I have heard Peter Bruns play before (in 2011) both as a recitalist for the Johannesburg Musical Society and for the JPO when he played the Lalo Cello Concerto in D minor. He thrilled me then. I heard him play last night (12 February 2014). He thrilled me again.
Peter Bruns is a German cellist, currently one of the best cellists in the world. He has an impressive CV which has now spilled over from performer and academic to conductor. The JPO programme was an all Russian one with the concerto being flanked by Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 6, Op 74, B minor (Pathetique) conducted by Daniel Boico.
He played the Shostakovich Cello Concerto No 2, Op 126. This work was composed by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) for Mstislav Rostropovich. It was premiered on the composer’s 60th birthday in the Great Hall of the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow. The work is described as being “introspective and austere” and without a “big bravura solo turn for the cellist”. Peter Bruns takes this work and wrings every emotional nuance out of it. It is exquisite. It is also very demanding on the soloist.
I enjoy being presented with a somewhat different concerto to the usual run of the mill standards. It is so good to hear music which is out of the ordinary. The orchestra, however, doesn’t always cope as well as they should. A fanfare for two horns begins the finale of the Shostakovich Second Cello Concerto. The horn section of the JPO is the weakest of all the sections and I have made mention of this before. Sadly, it needs another reference now. It is an issue which urgently needs to be addressed. The Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra is struggling for its very survival. Recently the JPO tendered for a job and was turned down in favour of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra. I asked various people why. I was given different answers by different people. One of them said that her belief (she was not part of the decision making team apparently) was that the quality of the playing of the JPO was simply not up to scratch for an international event. Of all the answers that were given to me this is the one that actually made most sense but it is a sad indictment on what should be a world class orchestra for a world class city.
Peter Bruns plays on one of the world’s finest cellos – a 1730 Carlo Tononi once owned by Pablo Casals (1876–1973), generally regarded as one of the greatest cellists of all time. Peter Bruns says of the magnificent instrument he plays: “I also try to speak with the instrument”. He certainly succeeds.
Peter Bruns played a Bach piece as an encore.
Peter Bruns is playing a recital for the Johannesburg Musical Society on 23 February 2014 at the Linder Auditiorium with his pianist wife, Annegret Kuttner. The will be playing Schumann Adagio & Allegro, Opus 70, Chopin Sonata for Cello & Piano, Opus 65 and Brahms Sonata for Cello & Piano in F, Opus 99.