic performance with exceptional work from the strings. His outstanding control of dynamics was immediately discernible, always keeping us on our toes, and always assuring enough potential energy for climaxes to explode wonderfully.

Nettle and Markham, Omri Hadari, CTPO, Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, Andy Wilding #CapeTownPhilharmonicOrchestra #CTPO #ConcertReview #ClassicalConcertReview

Nettle and Markham one second after completing the Mendelssohn double concerto in E, with Omri Hadari and the CTPO

The concerto (MWV 5) performed by Nettle and Markham has a tremendous history, beautifully told by David Nettle in the program. Mendelssohn composed it in 1823 aged 14, but revised it later on. The concerto remained in a state of flux until his early death and was not published, hence it does not have an opus number, but a Mendelssohn-Werkverzeichnis number or MWV, German for Mendelssohn Work Index. The MWV was established because the composer did not keep up with his admin – He cataloged only 72 works with opus numbers, and then died, leaving 121 works to be added posthumously. Several versions of the concerto exist, in various states of development, and in all the confusion Nettle and Markham found it best to create their own edition, favoring the original 1823 version.

Nettle and Markham, Omri Hadari, CTPO, Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, Andy Wilding #CapeTownPhilharmonicOrchestra #CTPO #ConcertReview #ClassicalConcertReview

Nettle and Markham with Omri Hadari, Mendelssohn double concerto in E

Their edition is scintillating, playful, and wise – all our favorite reasons to listen to Mendelssohn. As entertaining to see as it was to hear, watching the runs and witty exchanges was simply delightful. Nettle and Markham are extremely well matched, sharing a flawless technique and shapely sense of phrase. Repetitions are never the same, but explore a different interpretation of line, changing the meaning of the sentence even though the words are the same. The exciting acellerando into the coda of the first movement had everyone on the edge of their seats. The CTPO was outstanding – lively soft lyrical violins and a horn entry in the Adagio that was dolce de leche.

Shostakovich 5th is a treat for the romantic music lover, an explicit emotional expression of sarcastic submission and yearning for freedom under tyrannical rule. Hadari’s dynamism is ideally suited to such dramatic works as this. Many people experience great romantic works as a journey in the imagination, where the music tells the story. Hadari’s mastery articulates the subtleties of his interpretation, like the terrifying power of Stalinist Russia: a dread march that develops a splinter motive of resistance and hope from the trumpets. This leads to a cacophonic anticlimax, like the momentary appearance of the cold sun on a freezing Siberian evening. After the trumpets had stated their protest, Hadari’s Stalin marched on without so much as blinking. Political propaganda swallowed that trumpet’s protest, as if it had never happened.

Omri Hadari, Patrick Goodwin, CTPO, Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, Andy Wilding #CapeTownPhilharmonicOrchestra #CTPO #ConcertReview #ClassicalConcertReview

Omri Hadari congratulating concertmaster Patrick Goodwin and the CTPO after the Shostakovich 5th symphony

The show stealer for me was concertmaster Patrick Goodwin’s awkwardly pretty solo in the midst of a macabre, military ball, a paradox beautifully illustrated by Hadari’s skill. The CTPO painted these musical pictures in world class standards. String technique was astounding, annunciating a perfectly synchronous pianonissimo pizzicato, with accellerando! Stunning ensemble playing from winds, bassoons expertly handing the oddly high register. Beautiful solos by Gabriele von Durckheim flute, Daniel Prozesky clarinet, and Caroline Prozesky horne. As the first movement drew to a close, the melody seamlessly passed from flute (von Durckheim) to picolo (Bridget Wilson) to violin (Patrick Goodwin) – an outstanding moment of magic.

Omri Hadari, CTPO, Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, Andy Wilding #CapeTownPhilharmonicOrchestra #CTPO #ConcertReview #ClassicalConcertReview

Standing ovation for Hadari and the CTPO after the Shostakovich 5th symphony

Hadari’s demands on the orchestra are relentless, continuously sculpting the balance and tempo, and insisting on absolute precision. The results that he produces are spectacular and remind us why we attend classical concerts. Pressure makes diamonds – If sound is anything to go by, playing under Hadari is extremely good for the CTPO!

David Nettle, Richard Markham, Louis Heyneman, Omri Hadari

From left: David Nettle, Richard Markham, Louis Heyneman, Omri Hadari

FOM Gala Concert 2016 Howard Shelley CTPO #ConcertReview

FOM Gala Concert 2016 Howard Shelley CTPO #ConcertReview

Reviewed by Andy Wilding

Conductor / Soloist: Howard Shelley
Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, City Hall Thursday 3 November 2016

Symphony no.35 in D “Haffner”
Piano Concerto no. 18 in B-flat
Piano Concerto no. 20 in D minor

The Friends of Orchestral Music is a registered non-profit organisation that is dedicated to supporting classical orchestral music in Cape Town. The lion’s share of the funds raised are presented to the orchestra, but FOM also enables a variety of up-and-coming instrumentalists, assisting with bursaries and outreach programs.

