Magnificent Piano Recital
On Sunday, the audience in the Dotsure Arts Theatre was privileged to hear a truly magnificent recital by the acclaimed pianist, Ben Schoeman. After giving us a brief explanation of what he was going to play and the reasons behind his decision, we were whisked away into the opening Prelude of JS Bach’s English suite no.2 BWV 807. The audience had been asked not to applaud between movements of this work and you could have heard a pin drop as Schoeman paused before starting the next movement. After a peaceful Sarabande and two energetic Bourrées, a sprightly Gigue brought the suite to a close. This was a neat and clear interpretation from a pianist who sits very still and lets the music flow.
Next up was “Ondine”, variously described as a Siren, Rhine maiden or Mermaid, as depicted in the second book of Preludes by Debussy. Without losing any clarity of tune, Schoeman achieved the liquid sound of the impressionist composers. The second prelude, “Feux d’rtifice” meaning fireworks, sounded more like a swarm of bees on the rampage.
Liszt wrote three books of pieces under the overall title of Years of Pilgrimage, and we were treated to “Year 1, Switzerland” depicting a confused, homesick wanderer. This work has a variety of different moods and short sections before finally settling on a longer melody. There is a frenetic middle section characterizing the confused mind of the wander dissolving into a peaceful melody and a final triumphal conclusion. This example of pianistic virtuosity earned a well-deserved round of applause for this nimble fingered pianist.
The second half of the recital consisted of César Franck’s “Prélude, Choral and Fugue” and Schumann’s “Carnival”. The Franck piece is a work of monumental proportions ending with a fugue that snuck in quietly and worked its way to a grand finale, and Schoeman worked hard to get every ounce of sound out of the piano.
The concert ended with Schumann’s “Carnival” a work of 21 pieces representing revelers at a carnival of festival. In it Schuman described himself, his friends and some theatrical comedy characters and the work finishes in grand style with the march of “Davidsbűndler contre les Philistins” (David versus the Philistines). After a spellbound pause the audience leapt to its feet and gave Ben Schoeman a resounding and lengthy round of applause. He responded by playing Liszt’s the ever popular Liebesträume.
This was a magical performance by a consummate pianist and I hope Ben Schoeman will pay us another visit in the not too distant future. I was disappointed not to see our Society’s Music Competition Finalists in the audience; they surely would have benefitted from the experience.
Not even a decidedly chilly afternoon could stop the elegant and talented quartet, Take Four, from thrilling a large and warmly clad audience in the Dutch Reformed Mother Church on Sunday.
The concert opened with Oye mi ilanto by the Argentinian composer Carlos Buchardo. This composer was influenced by the music of his native Argentina and wrote mostly songs for voice and piano of a romantic nature. This was followed by another Argentinian, Carlos Guastavino who was also influenced by the folk music of his country. La rosa y el sauce translates as the Rose and the Willow a song with romantic connotations.
The quartet comprises the violinist Zanta Hofmeyr, Jeanne-Louise Moolman (viola), Susan Mouton (cello) and pianist Elna van der Merwe. There were only two works on the programme: the quartets of Johannes Brahms and Antonin Dvorak.
Brahms wrote his Quartet in G minor at a relatively young age with Clara Schumann as the pianist. Take Four announced the four-note theme decisively and then proceeded to chase it around between them for the rest of the movement. The lyrical intermezzo gave each instrument a chance to shine and was followed by a slow andante containing a rhythmic centre section that the instrumentalists played crisply and clearly.
The last movement, Rondo alla Zingarese, was an absolute joy and the musicians clearly enjoyed playing the Hungarian dances with their changing rhythms. They ended with a flourish and the audience rewarded them with well-deserved thunderous applause.
Dvorak was influenced by Brahms and his Quartet in E flat major also opens with a four-note theme that runs throughout the movement.
The second movement gave the cello a chance to show off and Mouton gets a wonderful, sonorous tone from her instrument. This movement ended with a gentle and serene section unfortunately ruined by the compulsive clappers who still persist in interrupting a work after every movement.
After a gentle waltz with a dazzling middle section, the work ended with an energetic rondo made up from folk dances and a concluding flourish. This brought the audience to their feet for a standing ovation.
This quartet showed an immense cohesiveness and, for a change, the piano did not dominate the strings. The players obviously enjoy playing together and I hope they return to visit us at regular intervals.
A disappointing but appreciative audience came to the Moederkerk to hear Elmarie van der Vyver, viola and Mathilda Hornsveld, Piano present a programme of largely Latin-American music with some other light pieces added to the mix.
The concert opened with Oye mi ilanto by the Argentinian composer Carlos Buchardo. This composer was influenced by the music of his native Argentina and wrote mostly songs for voice and piano of a romantic nature. This was followed by another Argentinian, Carlos Guastavino who was also influenced by the folk music of his country. La rosa y el sauce translates as the Rose and the Willow a song with romantic connotations.
The Moederkerk is not kind to instruments and it took a little time for the two instruments to find a suitable balance.
Hans Sitt was a Bohemian of great talent. In 1891 he wrote Albumblätter, a book of six short pieces, each with their own charm, mood and tempo. These pieces gave Van der Vyver a chance to show off her instrument and the allegro molto vivace ended with a flourish deserving a good round of applause.
Glazanov’s Elergy, Rachmaninov’s Vocalise and Kreisler’s Liebesleid and Syncopation are all popular ‘light classics’ that the two musicians clearly enjoyed performing. These pieces were followed by Scott Joplin’s often played Entertainer . A slight glitch with repeats which was satisfactorily overcome.
Back to Latin-America with the Uruguayan, Gerado Rodriguez who was a composer and journalist who lived from 1897-1945. His La Cumparsita was given the full tango treatment by both instrumentalists and we were just short of the dancers. This was followed by Astor Piazzolla’s Oblivion, a slow and passionate song with a lazy tango rhythm.
Ladies in Lavender was a dramatic/romantic film starring Judy Dench and Maggie Smith that was released in 2004. The music was composed by Nigel Hess and we heard his hauntingly beautiful romantic theme from the film.
To end the concert we heard Niel van der Watt’s excellent Cari Amici, una Chaconne; a set of variations set round a block chord theme. All the twists and turns were ably negotiated by the viola well supported by the piano.
