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MOZART AND FRIENDS (article first published : 2006-05-16)

Celebrating the birth of Mozart 250 years ago, the music programme for the National Arts Festival taking place in Grahamstown from June 29 to July 8 is infused with the radiant spirit of a frail young genius whose awesome creations brought lasting joy to the world. Several all-Mozart concerts on the main music programme, numerous Mozart vocal and instrumental works included in mixed programmes and an extensive New Music Indaba salute to Mozart, all fuel the great party.

The Johannesburg Festival Orchestra under the baton of Richard Cock presents an all-Mozart symphony concert featuring Symphony No.1 K 16, Concerto in C major K 467 (with soloist Catherine Foxcroft) and Symphony No. 41 in C, Jupiter K 551.

The orchestra will also accompany the Cape Town City Ballet, playing the music from Bizet’s opera Carmen adapted for the ballet by Michael Tuffin.

Richard Cock conducts a combined choral concert with the full orchestra, the Chanticleer Singers and the Sdasa Chorale. They will perform Mozart’s Requiem Mass K 626 juxtaposed with In Memoriam '76, a new work by Mokale Koapeng, commissioned by the Festival to commemorate the tragic events of 1976.

In a separate concert, the Chanticleer Singers will perform Mozart’s lyrical Missa Brevis, in a programme that includes four pieces by the 17th century composer Heinrich Schütz and Gerald Finzi’s exquisite setting of the Robert Bridges poem My Spirit Sang all Day.

Celebrating their 20th anniversary, the versatile Sdasa Chorale treats Festival audiences to a concert of close harmony gospel arrangements, African-American spirituals, rhythm-and-blues numbers and indigenous songs.

Another all-Mozart concert features the renowned Sontonga Quartet performing Adagio and Fugue in C minor K 546, Clarinet Quintet K 581 (with guest Matthew Reid on clarinet), and String Quartet in G major K 387. The Sontonga’s second recital is an avant-garde late night affair with Terry Riley’s The Gift from Salome Dances for Peace, Matthijs van Dyk’s arrangement of B.Y.O.B by rock group System of a Down and Henryk Górecki’s String Quartet No. 2 ‘Quasi una Fantasia’.

Gypsy and Tango in Vienna is the title of a sparkling concert by the Kerimov Trio with guest baritone Federico Freschi. Mozart’s Rondo alla Turca and Non pui andrai from Marriage of Figaro heads up the programme. Short works by a range of composers including Beethoven, Brahms, Piazzolla, Cole Porter and Franz Lehár make up the complement.

Federico Freschi makes a second appearance in The Art of French Song with Christopher Duigan on piano. Beloved opera arias and popular love songs sweep the audience into a musical pleasure-land.

No National Arts Festival music programme is ever complete without a special event for lovers of Baroque music. This year Festinos have the rare opportunity to savour L'Europe Galante (Gallant Europe) a 17th century opera-ballet by André Campra performed by Durban’s Baroque 2000 orchestra with three singers and two dancers. The musical director is Chiara Banchini and Boyzie Cekwana creates the original choreography.

The Violoncello is another mustn’t miss in every Festival music mix. This year cello maestro Peter Martens performs all five Bach suites for violoncello solo in two separate recitals. In his words: “an almost sacred journey through some of the most ingenious, inspired and glorious music ever written.”

Another sacred journey is made in Ibali Lomculo-Jesus: Life and Crucifixion, an oratorio composed and conducted by Thanduxolo Christian Ngqobe with singers and musicians from the Eastern Cape’s Legato Music Academy Opera and Orchestra Development.

Other Eastern Cape voices and instrumentalists strike a lighter note in Choral Jazz Spectacular. The Siyaphakama Choir from Queenstown conducted by Thomas Kolo, the Mdantsane Voices of Joy from East London conducted by Mlungisi Gxabashe, and the Modern Vocal Artists from Mthatha conducted by Lala Nomanyama have put together a foot-tapping programme of traditional folk melodies and new works by Xhosa composers.

More music spills out into the Grahamstown streets at Festival time from the packed Standard Bank Jazz programme and numerous Fringe venues. The Eastern Cape Government, Standard Bank, the SABC, the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund and the National Arts Council are the proud sponsors of the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown. Further details are available in the free Festival Booking Kit, which is available from selected Standard Bank branches and Computicket outlets nationwide. Booking is at Computicket. Visit the website www.nafest.co.za or telephone 046 603 1103.




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