The third concert of the second season features a lovely variety of music with Alexander Ramm on cello.
The concert started with the Serenade for Wind Instruments in E flat major, Op 7 – TRV 106 (1881) by Richard Strauss, one of his very early works – he was still a schoolboy when it was composed. Although it is very pretty music it already hints at the ‘modern’ music which Strauss would later compose. The wind section of JPO used Merryl Monard and Malane Hofmeyr-Burger on flute, Gary Roberts and Lesley Stansell on oboe, Philip Coetzee and Morne van Heerden on clarinet, Penny Ives and Braam Henkins on bassoon with Kgothatso Kekana on double bassoon. The horn section comprised Shannon Armer, Christopher Bishop, Peter Griffiths and Rudolf van Dyk. The wind section of the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra is definitely its strongest section and their playing was wonderful. I don’t think Naxos have yet recorded this work, for I couldn’t find any reference to it.
Gerhard Korsten is the conductor for the third and fourth weeks of the season and the orchestra loves working with him. I enjoy hearing the orchestra under his direction, finding him particularly empathetic to the soloists, but all round his musicianship is flawless.
The soloist for Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante is the Russian Alexander Ramm, whom I first heard when he was in South Africa for the Unisa International String Competition in 2010, in which he came second in the cello section. He played exquisitely. The only criticism which I can possibly make is that he desperately needs a haircut, that or some clips to keep the hair out of his face. I didn’t know the work, but I thought it was marvellous, thanks at least partly to the beautiful rich tone Alexander Ramm gives it. He made the ridiculously difficult cadenza look easy and it sounded magnificent. The Naxos recording of this work features Alexander Rudin with the Ukraine National Symphony Orchestra 8.553624. For an encore Ramm played Cassado’s Cello Suite, a work entirely unknown to me before, but lovely and very showy.
The Enigma Variations by Elgar was the only piece of the evening with which I was familiar. Elgar went to the grave without saying what the Enigma was. It is more a pastiche of musical portraits than a set of variations, and one is hard pressed to identify the theme. The Nimrod and Finale representing Elgar himself are the two best known sections from the work. The strings sounded very good in the Elgar, with the cello solo by Susan Mouton being awesome. This is a much recorded work, and those who like to hear all or most of the recordings of a particular work will battle to access them all. Naxos alone has several recordings of the Enigma Variations with various other works by Elgar, 8.554161, 8.554585 and 8.553564 amongst them.
The dates for the concerts of the second season, 2012, are: Wednesday 09 and Thursday 10 May and Sunday 13 May at ZK Matthews, UNISA at 15:00 (Bernhard Gueller conducting Klatzow/Strauss/Mahler); Wednesday 16 and Thursday 17 May (Bernhard Gueller conducting Khachaturian/Rachmaninov/ Stravinsky/ with Spencer Myer on piano), Wednesday 23 and Thursday 24 May (Gerhard Korsten conducting Strauss/Prokofiev/Elgar with Alexander Ramm on cello), Wednesday 30 and Thursday 31 May and Sunday 3 June at ZK Matthews, UNISA at 15:00 (Gerard Korsten conducting Schubert/Bruch/Beethoven with Phillip Coetzee on clarinet and Vladimir Ivanov on viola), Wednesday 06 and Thursday 07 June and Sunday 10 June at ZK Matthews, UNISA at 15:00 (Thomas Sanderling conducting Coleridge-Taylor/Bruckner with Phillipe Graffin on violin), Wednesday 13 and Thursday 14 June (Thomas Sanderling conducting Brahms/Mozart/Brahms with Gunilla Sussman on piano). All Linder Auditorium concerts commence at 20:00.
The Linder Auditorium is situated at the Education campus of the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), 27 St Andrews Road, Parktown. Telephone for the venue is 011 717 3223 and telephone for the JPO is 011 789 2733. GPS co-ordinates: 26° 10′ 54.6456″ S, 28° 2′ 29.8932″ E. Website: http://www.jpo.co.za. There is plenty of parking in front of the venue, with more to the sides and behind the auditorium. Facilities for physically disabled patrons are available. The Olives and Plates Cafe will be open before the concert, during interval and the bar will be open after the concert.