The South African composer, Stephanus le Roux Marais, wrote a song called Heimwee – Homesick, evocatively reminding one of the lonely life in a boarding school, and this rounded off a very satisfying concert. I hope to hear more from these two fine musicians in a more friendly venue.
Paganini to Piazzolla
For our end of the week treat, the George Music Society hosted James Grace, guitar and David Bester, violin in a concert entitled Paganini to Piazzolla with a decent sized audience to hear them.
The programme opened with Paganini’s sonata Concertata. Although primarily a violinist, Paganini also played and composed for the guitar so in 1804 he wrote this sonata for violin and guitar as part of a set of salon pieces. In the beginning there were a few problems with balance between the instruments but this soon resolved itself and we settled down to hear a sprightly allegro followed by an adagio, rather like a chat session, and finishing with a sprightly rondo. Clearly these two musicians were enjoying themselves so we settled down to a gentle evening of good music.
Mauro Giuliani was a guitarist and a cellist, and is probably the first composer of a concerto for guitar and orchestra although Franco Carulli also claims that honour. The Grand duo Concertante that we heard on Friday is arguably his best known work and is scored for either Flute or violin and guitar. It is a brilliant composition in four movements that allows for both instrumentalists to show off. The Andante was sublimely serene and the work ended with a hectic allegretto espressivo with both players swapping themes.
After the Interval we heard four popular Brazilian dances by Celso Machado (b.1953) that included a chôro, a popular form of cultural folk music, a Bossa nova and the Samba. These dances are all very similar in style but lacked the seductiveness of a Tango.
The fourth offering of the evening was Histoire du Tango by Astor Piazzilla. This work traces the history of the Tango over a period of a hundred years in thirty year intervals, from the Bordellos, through Cafes and Nightclubs to the modern day with ever changing emotions. Bester’s violin portrayed these emotions admirably superbly backed up by Grace’s subtle accompaniments.
As an encore Grace and Bester chose to play Paganini’s hauntingly beautiful Andante Cantabile to send us all home well satisfied. We hope to hear more from these two fine musicians.
This was a splendid evening producing some contemplative moods which were, unfortunately, disrupted by the compulsive applause between movements and the light from cell phones of people messaging.
Local is Lekker
To celebrate the end of two frustrating years of the state of disaster, the George Music Society hosted a concert performed by our own musicians namely Stefan Conradie, violin, accompanied by the ever popular pianist and composer, Dalene Brits. Unfortunately a depressingly few people turned out to hear them.
The first half of the programme was devoted to a collection short but popular ‘salon’ pieces starting with J S Bach’s Air in D. Conradie is a master of dynamic control as was shown when the violin crept in so quietly that we almost missed the first phrase.
A sprightly romp through the Brahms Hungarian Dance No.5 led us to Elgar’s Salut D’amour, played with feeling by both performers. After Dvorak’s popular Humoresque No.7 came three pieces by Fritz Kreisler. This composer was a concert violinist and he wrote a vast amount of music for that instrument yet only three pieces have remained in the general repertoire. I found the Liebesleid a little too sentimental but Schön Rosmarin was a worthy inclusion in the programme especially given the beautiful tone Conradie coaxes from his instrument.
After the interval we were treated to the seldom heard Sonata for violin and piano op.45 by Greig. This work opened on an aggressive and dynamic note that continued throughout a passionate movement. The second movement was a more gentle romance. The third movement opened with a sort of clarion call to ‘come and join the fun’. It swung from mood to mood with a variety of dynamics and ended with a flourish that earned a well-deserved round of applause.
To end the concert, Massenet’s endearing Meditation sent us home warmed by an evening of gentle music performed by two excellent musicians.
It takes three
Dit was Sondagmiddag, 27 Februarie, weer louter vreugde om na die Charl du Plessis Trio te kon luister en hul vermenging van klassieke- en jazz-komposisies te ervaar. Die trio bestaan uit pianis Charl du Plessis, Werner Spies (elektriese basviool) en Peter Auret (perkussie).
Verwerkings van Beethoven was eerste op die program: die openingsdeel uit sy alombekende Vyfde Simfonie, gevolg deur die stadige deel uit die Pathetique Sonate en toe elke beginner pianis se droom - Für Elise.
Vanaf die eerste stuk was dit duidelik dat elke speler in die ensemble die titel kan dra van verbeeldingryke virtuoos. Melodieë is uitgeruil tussen die verskillende registers van die klavier, die basviool en selfs die drie tromme van die perkussie.
Dis veral as Auret sensitief die borsels gebruik en as hy die onderverdelings van die pols verlewendig, wat die ore spits. Sy verwerking van Für Elise - waar die drie polse in die maat na sewe uitgebrei is, was 'n beplande oorgang na die res van die program, wat veral die tango in verskillende gedaantes belig het.
Albeniz se Tango in D, na aanleiding van Godowski se klavierverwerking, is opgevolg met vier werke van die Argentynse komponis Astor Piazolla, wat feitlik net tango's geskryf het, maar as kunsmusiek: Adios Nonino, Rivirado, Oblivion en Libertango. Stilte en subtiele aksente is afgewissel met sensuele, driftige musiek. Die sensitiwiteit waarmee die uitgerekte melodie van Oblivion gespeel is, sal my nog lank bybly. Die bekende Libertango het in 'n nuwe baadjie verskyn in gesprek met Michael Jackson se Billy Jean.
In Gardel se El Choclo (verwerk deur Spies) en La Cumparsita was daar veral kans om die elektriese basviool as meditatiewe solo-instrument te ervaar.
Du Plessis se kennis van styl en repertorium, maak dat hy juweelmotiewe óf leen óf nuut uitdink. In laasgenoemde werk was daar soms nugter teksture soos dié van Haydn, wat dan weer geantwoord is met iets wat uit New Orleans sou kon kom. Vingers op die simbale, die stryk van die stok teen die rand van die simbale - wat 'n horinggeluid veroorsaak- , snare wat in die klavier gepluk word, basvioolmelodieë in die lae en hoë registers, is alles deel van die speeltegnieke wat hierdie ensemble inspan om die gehoor te oorrompel.
Charl het erkenning gegee aan die Switserse klaviertegnikus Urs Bachmann wat verlede week aan die klavier van die George Musiekvereniging gewerk het. Die resultaat van sy werk kon klankhelder in hierdie konsert ervaar word.
