On 17 September 2015 I attended a somewhat unusual gala symphony coyncert at the Linder Auditorium. The orchestra was the Apollon Sinfonia (made up mainly of members of the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra). It was, however, the concerto which made this work so avant garde.
The world premiere Concerto for Double Bass and Orchestra is a specially commissioned work for bassist Leon Bosch, a South African born double bass player now resident in the UK. The composer is the Colombian Arturo Cuellar, who also conducted the work.
Sandwiched between Haydn’s “London” Symphony No 104 and Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony No 3, the concerto left me feeling somewhat ambivalent. Atmospheric and exquisitely performed, the solo instrument was unable to get the level of projection it needed to really stand out from the orchestra. The limitations of the range also made the work quite tedious despite its melodic aspirations (it never jarred in the slightest even on the ears of those who find contemporary music “difficult”).
The CEO of the Cyprus based Apollon International Connections Limited, Saskia Constantinou, is no stranger to Johannesburg. She was once a violinist in the National Symphony Orchestra which was then funded by the SABC. That orchestra has morphed into the Johannesburg Symphony Orchestra.
The aim of the concert is for the betterment of society, showing a willingness for the private sector to support the arts. Part of the ticket sales were donated to the Alzheimer’s Society, a cause close to the heart of Constantinou who lost her father to this disease earlier in 2015.
All round the concert was enjoyable, and it certainly got people talking about the work and discussing whether they liked it or not (the general consensus was probably ambivalence). It certainly made for something very different to the “usual” concert.
The musical citizens of Johannesburg thank Saskia Constantinou for bringing this concert to the city.