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

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

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

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: https://soundcloud.com/sdalecrawford


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.


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

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



Olga Kern, Bernhard Gueller – Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Berlioz #ConcertReview

Olga Kern, Bernhard Gueller – Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Berlioz #ConcertReview

Reviewed by Andy Wilding

Conductor: Bernhard Gueller
Soloist: Olga Kern
Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, City Hall, Thursday, 11 February 2016

For those who did not brave the chaos of the #ZumaMustFall “state of the nation address” – what a concert!

Ms Kern’s return to her beloved Cape Town was received with an exhilarating sense of wonder, and a feeling that one is very fortunate to be in the audience of such a talented and and inspiring artist.

Olga Kern, Bernhard Gueller, CTPO, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra #ClassicalReview

Olga Kern after the Tchaikovsky, with Bernhard Gueller and the CTPO

Tchaikovsky – Piano Concerto No. 3
If striking elegance, wiry strength, and washes of running fluidity are Kern’s calling cards, then last Thursday she played all her aces. I enjoyed her imaginative interpretation of the concerto, which I found fitting as the composer himself was not a pianist, and must have relied greatly on his own imagination when composing piano music. Often reaching beyond what seems possible, his work requires a certain imagination to perform. The cadenza extends belief in the potential of the instrument. With imploding complexity, it culminates in a point of singularity, a trill that sustains until order and believability is restored. It was quite a journey – a riveting performance of brilliant technique and exceptional balance.

And how did the CTPO follow such an astonishing performance? In a sweeping victory of artistic direction…

Tchiakovsky – Eugene Onegin: Polonaise
Yes! Exactly perfect! Already a little bamboozled by the concerto, the audience that night were swept into a triumphant procession of greatness and excitement, the likes of which so few other composers can approach, and the delivery was immaculate. I hope very much that the recording made that night will be available to play on FMR – this performance deserves a place as one of the orchestra’s greatest show pieces. They absolutely nailed it, and they looked like they were having fun! Amazing to be there.

Farida Bacharova, Bernhard Gueller, CTPO, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra #ClassicalReview

Conductor Bernhard Gueller congratulating concert master Farida Bacharova

And the excitement didnt stop there…

Rachmaninov – Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
After just a few minutes rest (the Polonaise is only 4 and a half minutes) our soloist was back for one of the most popular works in the repertoire. Conductor Gueller somehow managed to bring the surprises even in such a well loved work. Each variation hit the ground running, or in Ms Kern’s case skimming infinitely like a flat pebble across a tranquil blue lake. The syncopation makes the work challenging for any orchestra, often playing off the beat. With Gueller expertly and sensitively matching the tempo of Rachmaninov’s relentless piano, the CTPO handled this excellently, bringing to us those outstanding moments by Caroline Prozesky horn, Daniel Prozesky clarinet, Farida Bacharova violn, and Eugene Trofimczyk glockenspiel. Kern’s delivery was romantic and lovely, appropriately sublime or mind bending where required. All the favourite variations lived up to high expectations. Beautiful performance Olga Kern! Thank you.

We were treated to an encore: Rachmaninov Moment Musicaux Op. 16 No. 4 – a right hand of graceful power floating over the left hand cascade of stunning technique.

Bernhard Gueller, CTPO, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra #ClassicalReview

The final downbeat of the Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique, Bernhard Gueller with the CTPO

Berlioz – Symphonie Fantastique
This is a great peace to watch! There is so much magic and chaos in the sound, that it’s sometimes hard to imagine how the many elements and interruptions can be performed live, in real time, one take. It seems that, aside from conducting this work, one also needs to be an event co-ordinator, and Gueller plied this skill effortlessly along with his signature passion, tasteful balance, and love of surprises. A crown jewel of the symphonic repertoire, it was a rare treat to witness this performance unfolding before our senses. The waltz was a lightly wafting bright hazy afternoon surrealist dream, like elephants in hot air balloons floating around inside the concert hall.