Du Plessis het die voorlaaste werk in die program, Hernando's Hideaway, opgedra aan sy eerste klavieronderwyseres, Annaliza Swart - wat ook in die gehoor was. Die program is afgesluit met die bekende Tico Tico no Fuba (rufous-collared sparrow in the cornmeal), wat Charl spitsvondig vertaal het met "moet liewer nie rook nie".
Ná 'n samestelling van musiek in die blues-idoom as encore, wat onder andere 'n aanhaling uit die Blou Donou ingesluit het, is ons huis toe met warm harte en groot waardering vir wat die bloubloed-musikante uitgedeel het.
Dr. Gerrit Jordaan
INDACA Trio Delights
The small group of music lovers who shivered their way into the Arts Theatre on Sunday afternoon was privileged to hear the INDACA Trio, the collective name for three local musicians, Calvin Steyn, violin; Ingrid Robinson, Viola, and the very dependable accompanist, Dalene Brits, Piano, perform some seldom heard chamber music. It was good to be at a live concert again.
The concert opened with a Sonata by GF Handel that, although rather bland, gave us a taste of what was to come. The balance between the instruments was good with subtle accompaniment and a nice warm tone from the viola to offset the sprightly violin.
This was followed by Trio op37 no 1 by the German conductor and composer Ignaz Lachner who was the second of three musical brothers and was influenced by Franz Schubert. Lachner wrote six trios for this combination of instruments. No 1 is very long and one got the feeling the composer didn’t quite know how to finish off a section; new ideas kept coming in. However, it is a cheerful work with a gentle andante movement followed by a lively Scherzo and Trio. I would have liked a stronger opening from the violin for the finale.
After the interval we heard five pieces from Dimitri Shostakovitch. These alternated between gentle moods and sprightly dances, especially the Polka that almost lured us into dancing in the aisles. Moritz Moszkowski’s Suite op 71 ended the programme. This work contained a variety of tempi that the musicians accomplished with aplomb, obvious enjoyment and brought the programme to a triumphant end.
However, they were not finished yet. An encore was called for and we heard Vittorio Monti’s energetic Czardas. This Hungarian dance goes from slow and seductive to fast and furious. Wisely the accompanist left the strings to get on with it which they did with great skill and togetherness. The audience were left gasping and the standing ovation was well deserved.
The audience went home happy and I hope we hear more of this Trio in the near future.
LOCAL ORGAN-PIANO COMBINATION AT ARTS THEATRE
Those people who opted to watch the French Open tennis final missed a heart-warming and gentle concert presented by two of our favourite local musicians, the pianist Dalene Brits and the organist Gerrit Jordaan. They devised a programme entitled South and West Side Stories made up of arrangements by Brits for piano and organ.
This was the first time an organ has been heard in the theatre and these arrangements proved to be very successful. Throughout the concert the instruments blended well and the rapport between the instrumentalists was excellent.
The programme opened with three offerings of church music including two sets of variations giving the small but appreciative audience time to become accustomed to this unusual combination.
Next up were four Traditional Spirituals with some interesting and unexpected key changes. The arrangements here brought out the very soul of the original songs.
The transition from traditional vocal to modern instrumental came via the Andante movement from the second piano concerto by Shostakovitch. It was given a thoughtful, sensitive rendition and the musicians watched each other carefully before launching into the very popular Waltz from his Jazz Suite No. 1, enticing one to dance in the aisles.
Due to yet another imminent period of load shedding, the interval was shortened and the concert continued with three Gershwin songs neatly arranged for the two instruments.
The final offering was a selection of music from Bernstein's very popular West Side Story that brought back many memories. These brought a healthy and well-deserved round of applause from the audience and, with three minutes to go, an encore of One Hand One Heart from the same musical sent everyone home happy.
This was a delightful afternoon giving us a chance to hear almost forgotten music and I think another concert of this type is well worth considering. Both Brits and Jordaan are excellent musicians who clearly love what they were doing and prove that local is most definitely lekker.
Autumn Reflections Delight
Not even a decidedly chilly evening could keep a group of music lovers away from the Arts Theatre where they had come to hear the Bester Trio’s presentation of Autumn Reflections. This Trio is made up of David Bester, Violin; Jan-Hendrik Harley, Viola and Mariechen Meyer, Double Bass. An unlikely combination you might say but one that worked extremely well.
The programme opened with a suite for Viola and Double Bass by Reinhold Glière (1875-1956) the first movement sneaked in quietly and continued with some wonderful sonorous tones from the double Bass. The second movement was a sprightly set of variations and it ended with a movement largely dependent on a variety of dynamics carefully conveyed by the instrumentalists.
The Russian born American violinist Dmitry Sitkovetsky transcribed and arranged Bach’s Goldberg Variations for string trio and we heard a selection of them at the concert. I was hugely impressed with the versatility of Meyer’s playing in this work. She coaxes a beautiful tone from her instrument and her nimbleness over the strings was magical. In this work the rapport between the players was clear and the arrangement was a great success. Even the viola, normally the middle of the audible range, was given a chance to shine over a sympathetic accompaniment.
The second half of the concert opened with a Mozart duo for Violin and Viola. The first movement had a variety of changes of mood and Bester and Hurley watched each other carefully throughout. The second movement gave each player a turn with the tune and the upbeat finale was very satisfactory.
The concert ended with three arrangements by John Playford, a London book seller and music publisher, of songs by a composer named Grimstock. The first grew in an intensity of intricate weaving while the second gave the Viola a chance to shine, with some gentle plucked accompaniment. The final was a sprightly gigue enjoyed by the players and audience alike.
This concert was just what was needed to chase away the Covid blues and chilly weather. I hope the Trio makes a return to George in the not too distant future.
It was the evening of Wednesday, 11th November that the George Music Society successfully hosted the first concert in seven months with the ever popular Charl du Plessis at the piano, with a good sized audience in attendance. It was good to be up and running again.
The concert entitled “Freehand” opened with Sinding’s Rustle of Spring to encourage us out of our winter wardrobes. This was followed by two Chopin Waltzes that I found rather bland although du Plessis explained that the Minute waltz was not written to break the land speed record. The Brahms Intermezzo Op 118 no.2 sounded rather murky and wasn’t entirely comfortable.
The programme picked up with a resounding performance of that old warhorse, Prelude in C# minor, thundering bass and bells ringing, while Beethoven’s simple, Minuet in G and his Symphony No 5 will never be the same again after a thorough cross-over treatment.
