Avigail Bushakevitz and John TheodoreAndra le Roux-Kemp
Andra le Roux-Kemp: Looking around at the growing number of patrons sipping sherry and trying to warm themselves in front of the fire I felt a stab of disappointment.
These intimate gatherings held in the Nederburg Manor House on the last Sunday afternoon of every month are really so precious that I found myself feeling reluctant to share them!
But the line-up was too good to miss. Avigail Bushakevitz – who was born in Jerusalem but grew up here in South Africa - is currently studying violin under the tutelage of Sylvia Rosenberg and Lewis Kaplan at the esteemed Julliard School of Music in New York from which she recently graduated with her Master’s degree. And for the past month Bushakevitz has had audiences swooning across South Africa. With her virtuoso playing and charming stage personality the excellent turn-out at the Nederburg Manor House should have come as no surprise.
In Cape Town she performed at the Baxter with her pianist brother, Ammiel Bushakevitz (read our review), and she also performed with the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra at the University of the Western Cape. The last performance of the tour was to be performed together with South African pianist John Theodore under the auspices of the Nederburg Concert Series.
John Theodore gave his first concert at the age of five and made his debut with the erstwhile Cape Town Symphony Orchestra in 1978, becoming the first pianist to overcome the barriers of apartheid by doing so. Since then he has won a number of prizes and performs regularly with some of the major orchestras in South Africa.
Together, Bushakevitz and Theodore were embarking on an ambitious programme for the evening. First up was Franz Schubert’s Sonata for violin and piano in A major, D. 574; a shaky start to the afternoon. The piano needed more energy and brilliance and Bushakevitz’s intonation was a bit off. But whether their nerves or the cold weather had been to blame, the duo certainly warmed up in time for their interpretation of Chausson’s Poème in E flat major Op. 25. Both gave a convincing and emotion-filled performance of this wonderful piece that requires playing to be both as smooth as silk and as hard as steel.
The true highlight of the afternoon was Bushakevitz’s solo performance of Bach’s Sonata No. 2 in a minor BWV 1003. The Bach violin sonatas are renowned for their complexity and beauty, and are said to challenge the performer’s technique and musicality to its limit. But, contrary to its ominous reputation Bushakevitz blitzed through the difficult passages and the intricacies of the fugue with ease and utter conviction. The audience sat spellbound listening to the Andante movement which is said not to have been composed, but simply to have always existed.
And just to make sure that the audience was truly convinced by their skill and virtuosity, the pair concluded the programme with Henryk Wieniawski’s Polonaise Brillante No. 2 in A major Op. 21. This is a work that you must actually see a performance of in order to completely understand the immense demands that it places on the violinist. Exclamations of amazement and appreciation could be heard as Theodore and Bushakevitz blazed their way through this notoriously demanding work.
The evening concluded with the usual enjoyment of award-winning wines, excellent food and superb company. In fact, we enjoyed ourselves so much that we were quite startled at the sound of the ‘time-to-go-home bell’ reminding us that Monday was fast approaching.
Avigail Bushakevitz and John Theodore performed at the Nederburg Concert Series at Nederburg Wine Estate on 24 June 2012.
Andra le Roux-Kemp
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Nederburg Manor House, Nederburg Paarl Cape Town Western Cape South Africa