FOM, Friends of Orchestral Music, CTPO, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra

Cheque please! FOM Chairman Derek Auret presented R300,000 to CTPO Chief Executive Louis Heyneman on 24 Nov 2016

FOM fund raising events are planned throughout the year, most notably the enchanting soirées featuring local and international soloists and chamber ensembles. FOM also collects a R50 donation per person at the CTPO open dress rehearsals, usually held at the City Hall on the morning of the performance. By far the most glamorous event in the FOM calendar is the annual Gala Concert, an exciting opportunity to showcase the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra in the light of an international star, and 2016 was no exception. The CTPO gave a shining performance conducted from the piano by natural born entertainer Howard Shelley. The evening was a critically acclaimed success, graciously sponsored by Nussbaumstigting, and Naspers (who sponsored the Joshua Bell concert last year.)

Ruth Allen, Bernhard Gueller, Howard Shelley, Shirley de Kock Gueller

Ruth Allen with maestros Bernhard Gueller and Howard Shelley, and CTPO marketing executive Shirley de Kock Gueller

The 2016 Gala Concert will also be remembered as Ruth Allen’s 90th birthday present! The concert was dedicated to this rare jewel of the classical art and music community – an industry mainstay; an indomitable supporter of classical music through feast and famine. What a birthday present this must have been, to see the orchestra that she had helped return from the Isle of the Dead, thriving, fierce, and full of life.

A program that features works from one composer feels quite focussed and calming, like arriving at a holiday destination with no further plans to travel, because you are exactly where you want to be. With Shelley’s Mozart program, we were comfortably transported into the Vienna of the 1780s and allowed to wonder around, explore the society, experience the culture. The symphony was elegantly phrased and impressively accurate. The Andante, around 72 bpm, was a leisurely stroll distinct in it’s complete absence of urgency, providing plenty of space to hang ones thoughts.

Howard Shelley, CTPO, Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, #CapeTownPhilharmonicOrchestra, #CTPO, #ConcertReview, #ClassicalConcertReview, Andy Wilding

Maestro Howard Shelley’s charming, entertaining, and interesting introduction to the piano concerto nr. 18 in B-flat

Maestro Shelley earned his supper a few times over, giving his audience a delightfully entertaining master class before the B-flat piano concerto. He told us to listen out for the winds, who would be playing a greater part than in any concerto before, and also rattled off an astounding array of examples on the keyboard where Mozart had used variations or derivations of the opening phrase of the 18th in other piano concerti. Thus, with his audience eating out of his hand, he rang the bonus bell: charm. It requires a skill that precious few performers have or take the time to develop: the skill of talking to the audience. There is an immediate intimacy even in a concert hall, with a performer who speaks, a kind of subconscious capcha test – Are you a robot? Seeing the humanity in the way an instrumentalist speaks is (almost always) endearing.

Lid off, Shelley got down to business, delivering amazing balance and sensitivity with the orchestra, and a cadenza of astonishing accuracy. Wondering far from the tour bus, I came to the conclusion that Mozart would be enjoying Shelley’s demonstration of the piano forte immensely, and probably envying it over his baroquey harpsichord at home. Shelley’s Andante was as dramatic as he promised it would be, having explained in his short introduction that Mozart was fond of infusing his second movements with operatic lyricism.

Howard Shelley, CTPO, Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, #CapeTownPhilharmonicOrchestra, #CTPO, #ConcertReview, #ClassicalConcertReview, Andy Wilding

Another of maestro Howard Shelley’s charming, entertaining, and interesting introductions for piano concerto nr. 21 in D minor

After interval we were rewarded with another of Shelley’s wonderful introductions, which served not only to remind us to look out for Beethoven’s cadenza in the first movement and Hummel’s in the third, but also that FOM Gala Concerts offer something special to the music lover. There is a sense of witnessing history in the making, to be in the audience of an icon performing on the City Hall stage. And what a pleasure to host a star so comfortable in his world that he speaks piano as his home language, whether illustrating a quick example or playing entire works from his iPad.

His D minor was sublime in its clarity, precision, and serenity. Not uncommonly a fan of exciting tempi, I enjoyed the Romanza’s languid first subject, a shade lazier than the Haffner Andante, and the dreaminess contrasted well with the fiery passion of the second subject. Beautiful ensemble playing from the winds.

Howard Shelley, CTPO, Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, #CapeTownPhilharmonicOrchestra, #CTPO, #ConcertReview, #ClassicalConcertReview, Andy Wilding

Howard Shelley’s concert will have very special place in the CTPO hall of fame.