Then du Plessis came into his own, doing what he does best. His free hand performance of four distinctly different pieces based on well-known tunes was masterful. The hymn Praise my soul the King of Heaven and Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, (in this case Peace) resounded through the theatre.
Throughout the evening du Plessis had been light-heartedly telling us what he was going to play but the next piece needed further explanation – making a “prepared” piano, by stuffing cloths and other implements between the strings of selected notes to produce a totally different, but pleasant sound.
Fun was had with du Plessis improvising on themes suggested by the audience with the ghastly Für Elise being treated as a Tango – a great improvement. These improvisations were truly remarkable showing Du Plessis’ complete understanding of musical structure producing a piece of worth.
The concert ended with Astor Piazzolla’s Libertango and another, final improvisation encore.
Charl duPlessis is a talented pianist, able to play the entire spectrum of piano music; from strictly formal through cross-over to lively jazz, and an evening with him will always be different and thoroughly enjoyable!
Last Thursday evening the George Music society presented a programme of two piano works. The pianists were our own Dalene Steenkamp-Brits and Kalene Roux. They opened with Mozart’s Sonata in D for two pianos written in 1871 for the composer to play with his pupil Josepha Auernhammer. It is a spritely work in three movements requiring nimble finger work and clear phrasing. This the pianists did very well but somehow, the work became a little pedestrian. Perhaps choice of tempo was to blame. Certainly, the Allegro molto could have been a bit faster to catch the exuberance of Mozart’s writing.
The first suite for two pianos by the Russian composer, Anton Arensky, fared much better. It was written in 1890 and is a technically demanding work. The first movement, a gentle Romance lulled the audience into a dreamy mood, only to be shattered by yet another round of ill-timed applause. The second movement is a lively Valse (often played as a solo item) and this was followed by a hectic Polonaise that the pianists played with great versatility and obvious enjoyment.
After the interval the two pianists courageously tackled Rachmaninoff’s second suite for two pianos Op.17. It is a mammoth work full of changes of tempo, mood and key; while themes are tossed between the two instruments. The last movement, entitled Tarantella, is based on an Italian dance and relentlessly drives to a tumultuous ending. Justifiably the audience gave the pianists a well- deserved round of applause.
At the end we heard two encores. The first was The Sugar Plum Fairy ending with Dalene doing a ballerina’s pirouette! By audience demand we then heard Scott Joplin’s ever popular Maple Leaf Rag that was enjoyed by the listeners and pianists alike; an appropriate ending to a most enjoyable evening.
Music of Norway
Despite the inclement weather on Friday evening a good sized audience attended the first of George Music Society’s 2020 programme – a programme of seldom heard Norwegian music presented by Rune Alver. The composers selected were Edvard Grieg (1845-1907) and Signe Lund (1868-1950), one of the few woman composers of that time.
The programme opened with the delightful and popular Holberg Suite Op.40 that was written for the 200th anniversary of the playwright Ludwig Holberg and opens with a Prelude. This I felt was a little bass-heavy but soon became more balanced. The inner voices of the Sarabande came through nicely. The final Rigaudon (a traditional simple dance) was a tour de force in nimble fingering.
The Lyric Pieces, Op.71, were written in the last year of Grieg’s life. These seven pieces are thoughtful and introspective and I particularly enjoyed the Small Trolls, played somewhat impishly by Alver. The Norwegian Folk Dance was full of stamping feet and swirling skirts and was followed by a somber Gone and waltz like Remembrances.
After the interval Alver introduced us to the music of the Norwegian female composer Signe Lund who spent a large part of her life in France and America before returning to Norway. The Festive Prelude is a stirring piece with shades of A Mighty Fortress is Our God sneaking in.
The Novellette composed in Paris in 1906 starts of as a gentle, elegant waltz and ends of with a grand triumphant declaration. Bells of Peace was written in New York to mark the declaration of peace on November 11th 1918. From the opening somber tolling of a single big bell there is a gradual build-up of joyful pealing bells. These slowly faded away to a final ring then silence. For several seconds there was absolute silence in the theatre, such was the intensity of the work and Alver’s performance.
The final work was the Concert Etude Op.38 composed in Chicago. The central tune was later changed into Somewhere over the Rainbow in the film Wizard of Oz. It was a busy work that ended with a final flourish much to the audience’s satisfaction. Even though Alver had completed a masterclass in the afternoon, (and it was good to see some of the students at the concert), and played a full recital, he sent us home with a very gentle encore as well.
This was a gentle evening spent with a musician who clearly loves what he is doing and is happy to share it with us. Each piece was explained with humour and we enjoyed the history and anecdotes that went with them. I really hope Rune Alver will visit us again.
Songmaker’s Trio present “Gesungen!”
Thankfully the George Music society is back at the Arts Theatre but there was only a small audience there to appreciate the musicianship of the Songmaker’s Trio from Cape Town who entertained us on Friday evening. This Trio of musicians is made up of the well-known pianist, Albie van Schalkwyk, the soprano Antoinette Huyssen and her cellist husband, Hans Huyssen. This could be termed a ‘specialist’ concert in that it contained the romantic music between the years 1809-1897 by Robert Schumann, his wife Clara, Johannes Brahms and Felix Mendelssohn.
The concert opened with three songs by Robert Schumann the first of which, Gesungen, brought the audience to attention. The second, Mondnacht was more thoughtful and this was followed by the ever popular Widmung. Antoinette Huyssen has a strong voice with clear top notes and a lovely middle register. At times a certain harshness became apparent which was a pity.
Robert Schumann wrote the collection of pieces, Album fűr die Jugend in 1848 and we heard six of these arranged for piano and cello. These pieces are delightful and the selection ended with rhythmical Reiterstück, depicting a huntsman on his horse. Hans Huyssen gets a lovely warm tone out of his instrument and he clearly enjoyed playing the selection.
Clara Schumann was a fine pianist and composer in her own right before she married Robert. Her songs for soprano and piano were all written after her marriage. Whilst different from her husband’s songs, these are charming with more intricate piano accompaniments.
The first part of the programme ended with Robert Schumann’s Arabeske, given a neat and thoughtful performance by Albie van Schalkwyk.
The second half of the programme opened with four pieces for Piano and Cello by Robert Schumann. The first of these is the delightful depiction of a tipsy soldier staggering home and Huyssen’s cello interpreted this very well. Four songs by Brahms followed beautifully sung by Antoinette Huyssen.
