The Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra has had a fabulous winter season at the Linder Auditorium.
Despite the fact that the seasons are only four week long instead of the more usual six weeks, the programmes, presumably worked on extensively by the Chief Executive Officer and Artistic Director for the JPO, Bongani Temba, have been most challenging and interesting for both the orchestra and the audience. Well done!
There are always pre-concert talks before the performance. These are free and they take place in the hall to the East of the main auditorium. I encourage patrons to come early and attend these. They often provide really fascinating facts about the music, the composer and the artists which are not in the programme notes. The programme notes are by Paul Boekkooi as usual. I encourage people to purchase a programme and to read the notes, especially if they are new to classical music. Paul Boekkooi is certainly the top journalist in the world of music at the moment and his notes are most enlightening. If you are pressed for time, the programme notes are quite full enough to provide a listening pleasure guide.
The first concert under director, Daniel Boico, with Charl du Plessis on piano, showed off our local talent to perfection. The overture was the Shostakovich Festival Overture, and the ever popular and much loved Du Plessis played the Gershwin Piano Concerto in F Major. The orchestra brought us Tchaikovsky’s Symphony number 1 in g minor, “Winter Daydreams”. A lovely feature now brings us an interview with one orchestra member each week and the first week featured Gloria Boyi, a violist who has been with the Orchestra since 2009 when she joined as part of the Academy programme. She suggests people attend because “all weeks have a different programme and coming to all the concerts will expose you to different types of music.” She adds, “The orchestra needs the audience support to keep the music alive.” She’s right.
The second concert saw Brandon Phillips on the podium, with the Russian Alexander Buzlov on the cello. Beethoven’s famous Egmont Overture started off the evening, followed by the virtually unknown Cello concerto in d minor by Edouard Lalo, a Spainard, most famous for his Symphonie Espagnole. The work was exquisitely played, but while the music is pretty there isn’t a tune that one takes home. The concert ended with Schumann’s Symphony No 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 97, more popularly known as the Rhenish. The Orchestra member featured was Matthew Michael Downey, the Principal Percussionist. His words of wisdom to non-regular audience members “If you enjoyed the concert, please come back and bring your friends. Each concert offers a different experience.” I think regular attendees should do the same.
The third week saw the Moscow based Conrad van Alphen as conductor with Russian Nikita Boriso-Glebsky on violin. The Wednesday concert wasn’t sold out, but the Thursday night one was. Wednesday audiences raved about it, filling social media with positive comments. Wednesday night audiences, we need more of your tweets and Facebook posts. The programme started with Mendelssohn’s Ruy Blas Overture, Op 95 and then Boriso-Glebsky blew us away with his interpretation of the Sibelius Violin Concerto in d minor, Op 47. The symphony was the Dvorak Symphony No 5 in F Major, Op. 76. This is so seldomly heard live that none of the “old” orchestra members ever remember playing it as part of the JPO or its predecessor, the National Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra member featured is one that I love watching because he obviously gets so much enjoyment from doing what he does, and that is cellist Daliwonga Tshangela. He encourages people to attend because “It is surprisingly glorious to attend a symphony concert and have the opportunity to listen to highly skilled musicians from the JPO making music together.” I concur entirely.
The fourth and final concert, the last performance of which will be tonight, is conducted by the Norwegian Cathrine Winnes (yes, a woman), with Spencer Myer from the USA on piano. The programme started with the unusual Summer Night in Madrid (Spanish Overture No. 2) by Glinka, with the well-known Grieg Piano Concerto in a minor, Op. 16. Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, Op 35 followed after interval. What a magnificent concert! Scheherazade features various instruments from the orchestra, not least of which are the first violin (Miro Chakaryan), and this week’s orchestra member, Shannon Armer, the principal French Horn. She did well, and it was only after the concert that I heard that she did this despite being injured in a smash-n-grab robbery while she was en route to the concert. Her professionalism saw the show going on despite her injury. Armer encourages audience with the sage advice “Don’t be afraid to listen to music you haven’t heard before.”
Thank you to every one for putting such a delightful Winter Season together. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The next season in the World Symphony Series is the Early Spring Season. Once again it is an interesting season which will end with Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, which they promise to play right to the very end. Schumann’s Concerto for Cello in a minor, Op. 129 will be played by Estelle Revaz, Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op.43 will be played by local Bryan Wallick, Mendelssohn’s Concerto for Violin in e minor, Op.64 will be played by Alissa Margulis, and, finally, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.3 in c minor, Op. 37 will be played by the Russian pianist, Vitaly Pisarenko.
Patrons are reminded that there are meals and drinks available before the concert at Theo’s, and teas, coffees and drinks at the restaurant and on the second floor at interval. If you would like to meet the orchestra after the concert to chat about a work, most of them stay for a drink on the second floor (you can also beat the crowds leaving the auditorium by having a drink with the orchestra).