Schalk van der Merwe shows his paces in a mixed programme of 19th century classics.
Launching proceedings with the Hebrides Overture – Mendelssohn’s tempestuous evocation of the northern Scottish coastline – the conductor is joined by cellist Aristide du Plessis, performing two works central to his soloist repertoire.
Fauré’s Élégie is a short work of powerful romantic intensity, movingly building to a grief-stricken outburst. This is followed by an erratic cadenza, before returning to its opening theme with a brief reminiscence of its haunting middle section.
Bruch’s Kol Nidrei, like Prokofiev’s Overture on Hebrew Themes, is a piece of ersatz Judaica, that has achieved such prominence among the composer’s works that he is sometimes mistakenly called a “Jewish composer.” He was in fact a German Lutheran, known for using “exotic” ethnic melodic material. The Kol Nidrei melody, a haunting Aramaic prayer, was handed to Bruch by a member of a choir he directed. He composed the work for cello and orchestra in 1881.
Mystery surrounds the interrupted genesis of Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony. Many scholars believe he was intimidated by the towering symphonic reputation of Beethoven, which gave rise to a string of Schubertian musical fragments, notable among them the magnificent torso he abandoned, known to posterity as “the Unfinished Symphony”. Schubert completed and orchestrated only two movements, although he lived on for six more years. This enigma was perhaps best explained years later by Alfred Einstein, who declared, “Schubert could never have finished the work, for nothing could approach the originality, power, and skill of the first two movements.”
Tickets for the series of four concerts are R600.
Individual concerts are R200 each.