Mendelssohn wrote many songs without words for piano but the one for cello and piano was written in 1845 and only published after his death. The typical melody flowed from the cello and, with a gentle accompaniment, made for a peaceful item on the programme. The concert ended with four duets arranged for soprano and cello with piano accompaniment. Clearly the Huyssens enjoyed performing these pieces together and the duets made a suitable ending to a very pleasant evening.
A Happy concert by the Goede Hoop Trio
A smallish audience braved a decidedly chilly evening to listen to the Cape Town based Goede Hoop Trio comprised of Matthew Reid, clarinet, Cheryl de Havilland, cello and the pianist Tertia Visser-Downie.
This was a very happy programme, opening with the Trio in Bflat Op.11 for clarinet, cello and piano. Written by the very young Beethoven, in 1792, this work is bright and cheerful. The lively Allegro con brio was followed by a beautiful Adagio incorporating a gentle duet between the clarinet and cello. The third movement is a Theme and nine variations. The theme was a very popular Viennese song and the nine contrasting variations were tossed around between the instrumentalists.
Rachmaninoff wrote his Sonata for cello and piano in 1901 and performed it, with a friend, in December of that year. He wanted both instruments to be equally important and this is best shown in the third movement, which is intense and passionate. I would have liked more strength and pathos from the cello as the piano part tended to drown it occasionally.
The highlight of the evening was Vittorio Monti’s Czardas. Originally written for Violin and mandolin this piece has been transcribed for a variety of instruments, including a brass band. A Czardas is a gypsy folk dance with ever changing key, from major to minor, and vast variations in tempo and dynamics. Both Reid and Visser-Downie watched each other very carefully as they negotiated their way through this seductive dance that required great skill and courage. The audience gasped and gave the musicians a well-deserved round of applause.
After the interval Reid introduced us to two contrasting tangos by Astor Piazzolla. The first, his ever popular Libertango followed by Oblivion. These were followed by Saint-Saëns’ The Swan. There is not much going for this particular piece other than to let it float along gently and this de Havilland did with a good warm tone and delicateness that ensures the Swan will live on forever!
Matthew Reid had kept us smiling with many snippets of information and the final item was no exception. With hat on head, (a nice touch) he told us of his involvement with Jewish Klezmer of which he is especially interested. The evening ended with three of his transcriptions for the Trio, each portraying aspects of Jewish life ending with the four pieces in Shalom Alechem. It was tempting to get up and dance but we restrained ourselves and went home happy. I hope this Trio will visit us again in George.
Little Winds blow into George
Hats off to the George Music society who brought us, yet again, another instrumental ensemble of note. The Little Winds Quintet is a group of friends who thoroughly enjoy playing together. The quintet is comprised of David Little – clarinet, the well-known flautist Bridget Rennie-Salonen, Shaun Little, the oboist, the bassoonist Simon Ball and, finally Len Worthington-Smith with his french horn; who blended well with the other instruments. All the musicians have played with a variety of Cape Town ensembles and orchestras.
The programme opened with three Bagatelles by the Hungarian composer, Gyorgy Ligeti who wrote these Bagatelles in 1953. The first was a sprightly piece that set the tone for the rest of the evening. The second movement was like a rippling stream tripping over boulders while the third was a shrill and fast moving allegretto.
The German cellist and conductor Franz Danzi comes between Mozart and Beethoven so it is not surprising that his music has hints of Mozartian playfulness and Beethoven somberness and reflection. The first movement kept the bassoon busy while the second was a neat Andante.The third movement was a Minuet and Trio and it was like listening to a conversation with all the instruments ‘chatting’ to each other in turn. The final movement was a sprightly rondo.
The next item was a neat transcription of Mendelssohn’s Scherzo from Midsummer Night’s Dream and this was followed by three short pieces by the French composer, Jacques Ibert. The bright opening piece was followed by a duet between the flute and the clarinet accompanied by contrasting passages from the other players. The third piece really belonged to the clarinet.
Piazzolla’s Adios Nonino (Farewell granddaddy) was written as a song in 1954. After the death of his father Piazzolla re-worked the song as a lazy tango interspersed by a number of changing rhythms.
The French flautist Paul Taffanel founded the French Flute School which flourished in the mid-20th century. His quintet in G minor was written in 1876 as a competition entry that set him on the path as a popular composer. The intricate weaving of the first movement was followed by a dreamy collection of ideas that meandered along. The final movement was a bright scherzo with hints of Mendelssohn in the inter-play between the horn and the oboe.
A snippet of Gounod’s ballet music from his opera ‘Faust’ was followed by a neat and well balanced Mozart Divertimento. As an encore we heard a piece by the little known but amazingly prolific French/Italian composer Eugene Bozza (1905-1991) This piece sounded like a whole swarm of bumble bees with hints of Rimsky-Korsakov’s original thrown into the mix.
This was a delightfully light-hearted evening with five talented musicians and a return visit would be very welcome.
Violin Dialogue - Zanta Hofmeyr Trio
Friday evening saw the GMS back in the Arts Theatre to listen to Violin Dialogue with Zanta Hofmeyr and Miro Chakaryan accompanied by the very popular local pianist, Olive Sandilands. From the very first mellow note from Hofmeyr’s violin we knew we were in for a special evening of music.
The concert opened with Jean Marie Leclair’s Sonata no. 5 for two violins. This work is a happy and spirited piece where the two instruments play follow-my-leader throughout the first movement. The short Gavotta gracioso was just that and was followed by a Presto movement requiring nimble fingers. Both the musicians get a warm tone from their instruments and their togetherness was very clear in this movement.
Johan Halvorsen (1864-1935) was a Norwegian composer, conductor and violinist. His Konsertcaprice is a work based on Nordic folk melodies. In this piece there are many changes of tempo and mood as well as passages of deliberate rhythm depicting stamping dance steps.
Maurice Moszkowski (1854-1925) was a German composer and pianist considered to be a successful composer of salon music that was both tuneful and graceful. In his Suite Op.71, the motifs are tossed between all three instruments equally. The second movement had a gentle flowing tune followed by a peaceful Lento. Here the empathy between all the performers was very noticeable.
