To write about music is to speak of how the soul dances. A hard task, especially when faced with the music of three sensational composers; Carl Nielsen, Camille Saint-Saens and Gustav Holst. The Cape Town Philharmonic’s concert at City Hall opened with Nielsen’s light yet quirky overture, Maskarade. Conducted by Alexander Fokkens, the music lulled the audience into a state of tranquil obedience. The music moved from the solidly dramatic to the sharp gentility of the violins. There were slow, deep dips in the sound bursting with mysticism and enchantment, but the piece ended on a wildly dramatic note, setting the mood for the magnificence that would follow.
For Saint-Saens’ Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor, Op.22 Japanese-born Yasuo Shinozaki conducted. Having studied in Vienna and the USA, Shinozaki quickly rose to prominence with his work in Finland. His energy was unyielding and each tone and melody could be seen flowing virulently through his figure. He led the orchestra from goosebump-raising forewarning of danger, into softer melodic tones, capturing peace within the music. One could physically feel the nostalgia of the piano, played masterfully by the prolific Jonathan Oshry (who can be seen in Seapoint on 29 May, hosted by the Richard Wagner Society). As Shinozaki led the piece into a joyous celebration, Oshry’s swift, precise finger work left the audience awestruck. The piece ended with a standing ovation and Oshry being called onto the stage three times, where he graced us with a short solo.
Holst’s epic composition, The Planets brought the night to a close. To those who don’t know, the piece consists of seven movements, each depicting the known planets of the time. I was hearing it ‘live’ for the first time. The audience was first battered by the war-ridden onslaught of Mars. The tones hammered away ominously, speaking of violence and chaos. But soon enough, the gentle, sombre sounds of Venus arrived to heal the audience. Once we had taken a few breaths, Mercury arrived with its playful, titillating tones and made way for the majestic resonance of Jupiter’s movement. The middle of the movement housed what would become the famous hymn I Vow to Thee, my Country. And what a magnificent moment that was. I could feel the armies marching proudly and flags being raised aloft with pride and honour. This was by far the highlight of the night for me.
This was followed by the mysterious notes of Saturn. And once it had reached its spectacular climax we were whisked away once more by the low whirring of Uranus’ magical sounds, with Shinozaki displaying his rich musicality through his physical form. Finally Neptune carried us far out into space, to the darkest reaches of the beyond. My body shuddered at the sound of the droning organ, the first time I had ever experienced such a sensation. The sounds of a women’s chorus could be heard offstage as the piece came to a close, sending us into the realm of the mystical. Then, with the soft, humming sounds of the orchestra the entire audience was transported back to reality, but this time with their souls adrift and dancing.
The Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra has many more events lined up for the coming months. For details, see our listings on www.WhatsoninCapeTown.com.