I have been attending symphony concerts for more than forty years. I have NEVER heard an audience demand an encore for the symphony section of one of these concerts. Well, “never say ‘never'” according to my mother. On 27 October 2016 Johannesburg audiences demanded an encore from the combined Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra and the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Justus Frantz after they played Tchaikovsky’s popular Symphony No 5 in E minor, Op 64.
There are only two concerts in the series. The one held this week featuring the lovely Valentina Lisitsa in Rach 2 and one coming up on 9 and 10 November. It has been a very disappointing year for Johannesburg audiences missing the 24-26 concerts in a year that were once standard for the city. We heard all about how Mayor Herman Mashaba attended the concert on the first night. I am delighted to hear it. I hope that translates to finding the funding to make a professional orchestra for a world-class city a reality. We need an orchestra for four proper symphony seasons, plus live playing at the ballet, plus an orchestra at important civic functions to say nothing about some additional fun concerts such as fireworks concerts, laser beam concerts, concerts at the zoo, or a season of light music concerts at the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens in Emmarentia as part of various cultural programming over the year.
This week’s programming by artistic director Bongani Tembe, in tribute to the appointment of Justice Dikgang Moseneke as Chair of the JPO Board, played it very safe with much loved works. Paul Boekkooi, in his programme notes for Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No 2 in C minor, Op 18 says it is “mercilessly overplayed”. I concur with his wisdom. Pallavi Mahidhara was scheduled to play the work. Mahidhara is a favourite with South African audiences so there was some disappointment when we consulted our programmes to discover that the soloist wasn’t who we thought it was. Turns out that Mahidhara is unwell, and Valentina Lisitsa stepped in, almost at the eleventh hour. The audience was consoled when the Ukranian-born Lisitsa started to play. What we were hearing was superb. Johannesburg audiences give standing ovations fairly easily, but this one was well deserved.
The forthcoming concert features only the JPO in concert with violinist Kyoko Takezawa under the baton of Yasuo Shinozaki. The programme includes Dvorak Carnival Overture, Bruch Violin Concerto No 1, and Brahms Symphony No 4.
Just a note to those people who stopped supporting the restaurant before a concert when it was so badly mismanaged – alcohol is once more on sale and the food has gone back to the same rather unexciting, but eatable, sort of things we used to have. You can once more arrive early to beat the rush and relax and unwind before enjoying the pre-concert talks and/or the concert.
All round it was a lovely evening of music in the Golden City.