Three Disparate Works Enthusiastically Received in City Hall

Cape Times (South Africa), September 6, 2010 | Go to article overview

Three Disparate Works Enthusiastically Received in City Hall


THIS was an enjoyable concert in which a full house heard three disparate works, all of which were received with enthusiasm.

The first item, the concert overture De getemde feeks by the Dutch composer Johan Wagenaar (1862-1941), was written in 1909, when the composer was organist of Utrecht Cathedral. It shows an obvious lineage from Wagner and Strauss in its complex orchestration, soaring string melodies and characteristic horn writing. Whether it conveys anything of the Shakespearian narrative is debatable; but that does not detract from the attractive writing.

One assumes that the inclusion of this item was at the suggestion of conductor Van Alphen. If so, he deserves thanks for what I assume to have been a Cape Town premiere.

The other works are, by comparison, old favourites. I enjoyed Van Alphen's neat account of Shostakovich's Ninth Symphony, written in 1945 at the conclusion of World War II and full of a new-found vigour and wit. If there was one criticism of the account, it was that the more acetic aspects of the writing weren't astringent enough. There is a sardonic quality to the composer's humour, expressed not only in the spiky string writing, but also in the pungent wind commentaries.

Van Alphen, in ensuring generally careful balances, on occasion rather mellowed some of these astringencies and produced a result too lyrical to be accounted wholly successful. But, that apart, the reading was taut, cohesive and stylish and it was intriguing to see the extent to which it received a genuinely popular response.

Shostakovich has come a long way with audiences in half a century. …

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