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).

28 July 2011

A lot of plucking - JPO's 3rd Season, 2nd Week

There was no overall theme in the second week, except that most of the pieces featured plucking by the strings of the orchestra. The first piece of the evening was Benjamin Britten's Simple Symphony, which Britten apparently composed in his early teens. It is a wonderful string orchestra piece, with my personal favourite being the second movement "Playful Pizzicato", which is entirely strummed by the full orchestra (see a YouTube performance of it here).

South African viola player, Gina Beukes, was the soloist performing two pieces - Max Bruch's "Romance in F Major for Viola and Orchestra" and Paganini's "Sonata Per Le Gran Viola e Orchestra". Of the two pieces, Paganini's piece was certainly more entertaining, and seemed to have a lot more complex and demanding. The final movement is particularly impressive, as the viola leads the orchestra to the climax, and was performed again as the encore.

The last piece was Haydn's "Symphony no 103 - Drum Roll", starts with a drum roll on the Timpani, and is quite upbeat and merry piece. It was not as impressive as the viola pieces or as interesting as Britten's simple symphony, but it was a nice, relaxed way to end the performance.

24 July 2011

All the Russians - JPO's 3rd Season, 1st Week

The new JPO season kicked off this week featuring a lot of Russians - Shostakovich's Festive Overture, Rachmaninoff's First Piano Concerto, with young Russian born soloist Boris Giltburg and finishing off with Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. The conductor, Gerard Korsten, is one of the few really well known South African conductors, and will conduct two more weeks of this season.

The Festive Overture is loud, starting with great brass fanfare, and ending with equally loud percussion and brass; which was actually a general feature of the performance overall; and thus great in setting the mood.

Rachmaninoff's First Piano Concerto is not as well known as his second and third, and hopefully this signals that the JPO intends to cover the other two also in the future. While certainly not as loud as the accompanying pieces, the concerto is brilliant in how the piano and the rest of the orchestra comes together, and Boris' performance was brilliant in this regard. There was a short encore (a piece I didn't recognise) - very fast, and showed off his skills perfectly.

The Pictures at an Exhibition (originally for piano, but orchestrated by Ravel) feature a number of pieces inspired by paintings. In this respect, the JPO missed an opportunity in my opinion in not projecting pictures along with the concert, although I understand from the Wikipedia article, that not all the pictures survive. The pictures ends off with a raucous percussion set (where almost every percussion instrument seems to have gone crazy) in "The Bogatyr Gates (in the Capital in Kiev)".

The JPO plays three of its six week season at the ZK Matthews Hall in the UNISA campus in Pretoria, on Sunday afternoons. This is not as well attended as the Linder Auditorium performances, which I find strange - given that the UNISA environment seems to be a lot laid back, and not a bad way to spend Sunday afternoons. Perhaps, it is not as well known!