The Odeion String Quartet is one of South Africa’s musical gems. It comprises the principal members of the Free State Symphony Orchestra. For those who are new to classical music a String Quartet consists of a 1st violinist (Samson Diamond), a second violinist (Sharon de Kock), a violist (Jeanne-Louise Moolman) and a cellist (Anmari van der Westhuizen). Each of these people leads their section in the orchestra. The members of the Odeion String Quartet also play an important teaching role at the University of the Free State.
Samson Diamond, particularly, is one of South Africa’s leading young musicians, what other countries call a “national treasure”.
Peter Louis van Dijk is the composer in residence for the 8th edition of the Johannesburg International Mozart Festival. One of his works, iinyembezi, which means tears in Xhosa, was featured. Written for his son, Xandi van Dijk (violist) and the UCT String Quartet, it has been recorded by the Sontonga Quartet. It is a modern, African, work, with moments of melodic attractiveness and some exotic moments which are more challenging to audience who came out to hear the Mozart. This is not a bad thing. Mozart’s music was, in its time, considered to be modern and ugly. It all depends on what our ears get accustomed to hearing. If audiences are never exposed to contemporary music, audiences will never learn about it, and they will consequently not learn to like it. Richard Cock and Florian Uhlig do a great job in balancing the known with the unknown in the course of a festival.
We then heard Mozart’s String Quartet in E flat Major K428. It was sublime, both the music and the playing. It doesn’t need much embellishment from me. The programme (R50 for a book which covers the whole festival) has quite detailed notes, and one can access any information about this online quite easily.
The concert encore was a charming set of variations on the “Happy birthday” theme. One wishes, of course, to wish Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart a happy 260th anniversary of his birth.
On 28 January, 2016, the JIMF concert is a chamber work featuring Sarita Uranovsky (violin) and Andrew Campbell (piano) at Northwards House. The programme is a varied one featuring Debussy, Babajanian, Part, van Dijk, Saygun and Ravel.