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).

26 August 2011

All the Americans - JPO's 3rd Season, 6th Week

The final week of the JPO's 3rd Season featured only American composers; and while the Russian week (1st week) was quite traditional, this week had a lot of jazz influence. The JPO's Principal Guest Conductor, Bernhard Gueller was on the podium for the week.

The first piece of the evening was Gershwin's "An American in Paris", which was also played by the MIAGI Youth Orchestra in May this year. Overall, I think this performance was better - it felt a bit more alive, and the jazzy components stood out a lot more. It really gave the vibe of the Parisian cafe from before WW2 (as depicted often in movies).

The second piece was Gershwin's Piano Concerto in F, with Nina Schumann, (or rather Prof. Schumann, as her students would call her :)) at the keyboard. This piece had even more jazz influences, and was one of the best piano performances I have heard at the JPO.

Aaron Copland's "Corral Nocturne" from his Ballet Rodeo, was the most traditional piece of the evening - very soothing, and calm.

The last piece of the evening was Leonard Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from the "West Side Story". Taken from the Broadway hit (also scored by Bernstein), the Symphonic Dances give an orchestral performance of 9 songs from the musical (though they are not arranged in sequence of the story). Once again, there was a lot of "modern music" influence, a lot more Jazz in feel; and was definitely different to the traditional JPO fare. In some respects, I think the JPO should perform a lot more of the newer crossover pieces, as it opens up the concert to a much wider audience. I would particularly like to see scores from movies performed once a season to get a wider audience involved.

24 August 2011

Johan Botha Gala Concert

Johan Botha is probably South Africa's best known opera export, and is by all accounts a sought after tenor on the international opera circuit. So it was not surprising, that his one off gala concert in Johannesburg on Saturday had a full house. Supported by young South African opera singers, as well as the CT Opera Choir and the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra, he delivered a brilliant concert, and truly showed his class.

I am not a big fan of Opera, so I do not know all the concert pieces, and the background in the wider opera story - but it is easy to pick up on the ones I did know and compare it to other performances. I think the concert program could have done more in this regard, to be honest.

He had a number of encores, including an Afrikaans song (which got a wild applause from certain members of the audience), and finished off with the popular Nessun Dorma from Puccini's Turandot; and his final performance was better than the "concert" performance and is one of the best performances I have heard (though it doesn't really compare to the Pavarotti).

22 August 2011

Movie: Captain America: The First Avenger

Early Superman comics were just as nationalistic (there are comics showing Superman, fighting the Nazis); and Captain America was conceptualised at the height of World War 2; and largely takes place in that time period. A weak, but courageous young man, who wants to enroll, gets drafted into a covert bio-engineering program and is transformed into a super solider. He is first drafted in to raise funds for the war, but later leads the charge against the other super-soldier, mad scientist/Fuhrer wannabe.

As an action movie, it is passable - nothing brilliant, but not bad either. 3D is, as is expected, completely useless, with most of the movie employing next to no 3D effects. The explosions are big, there are car chases (and plane chases, and train chases); ticking bombs and off course beautiful women. So, quite an enjoyable movie to watch - but nothing special.

Movie: The Perfect Host

It is hard to say much about this movie, without revealing the plot. An injured bank robber charms his way into the home of a man hosting a dinner party; except all is not what it seems. The movie is really notable for its brilliant character development (of the criminal, the host, and some of the other side characters) - and the brilliant acting of David Pierce (of Frasier fame).