Review: Pinchas Zukerman at City Hall

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zukerman forsythThere are times when a touch of nepotism stirs the emotions for all the right reasons. Amanda Forsyth performing her father Malcolm Forsyth’s composition while her husband conducted was just such an occasion.

Pinchas Zukerman was the star turn for this concert: as a conductor, violinist, violist and teacher he is renowned the world over, but in a classic case of two­-for­-the­-price­-of­-one, his wife happens to be the South African­born cellist Amanda Forsyth.

The concert opened with Pinchas Zukerman conducting the University of Stellenbosch Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven’s Overture Egmont (op. 84). It was the right piece to energize the packed audience, and Zukerman’s dynamic and expressive style built and escalated with the power in the music. The vigorous movements of the baton pushed the music to greater heights as the orchestra went for the big finish.

When Amanda Forsyth came onstage with her 1699 Carlo Giuseppe Testore cello, the applause thundered. It only got louder, when she took the time to dedicate the performance to her late father: the concerto he wrote specifically for her had finally been brought to South Africa. The performance played as a post­modern piece of audial art, described by Malcolm Forsyth himself as “a panoply of ideas and textures ranging from the ethereal to the aggressive.” From the xylophone to the harp, a huge range of sounds is embraced in this concerto that challenges both player and listener. Forsyth’s skill in playing leapt and dove through conflicting rhythms, continuously surprising the audience. And as Zukerman led the orchestra through the complexities of the piece, his passion for the music was evident.

After a refreshing interval, Zukerman performed Max Bruch’s Concerto for violin and orchestra in G minor (op. 26) with a beautiful energy. Even as he played the entrancing melodies, it was possible to see him demonstrating certain segments to the violin section as they were playing. His joy in teaching and inspiring the younger generation is well known, but it was amazing to see an example of this in the middle of his performance. Corvin Matei kept the orchestra in their pace as it accelerated for the rousing climax of the finale.

This night of classical delight won’t be forgotten, not only by the ecstatic listeners but a young and vibrant orchestra. If and when this extraordinary musical couple return, there is no doubt Cape Town will receive them with even greater enthusiasm and joy.

Samantha Orange

Pinchas Zukerman and Amanda Forsyth performed with the University of Stellenbosch Symphony Orchestra at City Hall on 22 August 2014.

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