It is one of the marvels of Cape Town that it attracts a remarkable number of virtuoso performers, and that these artists – some of the best in the world – can be seen for a fraction of the price charged in London or New York.
The audience at Kirstenbosch on Sunday had a taste of this as, while lying back on the springy grass of the concert lawn, munching sweet grapes and sipping chilled wine, they were entertained by none other than Philippe Graffin – a French violinist who has not only shared the stage with the likes of Yehudi Menuhin but who is the sort of artist for whom composers all over the world have dedicated concertos.
Graffin brought his 1730 Domenico Busano violin and, with the lightest of introductions, launched into a world-class performance of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. A thousand wine glasses paused halfway to lips as the haunting notes rustled the very leaves on the trees, and even the cartwheeling children stopped to listen. What a performance! As principal guest conductor Martin Panteleev said, this was an evening that would forever stay in the memory.
Pantaleev also led the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra through Tchaikovsky’s overture from Romeo and Juliet, giving us nearly twenty minutes of musical fantasy, including the melodic chants of Friar Laurence, the reverberant fight scene between the Montague and Capulet families and the soaring notes of the strings and flutes in the love scene between the doomed lovers.
Snarling brass and thundering timpani escorted listeners through the symphonic poem Finlandia by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius as the shadows lengthened against the mountain and the air became cooler. The finale of the evening was the ever-popular William Tell Overture, combining the cello’s sweet version of the love duet and the galloping alpine thunderstorm of the brass to highlight Rossini at his best.
The Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra never fails to please and last night was simply the loveliest end to a great weekend.
Philippe Graffin and the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra performed at the Kirstenbosch Summer Concert Series on 24 February 2013.