The third concert of the 2014 second season brought with it the announcement that a 72 member orchestra will be the orchestra for the Azerbaijan festival in August. This is excellent news for the JPO, an orchestra which has been much battered by economic realities recently.
In the second week Antonio Pompa-Baldi played the Schumann Piano Concerto Op 54 in A minor magnificently, nicely supported by the orchestra who also played the evening’s symphony, Mendelssohn’s Symphony Number 3, Op 56, A Minor (Scottish) very well. This paled in comparison to the playing of the third concert, during which the orchestra perked, playing with verve and passion – a real pleasure to hear.
Adrian Prabava was on the podium. He is a young conductor but has not only won prizes at international conducting competitions, but also worked with the likes of Kurt Masur and Bernard Haitink. He has played with the JPO in the previous season, to critical acclaim. He will also be on the podium next week, the last week in the season.
Bryan Wallick substituted for the scheduled pianist who had visa issues. Wallick is no stranger to Johannesburg stages and is, if I am not mistaken, scheduled to play later in the year. However, he stepped in and played the same programme that Peter Laul was due to play, the Brahms Piano Concerto No 1, op 15, D minor. While Wallick lists himself as an American pianist, he certainly spends a great deal of time in South Africa. His 2014 schedule lists Eastern Cape Philharmonic, Pretoria Symphony, the JPO and solo and chamber recitals in South Africa with violinist Sergey Malov, cellist Anzel Gerber and soprano Hanli Stapela.
His playing was assertive and he made his mark. The audience particularly loved the Liszt encore.
The Bible speaks of a prophet being without honour in his home town. It seems that the JPO is without honour at home, but recognised elsewhere. The tide has not quite turned for the JPO, but surely now the city, the province and the central government should recognise that we have a national treasure, and to let it die would be short-sighted? Perhaps not but I call on these structures once again to step into the breach.