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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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Bernhard Gueller and Antonio Pompa-Baldi

Bernhard Gueller with Antonio Pompa-Baldi after the concert

Concert Review: Mozart, Chen / He, Mahler – Yi-Jia Susanne Hou, Martin Panteleev

Concert Review: Mozart, Chen / He, Mahler – Yi-Jia Susanne Hou, Martin Panteleev

Reviewed by Andrew Wilding

Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, City Hall, Thursday 5 February 2015

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Mozart, Idomeneo Overture – CTPO, Martin Panteleev
There was something crisp and clean about last night’s overture that shifted the paradigm of the day from which we had only minutes ago arrived, and brought an immediate order and clarity to one’s thoughts. Perhaps it was the subtle flow of fresh air from the high open windows in the City Hall – or maybe it was Mozart’s manicured musical manifolds! – But I put it down to a high level of skill within the orchestra, who presented a polished and impressive performance.
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Shen / He, Butterfly Lover’s Concerto – Yi-Jia Susanne Hou, CTPO, Martin Panteleev
The Concerto was written in 1959 by Chinese composers Chen Gang and He Zhanhao, based on a legend: the Butterfly Lovers, Jin Dynasty, c400CE. Chen and He were students at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, and although the work is written in western tonality and harmony, to western ears it does sound very Chinese indeed! I found it necessary to unhinge my western musical expectations, because they were getting in the way of the beautiful emotional expression of the work. Much like watching a “foreign” film, I enjoyed it much more with an open mind. As a free sound, without any judgement or comparison, it holds all the beauty and simplicity of the Tao – ebbing and flowing like the tide.

The opening scene was breath-taking – dawning over misty pointy mountains, a flute begins to sing in a near-by tree, answered by an oboe paddling in the bulrushes at the edge of a hazy mirror lake. The violin appears enchantingly, her haunting pentatonic melody and compelling warmth of tone counterpointed by drops and splashes of harp and piano. The movements are different flows of tempo that showcase the violin with a similar focus to Paganini. Hou said in her interview that the concerto is like an opera for violin, and there are lovely duets with the cello, beautifully characterised by Kristiyan Chernev – deep, moody, and Dvorakian. Although “folky” to western ears, the violin part is quite virtuosic, with a cadenza reminiscent of Kriesler’s Brahms. Hou’s alluring legato double stops left more than a few loose hairs on her bow! She is an engaging and emotional player, as comfortable talking to a concert-hall full of people as she is performing this highly technical concerto.

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Mahler, Symphony No. 5 – CTPO, Martin Panteleev
What an opening! David Thompson’s spectacular triumphant trumpet’s victory tragically turned to ashes, and Mahler emerged like a dark phoenix, in horns, tuba, and trombones. This symphony can only be a marathon for conductors and orchestras alike. The CTPO performed with outstanding focus and skill, with conductor Panteleev displaying a deep mastery of his art, methodically weaving and splicing fragments of parts like short strands of fibre-glass. As each part decayed and was replaced by another I wondered at the complexity of this symphony, composed by – lets face it: an extremely complicated person.

The Adagietto was sublime. As Mahler took refuge from the troubles of his earlier mind, we rested with him, leaving behind all the fragmentation, insanity, and schizophrenia of unfinished themes and entries that faded into disappointment after disappointment. The absolution was immaculate, a signature performance of wonderful dynamics and mastery of balance.

Then: the fugue – like a new mind sprouting from a seed – clear and perfect in it’s order and harmony. The emotion on the stage was visible, the playing was spectacular, and Panteleev’s interpretation seemed to conceptualise the perfection of imperfection. There are moments in the finale where Mahler slips back into confusion and abandonment of earlier themes (he even abandons an entire climax, never to be seen again) but: “This is Mahler 5th.” Panteleev seemed to say. “This is how it goes, and that in itself is perfection.”

Concert Review – Wagner, Beethoven, Brahms – Derek Han, Martin Panteleev

Reviewed by Andrew Wilding

Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, City Hall, Thursday 29 January 2015

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Wagner, Tannhäuser Overture – CTPO, Martin Panteleev
Playing to another full house, the winds made a graceful flawless opening in deep cooling tones like a refreshing current of turquoise, into which the deep blue of the cellos flowed majestically. Violins entered the flow as one instrument, then stirring trombones, and I was reminded of the world class quality of our highly talented and dedicated musicians. Wagner’s beloved wind section featured beautiful lyrical solos from Beatix Mari du Toit, Oscar Kitten, and Sergei Burdukov. From the synchronous strings, Concertmaster Farida Bacharova’s solos floated most breathtakingly.

 

 

Beethoven, Piano Concerto No. 3 – Derek Han, CTPO, Martin Panteleev
Han’s delivery was as pristine as it was elegant and unassuming, presenting a pure, minimal interpretation. I felt I was hearing the work as I had never heard it before, stripped of the performer-ego of over-done performances. There was a humility about it that included strong emotion, and there were times in the second movement when Han seemed to disappear into Beethoven’s world – hearing each note, like drops falling from a leaf in the rain. In his interview after the concert, Han remarked that each time he plays this piece it feels new to him, and I would guess that this is because when he plays he seems completely “in the moment” – almost like a meditation – not referring to any previous performance, just letting the sound happen.

 

Derek Han and Martin Panteleev after the concert

Derek Han and Martin Panteleev after the concert

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Brahms, Symphony No. 2 – CTPO, Martin Panteleev
Horns and winds portrayed the dawn of the symphony with an undercurrent of cellos, and mysterious trombones. As the strings entered with the 2nd theme I was reminded how brilliantly Panteleev balances the sound by identifying different voices of harmony, and giving each a different volume level. The effect is a wonderful exciting dynamic, not only in terms of the whole orchestra but also in terms of the constantly shifting dynamic between the parts. An example was the cellos led by Kristiyan Chernev delivering a beautifully phrased meticulous accompaniment, in perfect balance for the melody in the winds. I enjoyed the pacey scherzo in the third movement, and the excitement in the finale, dramatic pauses filled with anticipation, finishing with the whole orchestra unleashed, running free into the shining shimmering coda.

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Don’t miss the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra next week!

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Yi-Jia Susanne Hou

Yi-Jia Susanne Hou

Mozart Idomeneo Overture
Chen/He Butterfly Lovers’ Concerto
Mahler Symphony no. 5
Conductor: Martin Panteleev
Solist: Yi-Jai Susanne Hou – violin

Thursday 5 February 20h00
Cocktail Curtain Raiser 19h00

No open dress rehearsal; limited platform seats
Bookings: 021 421 7695