Today, 27 January, is the anniversary of Mozart’s birth. It is also the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Auschwitz, for the very young, was one of the worst of the Nazi extermination camps into which hundreds of thousands Jews, Gypsies, gays and other undesirables were herded, worked and starved almost to death and then gassed in huge gas chambers where there bodies were also cremated when they were no longer able to do the bidding of their seemingly inhuman jailers. The selection of Mozart’s Requiem probably had nothing whatsoever to do with the liberation of Auschwitz being on the same day. In fact the Johannesburg International Mozart Festival (JIMF) programme suggests that it was the masked man who commissioned the Requiem which made it the rational choice for a festival with the theme “Masquerade“. It is, however, appropriate to have a Requiem on the day we remember the horrors of the holocaust.
That it is a popular choice was borne out by the fact that the Linder Auditorium was almost entirely sold out with only the odd seat here and there empty. This, together with the fact that the two pre-festival concerts were, as usual, also fully subscribed, hopefully augurs well for a well attended JIMF 2015.
The concert began with a setting of the Mass by Peter Klatzow for a small orchestra, marimba and soprano. Klatzow is the composer-in-residence for this year’s JIMF and we will be hearing a lot of his music over the next fortnight. I thoroughly enjoyed the somewhat African contemporary setting which was predominantly tonal and unchallenging. There was a time when marimbas were new and exciting in African works, but cathedrals all over the country have been using them in the name of inclusivity for so long that they are now simply another instrument one expects to find in contemporary African ecclesiastical music. Magdalene de Vries was the soloist on the marimba.
Mozart’s Requiem was, however, the work which the audience had paid to hear. Magdalene Minnaar (soprano), Kathy Neuland (mezzo), Nick Nicolaides (tenor) and Ferdinand Liebenberg (bass) were the soloists.
The combined Chamber Singers and Chanticleer Singers together with the Johannesburg Festival Orchestra and Richard Cock on the organ were conducted by the German conductor Ekkehard Klemm for both works.
I fall a little more in love with the Johannesburg International Mozart Festival every year and am thrilled and proud that it is part of the annual calendar of the city I love.
On Wednesday the emphasis is on training for six choir masters who will be working with the Mozart Requiem.
On Thursday 29 January 2015 one can attend either a piano recital by French pianist Renee Reznek at Northwards House or a silent movie screening of the 1925 Phantom of the Opera with live accompaniment (Paul Hanmer on piano and Mro Fox from Germany on sax). Tough decision. I will be heading down to The Bioscope, an independent movie house in Maboneng for the movie.