About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

16 November 2014

Cape Town Tango Ensemble @ The Orbit

The Cape Town Tango Ensemble (or at least a part of them) flew up to give a recital at The Orbit last night; with support from some local musicians (Elena Zlatkova on violin and Tambinkosi Mavimbela on double bass) with Melanie Scholtz providing vocals. The ensemble is featured quite often on Classic FM (and the Cape's Fine Music Radio), and their live performance did not disappoint. The performance was a mixture of "classic" tango music, heavily featuring Argentinian composer Astor Piazolla, as well as the ensemble's own compositions.

14 November 2014

JPO's 3rd 2014 Season, 2nd Concert: Azerbaijan

For the 2nd and last concert of the season, the JPO had a special concert on the music of Azerbaijan, sponsored by the Azerbaijani Embassy. Earlier this year, the JPO was the orchestra for the Gabala music festival, and the return leg featuring music from Azerbaijan was a good showcase of global music.

Every piece performed was a good departure from the traditional fare. Quite a bit of the music felt like film scores - of a piece trying to tell a tale. The cultural influences of Arabian and Western European musical styles made a great contrast - and was very enjoyable to listen to. I particularly enjoyed the Piano Concerto - which had amazing contrast between the Western and Arabian styles; for both the orchestra and the pianist.

This is the type of concert that the JPO should perform more of. Unfortunately, the marketing seemed to be a let down once again, and the attendance was very poor. A pity - it was a great concert. I would actually go as far as saying, it was one of the best JPO concerts I have been to.

Amirov's Azerbaijan Capriccio
Hajibeyov's Caravan
Amirov & Nazirova's Piano Concerto on Arabian Themes
Ibramimova's Confession for Cello, Piano and Strings
Garayev's Adagio & Waltz from the Seven Beauties Ballet

Conductor: Yalchin Adigezalov
Cellist: Aleksey Miltykh
Pianist: Saida Tagi-Zadeh

09 November 2014

Movie: Interstellar

It is part a movie about extinction - of humans, part a movie about exploration and the bravery of explorers of the unknown; and partly a movie about mysticism and time travel paradoxes. Interstellar is visually stunning, with an amazing cast and script that manages to narrate what survival of the human species beyond Earth might actually mean. 

In a near future, Earth's agriculture is failing, people have died in mass from starvation, and it is clear that the end is nigh. Almost as a last ditch attempt, Matthew McConaughey leads a team to a different galaxy via a mysterious wormhole to try find a new world for humans. Others have gone before to try identify potential worlds - now is the time to pick one so that humanity can continue. The plot, with its twist and turns is amazing (complete with the very well known time travel paradox) - and the only negative I have is the last few scenes before the finale as Matthew's character re-connects with humanity. If it was to be done, it should have been done a lot better. I am not sure if it needed to be done in the first place.

The visuals are spectacular - not only of the strange and alien worlds (much filmed on Earth, not necessarily effects); but also of Earth itself, as it grinds to dust. This is a movie that must be watched on a big screen - the bigger the better. With only two Imax cinemas in South Africa, the choices are limited - but it is certainly worth it.

30 October 2014

JPO's 3rd 2014 Season, 1st Concert

To call it a 3rd season is overly generous - after all, there are only 2 concerts!That said, the line-up for both concerts is quite interesting and some shows are better than no shows! Last night's concert, in some ways, encapsulated two of the big problems with the current state of the JPO - poor communication and poor attendance. I am a subscriber, but I only got a SMS about the concerts the day before - certainly not the best way to advertise at such short notice. There were apparently emails, but quite a few people didn't seem to get them. There were apparently a few radio ads also - but in the age of so many communication mediums, it is quite sad that the JPO can't seem to get the word out that that there are actually performing! Poor attendance obviously flows from poor communication and marketing, and it certainly doesn't help the JPO's financial position, sponsorship and ultimately its future prospects.

Starting the evening off, was Grieg's Holberg Suite. I have heard most of the individual components a number of times on radio - especially Sarabande and Rigaudon - but this was the first time I have heard them all together. It was a fun piece, and very easy to appreciate - and certainly a good piece to kick off a concert!

Multiple competition winner, Russian pianist Andrey Pisarev, played a double concerto bill of Chopin's First and Second Piano Concertos. Like the performance last year, Andrey Pisarev, seemed to be in his own world; looking only at the piano or the conductor during his performance. His fingers flew across the keyboard - something that was quite fun to watch, especially in the virtuoso parts of the performance - but he was far more reserved. It was a great performance, and I think I am getting to like Chopin more and more - but not necessarily as personable as Alexander Lubyantsev last year.

28 October 2014

Movie: La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty)

Lavishly set amongst some of the finest art and architecture in Rome, La Grande Bellezza, or The Great Beauty is a visual masterpiece - but with seemingly no plot and no real storyline. The film revolves around a great (fictional) Italian author, Jep Gambardella, who starts to question his lavish, partying lifestyle upon his 65th birthday - but doesn't really come to any meaningful conclusions. It is a visual masterpiece, backed by an amazing sound track - and in a few places - some amazing dialogue (his assessment of the failures of one his ego-seeking friends is probably worth the ticket price); but there is no meaningful story, and in the end quite unsatisfying.

26 October 2014

War Horse

The UK's National Theatre's performance of War Horse has had rave reviews and the marketing hype for the South African performances has been like no other theatre performance. The hype is definitely warranted - this is certainly one of the best live performances (of any genre) I have attended.

Part of the spectacle, is off course the puppets - especially the large horse puppets - whose movements are so well crafted, that the puppeteers blend into the background; and are completely unobtrusive. This is not Punch and Judy - the puppets manage to convey amazing emotion, and natural movement; and presence -  that it is sometimes easy to forget that these are actually puppets.

 Backing the puppeteers amazing craft, is a superb cast of actors and lighting and stage effects - that manage to completely portray the horrors and cruelty of war. It is a visual feast, that sucks the audience in completely. It is a great story - but it is amazing creativity that has managed to translate the story so completely for a stage performance.

25 October 2014

Johnny Clegg - Best, Live & Unplugged

Johnny Clegg's current tour is more than just a musical performance of his best hits, arranged acoustically. Yes - all the big hits are there, including performances with Sipho Mchunu - but there are also a few obscure pieces. But more than the music - it is a discourse on South African culture.

In between the songs, Johnny Clegg discussed difference in instrumentation, the impact of migration on the change of culture and its eventual impact on new styles of song and dance. It was not just a speech, but as he put it a "show and tell". Off course, this is all wrapped up within the wider context of South Africa's history - not only apartheid, but going further back to colonial times such as the Battle of Isandlwana and its inspiration for Impi.

20 years into South Africa's rainbow nation - the discourse in cultural roots, transformation and amalgamation is still missing. While this is a very personal discourse from Johnny Clegg, it provides a glimpse into how various traditions of culture and music have influenced South African music.