After the interval Miro Chakaryan reminded us of the very checkered life Dimitri Shostakovich had being in and out of favour with the ruling party in Russia. However his five short pieces don’t reflect this turmoil. These compositions were beautifully structured, elegant, and very Russian and the performers clearly enjoyed playing them.
Henryk Wieniawski (1835-1880) was a Polish, teacher and composer and violinist of great ability. He wrote two technically demanding concertos and two sets of Etudes-Caprices which are considered to be essential works for all aspiring violinists. The second set of 8 etudes is for two violins and each are technically demanding and make use of the full range of the violin. The instruments toss the melodic fragments and variations between them and, along with some very tricky fingering require full concentration. This, Hofmeyr and Chakaryan did with great aplomb and fully deserved the hearty round of applause they were given.
The concert ended with two totally different works namely Jose Whites very popular La Bella Cubana and Pablo de Sarasate’s Navarra. Both these works are rhythmical and full of national colour and use the full range of the instrument. At times the tune rose to heights almost beyond our range of hearing.
This was a different type of concert involving 19th century music from seldom heard composers. All the performers played with dedication and enjoyment of not only playing together but also for our entertainment and we look forward to a return visit.
The April concert of the George Music Society was held in the Sayers Hall of the Museum on Friday night. This was a somewhat nostalgic occasion for those music lovers who used to attend concerts here before the Society moved to the Arts Theatre. The concert was given by Quatuor AVENA, made up of four young saxophonists from France, Italy, Japan and South Africa who all studied in Strasbourg and formed this group in 2016.
Subtitled “Ripples from Debussy”, the evening started with Debussy’s Girl with the Flaxen Hair in a very mellow transcription for the four instruments. En Bateau, the opening of Debussy’s Petite Suite, is an evocative piece of a boat drifting on a lake, getting into a squall and then drifting on again. This suite of four pieces ends with the skittish Ballet. It was a good transcription, beautifully played and the audience appreciated the performance.
This was followed by Gabriel Pierné’s Introduction et Variations sur une Ronde Populaire. After a somber introduction the popular tune ‘Yankee Doodle Went to Town’ finally made an appearance and was tossed around by all the instruments throughout the work.
The second half started with another Debussy piece, Reverie written in 1890. Again, the saxophones blended into a mellow, dreamy sound.
Ravel wrote Le Tombeau de Couperin in 1917 and dedicated each of its six movements to friends who had died in World War 1. The third movement – Forlane – is very discordant and appeared to be going nowhere but the following Rigauden was lively and required very nimble fingering.
All four of the musicians have studied under Philippe Geiss, the French crossover composer, saxophonist extraordinaire and teacher. His piece Patchwork is a ‘conversation’ between all the musicians who wander around the stage talking to each other through their instruments. It ends with the players talking to the audience in rhythmical phrases. This performance brought the house down so as an encore they performed Sir Patrick . This piece was written by Geiss in 2012 for the World Saxophone Congress at St Andrews in Scotland. It is based on traditional Scottish and Irish folk dance music and makes you want to join in the fun.
This was a very different concert played with obvious enjoyment by the four musicians and greatly appreciated by the audience. I look forward to a repeat visit.
To those Georgians who didn’t attend the opening concert of the George Music Society year, you missed a truly wonderful concert. This was the very welcome return visit of the Cellist, Mattia Zappa and the Pianist, Massimiliano Mainolfi. They opened their programme with the sprightly Gamba Sonata No. 3 in g minor BWV 1029. This sonata was originally written for Viola da Gamba and harpsichord and is one of Bach’s more lighthearted works. The first movement sounds like a conversation between the instruments. The second is a meditative and dreamy work followed by a very sprightly allegro. The piece required nimble finger work that both these musicians applied with obvious enjoyment.
The second work on the programme was Samuel Barber’s (1910-1981) Cello Sonata Op.6 written while finishing off his studies. It is an intense dramatic and complex work requiring a virtuoso technique from both the players as the dynamics, tempi and moods are constantly changing. Zappa’s Cello has a beautiful sonorous tone and he gave us the full range during the first movement. The second movement was skittish and the work ended with a furious and passionate allegro. There was a moment of stunned silence followed by tumultuous applause.
After the interval we heard “Ad Aeternam” by Daniel Schnyder. This piece was composed in memory of his great friend and Cellist, Daniel Pezzotti. It is an emotional work and an honest tribute to his friend and colleague and it was beautifully executed.
The final work of the evening was Beethoven’s Sonata for Cello and piano Op.69. This is a towering work giving equal importance to both instruments. It was given a stunning rendition by both the musicians. Zappa plays with passion and the instrument becomes an extension of the. Player. Mainolfi is a versatile and sympathetic accompanist and the two men enjoy a great rapport. As an encore, we were treated to Ennio Morricone’s Theme from Cinema Paradiso that rounded off a most enjoyable evening.
During the afternoon Zappa and Mainolfi conducted a masterclass for music pupils in George. These classes play an important role in the lives of music students and the class was well attended by enthusiastic students and their hard working teachers. It was good to see many of the youngsters at the concert as well.
I hope Zappa and Mainolfi return to us soon as they are only a pleasure to listen to.
Opera Music Fills the Theatre
On Sunday afternoon three outstanding voices with one superb pianist from the UCT Opera School entertained a smallish but very enthusiastic audience in the Oakhurst Arts Theatre. Brought to George by our Music Society and sponsored by the Rupert Foundation, these four talented musicians filled the theatre with sound – without the use of microphones so beloved by pop singers.
The challenge of bringing opera to the masses in concert form is for the singers to get into ‘character’ without the benefit of costumes, scenery and surrounding plot. This, the singers managed to do most convincingly. The piano transcriptions of orchestral scores are intricate and require nimble fingering and big chords. The pianist, Lisa Engelbrecht, is the head vocal coach of the opera school and, along with the various other hats she wears, is an excellent and supportive accompanist.
The first half of the programme was made up of works by Mozart, Donizetti and a Rossini aria. My only criticism is that these works were all too similar. Both Ané Pretorius and Brittany Smith have good strong voices with controlled top notes and the skills to perform the vocal gymnastics required by these composers. Luvuyo Mbundu has a slight frame from which issues a big baritone voice. During the concert he captured the characters of Figaro, Maletesta and Faust most convincingly.
The second half of the concert contained selections from Gounod, Puccini Delibes and Verdi. Particularly memorable was the very popular “Flower Duet” from ’Lakme’ sung beautifully by both sopranos with no histrionics. The concert ended with Enrico Morricone’s “Nella Fantasia” sung by all three singers and earning rapturous applause.
