What a Heritage Day! A fabulous day of our favourite sport (braaing… though of course there was the rugby too) slid easily into another day of summer weather which I chose to round off with a good dose of culture.
Despite the imposing beauty of the Nederburg Manor House, there was a gentle, friendly atmosphere and we were made to feel very welcome with a glass of sherry on arrival. We passed through the grand hall and the sitting room, past the portrait of Governor Nederburg which hangs proudly above the big fireplace in the sitting room, and into a small music room. With its antique furniture, deep window sills and heavy curtains it created the perfect ambience for a classical soiree – a hundred years away from any iPod.
The Nederburg Concert Series gives a platform to South African classical musicians of international calibre, and on the programme this particular afternoon were three students recently selected to be part of the Unisa Music Foundation’s Gifted Young Musicians Development Programme.
First up was cellist Colette Brand who, at the tender age of 16, has already won the Alexander Kniazev prize and was the overall winner in the cello category at the Pretoria Eistedfodd this year. She also performs with the Randburg Orchestra and the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra, occasionally as soloist. Colette performed Rachmaninov’s Third Movement from Sonata in G minor – opus 19, Requiebos by Gaspar Cassadó, Kol Nidrei by Maz Bruch and Scherzo by Daniel van Goens. This young cellist displayed an excellent feel for the music and was impressively composed and self-assured. She covered a wide range of emotions in her set, leaving us feeling happy, sad, joyful and at one stage even a little scared.
Colette had set the bar high but next up, 15 year old Steven Chang, was undeterred. A very cool and collected customer, Steven started playing the piano at the age of seven and first performed as a soloist with the Hugo Lambrechts Symphony Orchestra at the age of just 12. The recipient of numerous awards, he was the overall winner of the Sanlam National Music Competition in 2009 and his natural talent seemed to me to effortlessly marry ebony and ivory into pure magic. His set included Bach’s First Movement from Italian Concerto, Rachmaninov’s Prelude in G minor, Op 32, No 5 and Chopin’s Ballade No. 3 in A-flat Major. As a finale to the concert he also blew us away with Spanish Dance No. 2 from La Vida Breve by Manuel de Falla.
The final member of the trio was 15 year old Talisa Symons who, at the age of 11 took third place in the KwaZulu-Natal University Open Music Competition, an event usually reserved for musicians of 18 years and older. Talisa has performed with the top philharmonic orchestras in the country and played for us Cesar Franch’s Second Movement from Sonata in A Major and Henry Wieniawski’s Third Movement from Violin Concerto in d minor, Op. 22 – some dramatic stuff! She clearly loves the violin and it was truly exciting to watch her play. I even overheard one member of the audience say “That girl is on fire!” For her third and final piece, Talisa chose Csárdás, a very lively and playful piece, and one of my personal favourites. She engaged the audience with smiles and lots of eye contact and they rewarded her with a very appreciative applause.
The aroma of freshly baked bread then led the 60 odd audience members to a room just as charming as the music room, where we found chef Anja Coetzee had prepared a selection of mouth watering snacks. There was soup (broccoli, blue cheese and bacon), mini quiches, paninis with roast beef and pesto, fruit skewers and more, and we happily settled outside on the stoep to watch the sun set over the Paarl Rock mountainswith a glass of Nederburg’s award winning wine, the ghost of the music still drifting through our heads.
The next concert in the Nederburg Concert Series is on 26 November and will take the form of an afternoon of classic and jazz music, with picnic baskets available.