Peter Bruns plays Shostakovich with the JPO

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

Peter Bruns

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 and Annegret Kuttner

Peter Bruns and Annegret Kuttner

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.


About moirads

Clergy person, theatre and music lover, avid reader, foodie. Basically, I write about what I do, where I go and things I love (or hate).
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5 Responses to Peter Bruns plays Shostakovich with the JPO

  1. Chris Bishop says:

    Whilst you are, of course, entitled to your opinion it is a shame to breed speculation. Perhaps instead you could acknowledge the fact that the JPO as a full-time professional orchestra ceased to exist when we all lost our jobs at the end of 2012. The reason the JPO still exists in the current form is due to the incredible commitment of my colleagues and there is no doubt that we would all love the chance to get back to playing full-time. It is certain that as a full-time orchestra we would be able to successfully compete in bids for work against other full-time orchestras. Instead, most of us are working several jobs to replace lost salaries AND to maintain a high level of performance at the JPO. Something that should deserve recognition, if not your admiration or respect.

    • moirads says:

      Chris, I take note of your comments. There is nothing but admiration and respect for the fact that the JPO continues in trying circumstances. However, the reality is that the horn section is problematic. Are you, as a horn player, suggesting that we, the audience, simply overlook a problem which is affecting the entire orchestra? At this stage of the JPO’s existence it is critical that it does not fall into the public perception as a category of a community orchestra because the minute it does it is finished for future funding opportunities as well as any chance of getting real work in what is a very small music community in Southern Africa. Do not think for one second that major players in the arts world are not watching these things with a beady eye. Festivals, major government events, competitions, major corporate events … these people are not looking at non-professional community orchestras which they can access with far better public relations results by using youth orchestras but at a “full-time professional orchestra”. And ALL members of that orchestra have to see themselves in that light. What I said is obviously not a popular thing, but I feel it needed to be said.

      • Chris Bishop says:

        I purposely didn’t comment on your horn playing critique.

        What I wished to address was your appraisal of a particular situation based on hearsay and your subsequent evaluation of the standard of the JPO as a whole without recognition of the current circumstances.

        There is not a single member of the JPO who wouldn’t be angered by a suggestion that they not consider themselves or conduct themselves as a professional. However, it is entirely unrealistic to expect to maintain the financial or performance level stability of a full-time orchestra in our situation. (Please note the context: We have performed together for perhaps 13 weeks total in the last 15 months).

        You can be certain that the Johannesburg Philharmonic means far more to us than it ever will to you and we always make sure we give everything to our performance.

  2. Daline Wilsom says:

    Perhaps you should do proper research about why certain orchestras get certain contracts. And I…from my humble professional opinion beg to differ from you about standards. And if the JPO was a full time orchestra they could also compete for certain contracts as they will also then play for free. Why do you attend concerts of the JPO if it is such trauma to your ears. These musicians work very hard to keep a high standards in very hard financial circumstances which is appreciated by conductors and audiences…most of them anyway.

    • moirads says:

      Daline, I have never indicated that the concerts are a “trauma to (my) ears”. However, you were present, and perhaps that little section was a “trauma to your ears” which is causing you to project it into my writing which doesn’t say that at all. There is no doubt that the financial circumstances are trying for everybody in the orchestra. However, most of the musicians are still producing a professional sound. Why can’t the horn section do likewise?

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