As an encore, we were treated to Gershwin’s “Summertime” from his opera ‘Porgy and Bess’. This was exquisitely sung by Brittany Smith with gentle harmonized humming from her colleagues.
Obviously opera is alive and well at the University of Cape Town and we look forward to another visit from these talented, young musicians and wish them well in their future careers.
On Sunday afternoon the famous South Easter wind blew a large audience into the Arts Theatre to listen to the latest offering from the Charl du Plessis Trio titled Opposites Attract. These talented musicians are no strangers to George and they were once again given a warm welcome.
After a meditative opening from du Plessis, a nod of the head and we were off on the roller coaster of cross-over jazz. And what fun it was. Du Plessis is an accomplished pianist and imaginative arranger with a quirky sense of humour and throughout the afternoon he kept us informed as to how he went about arranging each item to suit the Trio. His almost irreverent interpretation of the libretti of the operas was greeted by gales of laughter; thus La Donna è Mobile became the lady with the mobile phone!
The newest member of the Trio is Peter Auret, a popular jazz drummer and sound engineer. He is a versatile and sensitive player who, with an assortment of drumsticks and amazing technique manages to get the maximum effects from his instruments. As an accompanist he blends in seamlessly, but as a soloist he is fascinating to watch and hear. So, Gluck’s Melody from his opera Orfeo and Eurydice was a gentle and soothing rendition. Not so the Duke Ellington C Jam Blues where everyone did their own thing – very effectively.
The J Lewis Django brought together du Plessis and Werner Spies and his Stick Bass, which is an electronic double bass with no body. With his long fingers Spies coaxes warm melodies from the instrument but is not averse to leaping around the strings in a hectic jazz session.
Puccini’s E Lucevan le Stelle from Tosca, Verdi’s La Donna è Mobile from Rigoletto and Mozart’s fiendishly difficult Queen of the Night aria from the Magic Flute, will never be the same again after the treatment they received which left the audience breathless.
Arvo Pärt’s Fűr Alina has no rhythm indication and the piano and drums were able to interpret the pitched notes as they wished. Auret added yet more strange sounds from his instruments while du Plessis wandered nimbly around the keyboard and together they produced a reflective, timeless piece of music.
Back to the opera with the Seguidilla from Bizet’s Carmen, (where the Habanera quietly sneaked in) and Rossini’s Largo al Factotum, both given the Trio’s imaginative treatment. The programme ended with a rousing performance of Ellington’s transcription of Tizol’s Caravan which fully deserved the enthusiastic applause. As an encore the Trio gave us a lively performance of Take the A Train with its whistles, hoots and clicks coming through clearly.
This was a concert not to be missed and the Charl du Plessis Trio will always be welcome in George.
Gem of a Concert
On Saturday evening a distressingly small audience was rewarded by a gem of a concert performed by the Bella Rosa Quartet at the Oakhurst Arts Theatre. The whole programme consisted of French music embracing a central theme of Love and Life.
The programme opened with the solo flute of Sally Minter beguiling us with Debussy’s “Syrinx” (Syrinx is the German word for the pan-pipes played by the mythical God, Pan.) We were drawn in by the ethereal whirling sound and we knew we were in for a very different concert.
The short pieces were charmingly introduced by the soprano Louise Howlett who has a strong and clear voice which she uses to good dynamic effect. Her soft singing was magical.
Each musician was given a chance to show off their instrument and after the flute it was the turn of the pianist Albert Combrink who chose to play the Prelude from Debussy’s Suite Pour le Piano. This is a demanding work and Combrink negotiated his way through it very successfully. Apart from his solo work Combrink proved to be an excellent accompanist – supportive and sympathetic but never intrusive.
The cellist, Pieter- Adriaan Stoffberg elected to play Ernst Bloch’s “Nigun” from Bloch’s Baal Shem – suite of three pictures of Hassidic life. Both Stoffberg and Combrink gave us a wonderfully dynamic rendition of this difficult piece.
The highlight of the evening was Louise Farrenc’s Trio for Piano, Cello and Flute. The first movement was a set of variations gently shared between all the instruments and followed by very busy second movement. This was an exciting work much appreciated by the audience.
The programme ended with the lovely song made famous by Edith Piaf, “La Vie en Rose” sung beautifully by Louse Howlett.
This was a very different genre of music seldom heard in George and should have been better supported. It was presented by four excellent musicians in an atmosphere of Love and the Joy of Life and we look forward to a return visit by this Quartet.
Brilliant Start to the GMS 2018 Programme
On Friday evening a medium sized audience attended the first concert of the GMS programme which was presented by Jolente De Maeyer (Violin) and Nikolaas Kende (Piano). These two fine musicians opened their programme with Mendelssohn’s Sonata for violin and piano in F minor,Op.4 which he wrote in 1925 at the age of sixteen. It starts with a thoughtful adagio solo for the violin before being joined by the piano for a brisk allegro. A slow adagio movement brought the beautiful, warm register of the violin while the third movement allegro agitato was just that, especially for the pianist. There is no doubt that these two musicians have played together for some time.
Lodewijk Mortelmans was a Belgian composer who wrote in a variety of styles. He was known as the “Flemish Brahms” In the latter part of his life he wrote the Romanza for Viola and Piano, later transcribed for Violin and Piano and then re worked as an orchestral piece. It is not a work of great import but it does have a variety of dynamics, well demonstrated by the performers.
During the last years of his creative life, Schumann wrote three sonatas for violin and Piano. The first half of the concert ended with the second of these, written in 1854. It has a ferociously difficult third movement that was safely and effectively negotiated by the instrumentalists and earned them a resounding round of applause.
Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata was the sole work of the second half. It was re-dedicated to Kreutzer, considered by Beethoven to be the best violinist around at that time, who never played it as he said it was too difficult. It has a demanding piano part and probably, because of the intricacies, Kende elected to play this without music. The work opens slowly and then bursts into a demanding Presto. The next movement is a lovely Andante with five variations before the final Presto with a tarantella theme. This is a fiendish piece of writing and both De Maeyer and Kende performed this brilliantly thus deserving the standing ovation given them.
This was a superb concert performed by two excellent musicians and I hope they return to George soon.
