For their fourth consecutive appearance at the Johannesburg International Mozart Festival, there were some substantial diversion from a traditional Buskaid recital - no Rameau for instance; and all the composers were pretty mainstream. That is not a criticism of the program; although I did think the sequencing could be enhanced.
The first piece, appropriately given the name of the festival, was Mozart's Divertimento in D Major. As in recent concerts, Buskaid are now playing more complete works, and the piece was an excellent choice in highlighting the prowess of the orchestra in general.
The next two pieces, in my mind, were the highlights of the performance - and should have been used to bring the concert to a close as the highlight performances. Mzwandile Twala, who I first saw perform with the orchestra while he was barely taller than his violin, delivered an amazing performance of Fritz Kreisler's Preludium and Allegro. I have only heard one other performance - Itzhak Perlman's on YouTube, and the experience of hearing the performance at Buskaid was better! It was followed up by Kabelo Monnathebe's performance of Ralph Vaughn William's The Lark Ascending - yet another amazing solo performance.
The first half closed with Shostakovich's "Five Pieces", a selection of joyful pieces from his vast collection of compositions, which were re-arranged for string performances with dual soloists from the ensemble.
The second half started off with yet another full work - Grieg's Holberg Suite, before moving to some vocal and kwela pieces. As part of the kwela, was a lovely orchestral hymn dedicated to the recently deceased driver for the Buskaid - which I think should have been featured as part of the main program itself.
The kwela section often introduces new members to the ensemble, and this occasion was no different. It does raise the question though - should Buskaid members not consider building their own professional orchestra? It is the 20th anniversary of the Buskaid, and perhaps the right legacy is building an orchestra that not only teaches music but also performs music for the masses on a regular basis - and one that can not only bring western classical music to Africa; but that can take African music to the world.