Just as audience members were wrapped up against the chilly evening, so the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra offered layers of sounds to envelop and nourish our ears and warm our hearts with the astonishing skill of soloists Anzel Gerber (cello) and Ben Schoeman (piano) under the baton of Japanese maestro Yasuo Shinozaki.
The CPO first launched into a vibrant interpretation of Dvorak’s Hussite Overture. A harmonically rich woodwind passage led the first wave of the formidable brass section which powerfully asserted Dvorak’s ideas. Soon after, dashes of piccolo soared over the sweeping strings punctuated by bassoons and horn calls. Dvorak’s melodies are hauntingly beautiful and rise up your spine like an insect before melting into plaintive song. Shinozaki led the orchestra with controlled exuberance and brought the overture to a mighty finish.
Anzel Gerber performed one of Tchaikovsky’s very few works for cello and orchestra – his Pezzo Capriccioso. Tchaikovsky’s gift for beautiful and elegant melodies became evident as Gerber spoke through her instrument to captivate the audience, easily handling the technical demands of the middle variation, and positively glowing in the lower register.
Ben Schoeman – one of South Africa’s foremost pianists – gave a wonderful interpretation of Saint-Saëns’ Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra. Written during his travels to Egypt, Saint-Saëns captured charming folk melodies and colour to form a virtuosic work which Schoeman cut through like a hot knife through butter, with touches of humour and playfulness.
Gerber and Schoeman then teamed up to play a masterfully orchestrated composition, by the late South African composer Stefans Grové, called Bushman Prayers for Piano, Cello and Orchestra – three poems for which Grové created three contrasting movements. Each movement was introduced by a narrator who read the poems. Cluster chords and dissonance contrasted with lyrical melodies and interesting use of percussion.
Shinozaki guided the CPO into the sound world of Jean Sibelius’ Symphony No. 1 in E minor, a work which shows some fascinating ideas and opens with a melancholic clarinet theme supported by the tympani. The music builds as the strings interject and the brasses roar, moving towards the climax. The lush string harmonies filter through with the tones of the horns sustaining the traces of solo trumpet in the second movement. A bright, buoyant theme permeates the third movement, and saw Shinozaki throwing emotional gestures to the musicians, anticipating the strength of the finale where the sound world heaves and bellows.
The Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, with soloists Ben Schoeman and Anzel Gerber, performed under the baton of Yasuo Shinozaki at Cape Town City Hall on 11 June 2015.