With the relaxing of the lockdown restrictions in May and then a sudden freedom for artists performing to full capacity venues from the end of June, the classical music scene has popped up in full colour with spectacular effect. For those who have missed the few presentations that heralded the incremental emergence of packed performances, there’s even more to be excited about on the immediate horizon… and beyond. DIANE DE BEER gives the lowdown:
It all began for me with the Charl du Plessis performance for Aardklop Aubade in collaboration with Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool on Mother’s Day titled Songs for my Mother
Not only does he create the imaginative programme for these fantastic Sunday morning classical interludes for Aardklop, but he also performs as soloist or with his trio, Nataniël or another classical performer at these magical hour-long performances once a month.
This time he made it personal as he celebrated Mother’s Day 2022 with a very idiosyncratic and sentimental selection of music which has special meaning to him. His programme was all about the influence of his family’s vinyl record collection which brought back a flood of memories for both the performer and his audience.
And because of his versatility as both classical and jazz pianist, the programme included composers like JS Bach and French chanson superstar Michel Legrand featuring alongside standards by Fats Waller and Chopin.
As always with this extraordinary talent, it was about the selection of music as well as the performance and making it this personal was a stroke of genius.
The other attraction of this monthly series is an introduction of young musical stars from Affies, which has a very strong musical department. This time it was an extraordinary acapella ensemble cleverly named A-minere!’
The next concert is on August 7 with a cello and piano duo, Gerrit Koorsen and Eugene Joubert, who will be performing musical arrangements by three composers from the Romantic period. Tickets at www.ticketpros.co.za
Watch this space for further concerts or check Aardklop Aubade online.
Realising that Pretoria has had a paucity of classical music these past couple of years, musical entrepreneur Du Plessis decided to also introduce a mini festival – Atterbury Klassiek – from July 15 to 17.
It starts on July 15 at 7.30pm with The Scullery Quintet, a new South African classical and contemporary music crossover group that is made up of a rather unusual string quintet. The ensemble features the standard string quartet configuration: first violin, second violin and viola, but the cello role is replaced by double bass, with drum set as the fifth instrument.
This multicultural ensemble was conceived in early 2020 by a group of like-minded musicians who got together to share their varied musical influences and keep their musical abilities alive during the pandemic.
They will be performing arrangements and improvising on compositions by their favourite composers ranging from Vivaldi, Dvorak , Herbie Hancock, and Weather Report to Radiohead, which indicates their repertoire is driven by passion.
On Saturday, July 16 at 3pm follows a piano recital by Gerhard Joubert. He is the 2021 winner of the Atterbury National Piano Competition and will be performing his first full length solo recital in this theatre. He is currently a piano student of well-known pianist and lecturer Francois du Toit and the youngster has won many other competitions including the National Youth Music, Pieter Kooij and Johann Vos music competitions and is completing his BMus degree at the University of Cape Town. The recital will include works by Schubert and Chopin.
Du Plessis and fellow jazz pianist David Cousins will present Double Trouble Jazz Piano on Saturday night at 7pm with favourite jazz standards, Latin classics and music by Handel and JS Bach in new arrangements for four hands and two pianos. Composers include Chick Corea and Milt Jackson and South African Jazz legends Abdullah Ibrahim and Hotep Idris Galeta. Du Plessis is a Steinway Artist and Sama Award-winning recording artist for Claves and Steinway Spirio. Cousins is a Berklee College Boston graduate and teaches jazz piano at Wits. This is their first musical collaboration.
On Sunday at 3pm, t he award-winning violinist and senior lecturer in violin and viola at Nelson Mandela University David Bester again joins forces with leading South African-based guitarist and three-time SAMA nominee James Grace in Paganini to Piazzolla 2.0 for the concluding concert of this classical season.
This follows on a sold-out performances at Woordfees 2020, with Paganini to Piazzolla 2.0 evolving around Máximo Diego Pujol’s Suite Buenos Aires – a four-movement work that sketches a musical picture of life in the South American capital city Piazzolla ultimately called home. Originally composed for flute and guitar, the violin offers a fresh perspective and distinctive sound in this intense and flavourful work.
All bookings at seatme.co.za
Following the Aubade concert early in May, impresario Herman van Niekerk joined forces with the Italian Cultural Institute of Pretoria for a fantastic series of concerts starting from his special Sasolburg venue, the Etienne Rousseau Theatre and concluding with a wondrous concert with the spectacular accordionist Pietro Roffi, who joined forces with the marvellous Free State Odeion String Quartet with Samson Diamond, Sharon de Kock, Jeanne-Louise Moolman and Anmari van der Westhuizen.
Van Niekerk has previously also featured this extraordinary instrument with two accordion virtuosi, the Toeac Accordion Duo from The Netherlands, performing at Johannesburg’s Linder Auditorium.
Many classical followers might have been surprised when hearing of the classical bent of Roffi because we are much more familiar with the accordion in more popular genres of music.
With a special Roffi arrangement of the familiar Vivaldi Four Seasons to include the accordion, the main feature of the performance, it was a fantastic choice because even those who just dabble in classical music will be familiar with it. And that gave one the platform to appreciate just what these musicians were doing with the music with such delicacy and obvious delight.
Also included in the extraordinary performance was Bach’s Minuet and Badinerie from his Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B Minor as well as the much loved Piazollo’s Oblivion and Adios Nonino, and an original composition performed solo to start off this remarkable concert and magnificently introducing the magic still to come.
It was mesmerising and yet another reminder of what we had been missing these past few years. For those who missed it, hold thumbs that this collaboration will be repeated again and again in the future.
If you haven’t yet discovered Van Niekerk’s extraordinary programming in Sasolburg (and sometimes repeated in Johannesburg or/and Pretoria, make a note to follow the Etienne Rousseau Theatre notices.
It is joyous that the classics are back and hopefully some of the above concerts will be supported by the pandemic-driven neglected classical audiences.