JOHANNESBURG PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
PROGRAMME: Music by Schubert, Bruch and Beethoven
CONDUCTOR: Gérard Korsten
SOLOISTS: Phillip Coetzee, clarinet & Vladimir Ivanov, viola
VENUE: Linder Auditorium, Parktown
THE opening chords of Schubert’s Rosamunde Overture boldly announce a sound at once firm and informative, with clean presence and pitch of the orchestra’s lower voices. Apart from some thin violin tone, the range of expression is rich. The C major Allegro sounds surprisingly relaxed, but the first forte brings a dramatic increase in pace. This is music for the theatre.
Two JPO principals, Phillip Coetzee (clarinet) and Vladimir Ivanov (viola), are the soloists in Bruch’s Double Concerto in E minor for Clarinet and Viola, Opus 88.
This duo make the most of this backward- and inward-looking work, with Coetzee’s fluidity and Ivanov’s burnished sound serving the music ideally. Apart from brilliant snippets, the work’s mood as a whole is a bit world-weary.
Gérard Korsten has a lean orchestra for his interpretation of Beethoven’s Symphony No 7 in A major, Opus 92. It’s not so much an interpretation as a strict valuation of mainly Classical stylistic principles.
Already in the opening chord, whose main melody is continued on the oboe and marked poco sostenuto (a little sustained), there is a sense of slight tension and anticipation. This is an extended introduction.
The second theme, first given by solo oboe, might by an unprejudiced witness be taken for either an invitation to the dance or the carolling of a bird. Everything sounds as if in perfect equilibrium.
With an introduction by the flute, the Vivace (lively) section unleashed itself. Rhythmic accentuation, phrasing and dynamics came into play in the compelling way Korsten grasped the musical structure.
There was tenderness in the Allegretto, with the inner string voices well delineated within the hypnotically repeated dactylic rhythm. The major mode section sounded more heroic than pathetic, without missing the sublime interiority of a piece Beethoven’s contemporaries wept over.
The swift third movement, Scherzo, was played with virtuosity. In the trio sections the richly sustained lyrical parts were well contrasted with effective climaxes. It also delivered subtle humour.
The Allegro con brio finale had great momentum and relaxed passages where transparency brought textural lightness. It awaits its ultimate apotheosis in the coda. Here the conductor pulls high drama from the strings, with the gargantuan heaving and moaning of the chromatic bass line, all welding together in a series of steeply built replicating crescendos.