Another show piece for the CTPO, it was an outstanding performance from the whole orchestra. Strings were clean and fresh, brass were strong, amazing performances from all the winds, bassoons mastered a very technical section, completely together. Jaw dropping solos from Gabriele von Durkheim flute, Sergei Burdukov oboe, Olga Burdukov cor anglais, and Daniel Prozesky’s extremely difficult wobbly witch clarinet solo – a tune made of trills – all but stole the show.

Olga Kern, Victor Yampolsky, Bernhard Gueller

Olga Kern, Victor Yampolsky, and Bernhard Gueller at the reception. Don’t miss Yampolsky next Thursday!

No government interference next week: Thursday 18 Feb

Strauss – Don Juan
Bruch – Violin Concerto No.1
Brahms – Symphony No. 4

Conductor: Victor Yampolsky
Violin: Jack Liebeck


FOM Gala Concert – Antonio Pompa-Baldi, Bernhard Gueller, CTPO

FOM Gala Concert – Antonio Pompa-Baldi, Bernhard Gueller, CTPO


Antonio Pompa-Baldi plays Brahms 2 in Cape Town

Reviewed by Andrew Wilding

Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, City Hall, Thursday 19 November 2015

What an amazing year for classical music in Cape Town! We have seen some of the brightest celebrities on the international circuit – Joshua Bell, Maria Kliegel, and last week Antonio Pompa-Baldi – walking onto the City Hall stage. As a non-profit organisation, FOM will direct all proceeds from this gala to support Cape Town’s orchestras and instrumentalists in 2016.


Brahms – Symphony no.3
Bernhard Gueller, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra

We are very fortunate to have Bernhard Gueller as a frequent guest conductor. His style and sound are characterised by a lyrical balance of sensitivity and surging power. Leading often by the mere change of facial expression, he always brings the best out of the orchestra and last Thursday was no exception, with stunning solos from the wind section – Sergei Burdukov oboe, Caroline Prozesky horne, Daniel Prozesky clarinet, Gabriele von Dürckheim flute – artfully carrying Brahms’ beautiful melodies.

The standard of performance was such that it allowed the natural function of Brahm’s music to emerge. His music has the potential to hold a space for the audience in which they can unpack accumulated stress, mental turmoil, and emotional anguish, and let go. It reaches all the sadness in ourselves and the world and establishes a dogma for it, a system of order that emerges from the wash of emotion. And somehow this dogma is very compassionate, and essentially in the case of this symphony, uplifting and liberating. In the paradoxically private sanctuary of a concert hall, one can experience the feeling of being moved – but only if the delivery is of an exceptional quality, and this was the wonderful case in both works for the FOM Gala Concert.


Antonio Pompa-Baldi, Bernhard Gueller, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra

Antonio Pompa-Baldi after playing Brahms Piano Concerto No.2


Brahms – Piano Concerto No.2
Antonio Pompa-Baldi, Bernhard Gueller, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra

It occasionally bears observing, that Brahms was himself a phenomenal pianist. He invented a previously unknown style of rapidly overlapping, widely spaced arpeggios, that require a somewhat unbelievable grasp of the instrument. It has been a long time since I heard a performance like this, and I don’t think I have ever seen one. Pompa-Baldi’s control of balance and dynamics enable hand-aching technique to sound like soft velvet, the hard edges of the keys seeming to melt into colours. His concerto was a rich luscious painting by an Italian master. There is a sense in his phrasing that speaks of profound mental and emotional understanding of the material, and of exceptional physical expression. The balance in his fingers is stunning, lifting the melody from a rippling accompaniment that spans the entire resister and frequently crosses the melody. His double octaves are astonishing. The orchestra was oceanic and nurturing – a transcendental cello solo from Kristiyan Chernev in the 3rd movement. There was such a tranquillity and beauty to this performance that it may well be remembered as one of the finest moments in the City Hall.


Bernhard Gueller and Antonio Pompa-Baldi

Bernhard Gueller with Antonio Pompa-Baldi after the concert