Tobie Cronje : actor


Concert: University of Pretoria Symphony Orchestra (Musaion, UP)

Conductor: Eric Rycroft

Narrator: Tobie Cronjé

Soloists: Wessel van Wyk & Jannie le Roux, piano

Programme: Music by Prokofiev & Saint-Saëns

Animal Capers would have been a perfect title for this programme, which drew in a young crowd, opening last Thursday and repeated on Saturday and Sunday.

Two master composers, Sergei Prokofiev from Russia and Camille Saint-Saëns from France, used their imagination to the hilt when writing Peter and the Wolf and Carnival of the Animals respectively.

A further attraction was that the well-known actor and pantomime’s funny man, Tobie Cronjé, was at hand to tell both stories in the hilarious texts written by Cape Town whirligig wordsmith Philip de Vos.

The University of Pretoria Symphony Orchestra were mostly in top form in these challenging scores, with their conductor, Eric Rycroft, announcing a special and at times hilarious welcome to the minors in the audience.

Let the fun begin…

The Prokofiev is narrated in Afrikaans, Cronjé’s mother tongue, and he displays an actor’s feeling for the words, relishes their sound and meaning and sets his personal stamp on the proceedings.

At times he is agreeably relaxed, but at the high drama moments, like when the bird is threatened, or at that superb climax when the wolf catches the duck, he steers his own imagination when entering those danger zones.

The orchestral soloists were mainly in fine fettle. Especially the final jaunty processional was memorably full of atmosphere, with the oboe subtly reassuring us that the duck is still in one piece.

Carnival of the Animals, with Wessel van Wyk and Jannie le Roux as duo pianists, had fizz and sparkle. This is music that speaks for itself. No one stood between the composer’s inspiration and the atmospheric sounds the musicians should create.

Here De Vos’s English text was even more hilarious than most English ones you could encounter. And again Cronjé made the most of each animal’s characteristic.