Cape Philharmonic Orchestra with Bryan WallickAndra le Roux-Kemp
Andra le Roux-Kemp: The steadfast demeanour of conductor Victor Yampolsky and his unwavering control of an orchestra is a remarkable experience to watch.
And not only is it a pleasure to hear the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO) under the experienced baton of Yampolsky, it is also a tremendous honour.
Born in 1942 in the Soviet Union to two pianist parents Yampolsky emigrated to the USA in 1973 where his musical career flourished as principal second violinist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Since becoming a conductor in 1977 he has conducted over 80 professional and student orchestras throughout the world and his regular appearances with the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra is always enthralling. The most recent performance was no exception.
The final concert of the CPO’s Autumn Symphony Season can be described as victorious and grand in both content and execution. The evening commenced with an exciting rendition of Berlioz’s Op. 9 Overture, the Roman Carnival. This work was originally an arrangement for a semi-serious opera in 1838. But the opera was a dismal failure, and Berlioz went back to the score and conjured up this exciting concert overture instead.
From the rousing opening to the slower middle section, the fervent bowing, bashing of tambourines and the blasting of brass filled City Hall with a boulder of sound. What a remarkable opening! As the music culminated in a fast jubilant conclusion Yampolsky raised a victorious fist in air and the audience applauded wildly in anticipation for more.
Next, American pianist Bryan Wallick delivered a convincing and assured performance of Brahms’s Piano Concert No. 1 in D minor Op. 15. A Julliard School graduate, Wallick made his New York recital debut in 1998 at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall. Curiously, Wallick suffers from a peculiar affliction or gift called synaesthesia - a neurological condition in which the stimulation of one cognitive pathway in the brain leads to the automatic and involuntary experience of other cognitive pathways. For Wallick, this ability allows him to experience different tones and sounds in terms of colours. He associates C, for example, with the colour white and a chord on C or an octave on C with different shades of the colour white.
While utterly fascinating in itself, this doesn’t necessarily make Wallick a better player. He delivered a convincing interpretation of this monumental work by Brahms, but it just lacked that mysterious and special synergy with the orchestra that can make a good performance great.
The true star of the evening was Olga Burdukova, principal oboist of the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra. Not only did she give a stellar performance in the Berlioz, but she also gave new life to Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 in E minor, From the New World. I think most of the audience experienced a bout of synaesthesia while listening to this performance, especially in the last movement which has been described as unique in the impact of colour it produces within the mind of the listener.
The audience sat breathless throughout this work as the conductor and orchestra created magic in performing a symphony hailed as one of the greatest symphonic works of all time. A truly marvellous ending to a wonderful Autumn Symphony Season.
The Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, featuring Olga Burdukova and conducted by Victor Yampolsky, performed with Bryan Wallick at City Hall, Cape Town on 31 May 2012.
Andra le Roux-Kemp
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Cape Town City Hall, Cape Town Western Cape South Africa