Bernhard Gueller, Howard Shelley

Maestros Bernhard Gueller and Howard Shelley having a word after the concert, dedicated to Ruth Allen (in pink)

Rachel Lee Priday, CTPO & Daniel Boico – Ravel Prokofiev Rachmaninov #ConcertReview

Rachel Lee Priday, CTPO & Daniel Boico – Ravel Prokofiev Rachmaninov #ConcertReview

Reviewed by Andy Wilding

Conductor: Daniel Boico
Soloist: Rachel Lee Priday
Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, City Hall Thursday 30 June 2016

Thousands of years from now, archaeologists will say that the internet is one of the most important and transformative tools in the history of human development. Cape Town is a small city, but it is still relatively easy to be disconnected and believe that there is no money here, and that all the great events in classical music happen overseas. Just the other day I sat next to someone at a concert who had not heard of Fine Music Radio! But that is all changing at fibre-optic speed. Frequent events like the 35th Belvedere Singing Competition are constant reminders to Capetonians that our orchestra and facilities are a beacon on the map of Africa, a stunning destination for classical musicians and competitions. The internet is our ticket to being included in the rich explosion of classical events that seems to be growing in our Mother City. And what would happen if our City Hall and Baxter concerts were video broadcast onto a website for all the world to see, like the Berlin Philharmonic’s Digital Concert Hall?

Are we ready to go global?

Ravel – Alborada del Gracioso
We have a world-class orchestra, I hear it all the time from people who travel. Last Thursday the CTPO was on top form and impeccably synchronised with their percussion section. We have world-class conductors, Daniel Boico has worked closely with Barenboim, Boulez, and Mehta. His Ravel was scintillating, conveying the timeless allure of a Mediterranean village. Approximately translating as “Morning song of the Jester”, it is an orchestral show-piece with plenty of mystery and passion befitting the genre. The bassoon of Simon Ball serenaded over the atmospheric pianissimo orchestra that occasionally exploded in surprising and spectacular colour.


Rachel Lee Priday, Daniel Boico, Simon Ball, Sergie Burdukov, Gabriele von Dürckheim, Daniel Prozesky, Brandon Phillips, Hamman Schoonwinkel, Patrick Goodwin, Olga Burdukova, Andy Wilding, Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, #CapeTownPhilharmonicOrchestra, #CTPO, #ConcertReview, #ClassicalConcertReview

Rachel Lee Priday with the CTPO for Prokofiev Violin Concerto No.1 conducted by Daniel Boico

Prokofiev – Violin Concerto No.1
Priday is an alluring, enigmatic performer, delighting in the contrasts of ethereal serenity and electrifying volcanism. Her interpretation of the concerto was an exploration of these ideas, opening on a single glistening gossamer thread that became darker, thicker, and more menacing. Accentuating the harmonic angst of the second subject and its edgy awkwardness, she revealed the volcano – a lava-flow of shredding scales and explosive pizzicato. She’s a live wire! … And only too easily, it’s all dreamy back-lit misty dew drops again. There’s a kind of amnesia following the storm, an almost post-apocalyptic surrealism that quite aptly describes human nature. We want to forget – we want to go back to the blissful dream again.


Daniel Boico, Simon Ball, Sergie Burdukov, Gabriele von Dürckheim, Daniel Prozesky, Brandon Phillips, Hamman Schoonwinkel, Patrick Goodwin, Olga Burdukova, Andy Wilding, Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, #CapeTownPhilharmonicOrchestra, #CTPO, #ConcertReview, #ClassicalConcertReview

The CTPO with Daniel Boico after Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances

Rachmaninov – Symphonic Dances
We really do have a phenomenal orchestra. I know they’re just doing their jobs, but performing as a job means doing the job perfectly. Double-basses took their tricky fast wide reaches in their stride, the wind solos were breathtaking by Sergie Burdukov, Gabriele von Dürckheim, Daniel Prozesky and Brandon Phillips. And the award for #ShowStealer goes to: Hamman Schoonwinkel for his melancholy, lyrical, totally Rachmaninovian saxophone solo!

The Scherzo was bliss and rapture. This macabre, deeply beautiful waltz has three of my favourite things: 1) Ominously muted brass; 2) a concertmaster solo; (sublime, Patrick Goodwin) and 3) Olga Burdukova’s cor anglais.

Boico’s conducting is bold and sumptuously romantic. Never afraid to pause slightly or take his time describing a particularly beautiful phrase, his tempi are organic and expressive. His communication with the CTPO is excellent: they understand each other well. This could only be true because in many parts of the symphonic work, the timing is off beat and complex, and last Thursday the CTPO handled the corners like a Ferrari – mastering a finicky timing chicane into the final accelerando and coda – what an amazing ride!


Louis Heyneman, Rachel Lee Priday, Daniel Boico

Louis Heyneman, Rachel Lee Priday, Daniel Boico



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35th International Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition FINALS