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

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