The abbreviated symphony season for the JPO has ended on a high note, with Russian violinist, Ilya Gringolts, playing the Bruch Violin Concerto No 1, op 26 in G minor. Weber’s Oberon was the overture and Sibelius’ Symphony No 1, op 39, E minor, a work which is not often played, concluded the concert. Hollard, the insurance people, sponsored the soloist and conductor for this concert and they provided purple macaroons in the foyer before the concert. These purple macaroons sweetened the evening considerably and everyone settled down to enjoy themselves in what turned out to be a wonderful concert.
Throughout this season the orchestra has played very well indeed, and in fact considerably better than I have heard them play for a long time. They now only get paid for concerts they actually play, but there is a little spark of good news. The Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra has been invited by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan (one of the former countries which made up the USSR) to play for their International Music Festival. This will take place in July 2014. The orchestra will then return for another shortened season in August.
The highlight of the August (third symphony season) is the appearance of Pinchas Zukerman, violinist, as a soloist with the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra. What this means is that if you buy season tickets now, the Pinchas Zuckerman concert is included in the price. If you do not buy season tickets you will pay full price for the Pinchas Zuckerman concert – if you can get tickets at all.
I am sad, of course, that there is no afternoon series of winter concerts, either on Sundays at the Linder Auditorium, or on a field outside the Linder Auditorium or, better yet, at the Botanical Gardens. These concerts have not always taken place, only when sponsors were found for them, but they added a great deal of vibrance to the cultural life of the city. It was wonderful to see families picnicking on the lawns in the winter sun listening to light classical music. Perhaps these concerts will take place again in the future. They certainly were delightful.
Thus the status quo is that the JPO is limping painfully along, and everyone is still uncertain about its future. It does seem to be exceptionally sad that foreign governments hold the JPO in greater regard than their own and I still hope that the various levels of government will come on board, together with big business, and make the JPO a viable entity, working year round playing full symphony seasons, special concerts, for the ballet and the opera. We have, in our orchestra, a national treasure. We need to protect it.