GMS deserves better audience support given this level of performances being hosted, so to ensure that George and surrounding communities continue to be enriched by world class live performances.
Derik is a business analyst at Vodacom. He has been singing with the Stellenbosch Madrigal Singers for six years (he thinks). He loves watching cricket (when SA is winning), playing table tennis and wrestling with large dogs. Derik thinks weddings are the perfect place to show off his dance moves.
In his own words, Michelle was born at a very early age. He has always loved singing and has even had the opportunity to sing in Carnegie Hall in New York City. When not singing, Michelle manufactures heaters and looks after all of Stellenbosch's pets while their owners takea day off or spend a weekend at the spa.
Elsje has been a member of the Stellenbosch Madrigal Singers since 2011. She took over the role of musical director in 2013, in partnership with Harri Kemp. She is a business analyst at a mobile technology company in Woodstock, Cape Town. When she is not making music, you’ll find her spending time with her family, reading a book, catching a movie, enjoying a trek in the outdoors, or enjoying a glass of wine or cup of coffee with friends.
Helené is a minister in the Dutch Reformed Church and has been a member of the Madrigal Singers since 2014. In her free time she enjoys hiking and playing board games, while always making time for her friends and members of her congregation.
Divan is in many ways the quintessential Capetonian, who reads, runs and enjoys a good glass of wine on lazy afternoons. After spending some time as a history teacher, Divan now works at a private TVET college. It is, however, his work in the Church that is his passion, where he is involved in youth and music ministries. Divan has been a member of the Madrigal Singers since 2016.
Carla van Greunen
Carla is currently employed as an administrator at a Stellenbosch tech company, but actually wants to occupy ten other occupations before she turns 80! She has a wonderful husband and four amazing pets that she loves dearly. Carla feels that even though she has been singing for at least 20 years, she still has much to learn!
Harri is an economist at the Bureau for Economic Research at Stellenbosch University. He has been a member of the Stellenbosch Madrigal Singers since 2011 and took over managing duties, in partnership with Elsje Kemp, in 2013. Harri enjoys reading, making music, watching sport, and dining out.
Jolanda is employed as an engineer at Eskom. She is 29 years old and has been singing since the age of 2. When Jolanda is not singing or working, she enjoys jogging, scuba diving, playing guitar, gardening and the occasional well‐crafted beer.
Sandriëtte, previously a science teacher, is currently a homemaker, mother of a 1‐year old and a science tutor for high school learners. She has a passion for music and song and has been singing for as long as she can remember. Sandriëtte joined the Stellenbosch Madrigal Singers in 2013, making 2017 the 5th year that she has been a member of the group.
Carmen is a postgraduate engineering student, specializing in solar energy and the influence of weather conditions and dust on said energy. Carmen rejoined the Stellenbosch Madrigal Singers in 2017 after a 5‐year hiatus, but remains the baby of the group. When not working or singing, she enjoys reading, pottery and various other types of creative handiwork.
Jan is a lecturer in accounting at Stellenbosch University. He has been singing from a young age for, among others, the Durban Boys Choir, the Kwazulu‐Natal Youth Choir and the NWU Puk‐Choir. Jan currently receiving training at the Stellenbosch University music department and joined the Stellenbosch Madrigal Singers at the start of the year.
Mello Cello at the Arts Theatre
On one of the coldest nights of the year I GrandiVioloncellisti drew an almost full house at the Arts Theatre on Friday. These six cellists are Marian Lewin, Peter Martens, Cheryl de Havilland, Fiona Grayer, Odette Brand and Eddie Maclean and they all practice their art in South Africa.
The concert opened with yet another transcription of what is known as Albinoni’sAdagio although it was Remo Giazotto who developed the piece from two snippets of Albinoni. There are orchestral and vocal versions and tonight we heard a version for six cellos. It was a gentle start and the audience sat back to enjoy it. For the rest of the concert Peter Martens gave us lively and humorous information about each piece to be performed which was well received.
Max Bruch wrote a version of the Kol Nidrei for cello and orchestra in 1880 and here we heard Eddie Maclean as the soloist. This Jewish prayer is a beautiful but intense work and it was given a sensitive treatment by the group.After Wilhelm Fitzenhagens Concert Waltz, a very light-hearted affair, we settled down to enjoy Allan Stephenson’s “Four for Six”; a work of four movements for six cellists. This Cape Town composer wrote this piece for the group in 1998. It opens with a very skittish movement of themes tossed around between the players. The second movement is pizzicato throughout and contains wonderful off-beat rhythms. This was followed by a movement consisting of many changes of mood including a short march section and the work ended with a jazzy, rag-time movement that had shades of Piazolla in it. This was a very satisfying work, enjoyed by both the players and the audience.
The second half opened with Rachmaninoff’s “Vocalise” that, unfortunately fell a bit flat. The ‘vocal’ part got lost in the accompaniment and only surfaced briefly. But we were then whisked into the bright sunlight of Bizet’s “Carmen Fantasie”. Here the seductive dances and songs mingled with the swaggering Toreadors as we experienced all the excitement of a Spanish fiesta.
The “Feierlichesstuk” from Wagner’s opera Lohengrin is a solemn piece that progresses to an intense climax into which sneaks a snippet of the famous Wedding March. The soloist here was Marian Lewin proving that you can still have the touch after fifty something years. It was a wonderfully rich piece of Wagner greatly appreciated by the audience. Wilhelm Kaiser Lindeman wrote an orchestral “Bossa Nova” that the musicians clearly enjoyed having fun withadding in extra sound effects by slapping rhythms on their instruments.
In 1900 Rimsky-Korsakov wrote an opera entitled “The Legend of the Tsar Sultan” in which a prince becomes a bumble bee and stings his villainous relatives. This is depicted in an orchestral interlude. On Friday Peter Martens opted to emulate a full desk of first violins with the rest of the group accompanying him. It was a nimble fingered ‘tour de force’ and fully justified the standing ovation.
The Beatles hit “Yesterday” written in 1965 completed the programme with each member of the group having a chance to play the tune. But we were not finished yet as Peter Martens gathered the group to play the theme from the film “1492 Conquest of Paradise” composed by Vangelis. This haunting melody was a perfect ending to a very enjoyable evening. I look forward to a return visit from I GrandiVioloncellisti
Dalene Steenkamp Brits
Ruan van der Vyfer
Reviews and artist info on previous concerts: