What a busy fortnight music lovers in Gauteng have had. Classical, jazz and rock genres have all had exciting events. Rodriguez was brought out by Big Concerts.
The Auto and General Theatre on the Square held its wildly popular Annual Jazz and Blues Weekend with Tony Yoko with three jazz concerts playing to sold out houses.
Every second year the Unisa International Music Competitions take centre stage at the ZK Matthews Hall, Unisa, Pretoria at the end of January and beginning of February. Every fourth year is the Unisa International Piano Competition. It has been a piano competition year this year, but with a twist on the originals. There is now both a jazz and a classical category running simultaneously. I will come back to this later.
The Johannesburg International Mozart Festival (JIMF) is an annual event in the City of Gold and has had the theme “Alla Turca” this year, starting on 23 January to 7 February 2016. The programming for the JIMF is always exciting and this year was no exception. Highlights include the Mozart birthday concert on 27 January (260th anniversary this year), the opening concerts – two Viennese style New Year Concerts – and the closing concert. But there are a whole range of fabulous concerts in between. Last night the Johannesburg Musical Society joined forces with JIMF for a piano recital featuring Peter Donohoe. Today I attended the closing concert, featuring James Grace, the Johannesburg Festival Orchestra and the Chanticleer Singers under the baton of Maestro Richard Cock, with music by the composer in residence, Peter Louis van Dijk, and the famous Joaquin Rodrigo Concerto d’Aranjuez played by the popular and critically acclaimed James Grace.
I promised to return to the Unisa International Piano Competition. So here it goes. The format this year was slightly different with a mix of jazz and classical competitors. This has both positive and negative spin-offs. What it does do is make the earlier rounds more exciting and the later rounds less so. The less talented/skilled players drop to the bottom more quickly as the semifinals only have six competitors (used to have twelve) and the finals have only three. So by the time one enters the finals one is assured of a place. Otherwise it is mostly unchanged. The advantage is that jazz lovers can come through only for the jazz and classical purists can come through only for the classical music and the third rounds each take place over a whole day. This is a blessing for Joburg based audiences. The finals are similarly split into a jazz night (Friday) and a classical night (Saturday). This has the same positive effect for Joburg audiences. What is not so good is that the timing of the third round leaves the audience with large gaps to fill. Perhaps slightly longer concerts could fix this? They have been cut down to fit them all in one day anyway, perhaps over zealously.
The finalists of the jazz section were eventually placed as follows: Addison Frei (USA) 1st, Sebastiaan van Bavel (The Netherlands) 2nd, Gil Scott Chapman (USA) 3rd. I preferred van Bavel in the third round, but Frei (pronounced Fry) definitely had the edge in the final round.
In the classical section Daniel Ciobanu from Romania took the top honours with his rendition of Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Opus 43. I liked his performance best in both the third and the final round, so it didn’t surprise me. In second place was Philipp Scheucher from Austria with his performance of Tchaikovsky’s Concerto in B flat minor, Opus 23. In third place, from the Republic of Korea, was Seomseung Lee with his performance of Schumann’s Concerto in A minor, Opus 54.
All in all it has been a thrilling fortnight for music lovers in Gauteng.