Classical Cape Philharmonic Orchestra disappoints

Cape Philharmonic Orchestra disappoints

A symphony concert represents the high point in western art music culture, with the audience in upholding established concert etiquette. However, many in last night’s audience had no knowledge of these customs. The Cape Philharmonic Orchestra opened the concert with a rousing, though sometimes untidy, rendition of Von Reznicek’s Donna Dianna Overture. It was immediately apparent that the Guy Butler Theatre’s poor acoustics would play a role in one’s appreciation of the programme. In this venue the upper strings appear strangely muted with the overall impact of the orchestral sound being muffled. The hall in its current configuration is obviously not designed to accommodate symphony orchestras and, as Keith Moss rightly pointed out last year, the Festival organisers should apply their minds to solving this problem.

Florian Uhlig impressed with his detailed approach to the score in Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor. His playing captured the music’s varied expressive shapes, especially noticeable in the first two movements. Uhlig approached this work as a chamber ensemble player, and in so doing highlighted the work’s intricate thematic interplay. Some noticeably magical moments were the “conversations” between the clarinet (Melissa-Jane Fraser), oboe (Olga Burdukova) and the piano.
His command over a multiple array of pianissimo colours set against invigorating blushes of forte tone are what set him apart from the average concert pianist. Yet, his third movement, which romped along at a blistering allegro, and highlighted some superb gossamer-like playing, lacked energy and drive. In this movement the orchestra lacked cohesion; their sense of ensemble hung by a thread, and in the fugato section nearly became totally unhinged.

This movement sounded under rehearsed with the ensemble between soloist and orchestra poised on a knife edge. This was disappointing to witness as up to that moment Richard Cock had proved to be a sensitive accompanist, attentive to the soloist’s rubato inflections.

In Dvořák’s From the New World Symphonycite members National Youth Orchestra joined the Cape Philharmonic, swelling the strings ranks. In this workmanlike performance Cock’s clear stick-work generally maintained ensemble cohesion, but I am still pondering who played during the general pause? An incandescently lovely oboe solo (largo movement) played by Burdukova, raised the standard of musicianship with the most poignant moment in the symphony being the duet between herself and solo cellist, Kristiyan Chernev.

Perhaps next year the Festival organisers can allocate the necessary time for the orchestra to adequately rehearse and smooth out ensemble difficulties?

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