Pinchas Zukerman’s international career as a violinist, violist and conductor is thriving. He and his wife, the SA-born Canadian cellist Amanda Forsyth, will perform in Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Johannesburg, Pietermaritzburg, and Pretoria between now and August 31. Paul Boekkooi spoke to them.
THE Zukermans, husband and wife, are on a mission in South Africa. It’s already been nearly 17 years since the Israeli-born and mainly New York trained Pinchas last visited us for concerts. This time they’re also putting their support behind the survival of the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra (JPO), which is under business rescue.
Apart from four orchestral concerts, two with the University of Stellenbosch Symphony Orchestra (USSO) in Cape Town and Stellenbosch and two in Joburg with the combined JPO and USSO, there will be two chamber music performances: on August 30 in the City Hall in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, and on August 31 at the ZK Matthews Hall, Unisa, Pretoria.
In the chamber music performances, the Zukermans combine two famous piano trios, Beethoven’s Trio No 6 in B flat, Opus 97, the Archduke, as well as Dvorák’s folk-inspired Trio No 4 in E minor, Opus 90, the Dumky. For these concerts they are joined by the Canadian pianist Angela Cheng.
It was for Amanda Forsyth that her father – the renowned Pieter-maritzburg-born composer and trombonist, Malcolm Forsyth (1936-2011), who settled in Canada in 1968 – composed his Electra Rising, an extended piece for cello and orchestra.
It is this concerto-like work in four movements, partly orchestrated for indigenous African instruments, that she will perform four times during this tour: on Friday (Cape Town), Saturday (Stellenbosch), as well as on August 27 and 28 (Johannesburg).
“He wrote African pianos, marimbas and percussion into the score and had quite a collection of African instruments himself, which were donated to the University of Alberta after he passed away,” said Forsyth.
“We planned to perform it here in South Africa, with him conducting, but this time I got another conductor, Pinchas Zukerman. It should be okay.
“The title Electra Rising is more symbolic than specifically based on legend. The work is very tonal, descriptive, varied in expression and atmospheric.”
Of her genesis in South Africa, she says: “My mother is also from Natal, born in Ladysmith, while I saw the light of day in Cape Town.
“There is also great interest in this tour from a Canadian TV company and they’ll be shooting a documentary while following it.”
Pinchas Zukerman will be a soloist in Bruch’s Violin Concerto No 1 as well as conductor of Beethoven’s Egmont Overture and Electra Rising during the four orchestral concerts.
About the JPO’s woes he commented: “Struggling orchestras are an international problem which should be tackled globally. I remember positively the Beethoven performance we did in 1997 with the previous SABC orchestra (the JPO’s predecessor).
“The Bruch concerto we’ll perform is the ultimate in Romantic concertos, challenging the soloist anew every time you approach it.”
Zukerman voices pertinent views on music education: “To make it really work, a strong synergy should be developed between corporate investors and politicians who believe in it. My experience is that governments themselves are usually not geared for this process.”
Friday, Cape Town City Hall, 8pm; Saturday, Endler Hall, Stellenbosch, 8pm; August 27 and 28, Linder Auditorium, Joburg, 8pm (JPO fundraising concerts); August 30, Pietermaritzburg City Hall, 7.30pm; August 31, ZK Matthews Great Hall, Unisa, Pretoria, 4pm.
• Bookings at Computicket, except Pietermaritzburg. For this concert, book at Parklane Superspar Coffee Shop or call 033 342 3487.