Orchestrating at the City Hall

Sitting in the city hall feels a little like one is sitting under the petticoat of a Victorian lady. With its beautiful frilly plaster-work and rounded balconies, sparkling chandeliers and a full to almost-capacity audience, it was the perfect place to enjoy the opening concert of the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra’s Spring Season.

The Cape Philharmonic Youth Orchestra opened the concert, a fabulous mix of youngsters obviously loving their instruments and Verdi’s Overture La Forza Del Destino. I thought it a very suitable choice for the Spring Season – quick-paced, like bees and butterflies flitting from blossom to blossom in the spring sunshine.

Sitting beneath the huge organ pipes of the City Hall, the Youth Orchestra certainly made an impression. There’s something so very hopeful in this world where classical music is pushed to the side and thought of as the land of fuddy-duddies, to see a young double bass player with a funky Mohawk!

The crowd tittered as the youth left the stage, and the CPO settled in, starting with Stefans Grove’s Gestaltes In Die Newel (Figures In The Mist). Being a classical music concert newbie, I have to confess that I hadn’t heard of him before. According to the programme, it is a ‘”symphonic poem”, paying homage to the lost world of the Khoisan.’

It’s a foreboding piece that made me feel like I was in a dark city street on a night filled with thunderstorms. Very emotive, very dark, very on edge.

From there the orchestra, thankfully, moved onto Schumann’s more soothing Cello Concerto in A Minor, with the fabulous Georgi Anichenko as soloist cellist. The violins moved from sad, to plucky, to frenetic, accompanying the beautiful cello. There is something so heartachingly, beautifully, sorrowful about a cello. Anichenko kept the audience mesmerised and had them on their feet for a standing ovation.

After a break for a glass of wine and more wonderment at the beauty of the City Hall, with its mosaicked floors and intricate woodwork, we filed back, as did the orchestra, for the final, climatic piece – Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 44.

The piece made me feel like a 10-year old boy had been given the orchestra and free reign. It’s fun, it’s busy, it’s lively and it was beautifully handled by the CPO. Guest conductor, Conrad van Alphen, led them seamlessly through the three movements.

What a perfect finale for the Spring Season opening. Here’s to a great season.

*An edited version of this piece was published at What’s On In Cape Town.

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