Last night I attended a performance of the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO). It was their last performance of the season. CPO is a small orchestra with a polished grand sound. They recently toured the US and are known as “the most versatile and active orchestra on the African continent.”
CPO performs in Cape Town’s City Hall with its excellent acoustics for orchestral music. After several years of neglect, City Hall restoration is in process. Built in 1905 in the Italian Renaissance style, City Hall is strikingly beautiful both inside and out. It has 39 bells and is the largest carillon in Southern Africa. The organ with 3165 pipes is the pride of the Grand Hall. Sir George Martin, who constructed the organ at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, designed it.
CPO believes music bridges the gap between diverse cultures and embraces education through three training orchestras:
1. Cape Philharmonic Youth Orchestra (CPYO)
2. Cape Philharmonic Youth Wind Ensemble (CPYWE)
3. Masidlale Project
CPYO and CPYWE consist mostly of young musicians from the townships and previously disadvantaged communities. Masidlale Project is a grassroots classical music academy in the townships of Gugulethu and Nyanga providing children with instrumental training.
Last night the program included:
• Beethoven: Ruins of Athens Overture
• Mendelssohn: Piano Concerto No. 1 in G Minor
• Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 in E Flat Major
The soloist was Jan Hugo, a twenty-year-old South African pianist who studied in Italy for the past seven years. At the age of 16 Hugo received the University of Modena’s Diploma Accademico Superiore di Livello. The diploma is one of the most sought-after for performing artists in Italy. Last year he received a Bachelor of Music Degree from the Instiuto Superiore di Musicale “Vecchi-Tonelli”.
The guest conductor, Sebastian Lang-Lessing, is the former director of the San Antonio Symphony and serves as chief conductor and artistic director of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. Awarded the Ferenc Fricsay Prize in Berlin at the age of 24, Lang-Lessing regularly appears on podiums worldwide, including:
• Opéra Bastille de Paris
• San Francisco Opera
• Houston Grand Opera
• Opera Colorado
• Opéra de Bordeaux
• Washington National Opera
• Hamburg State Opera
• Orchestre Symphonique et Lyrique de Nancy in France
• Oslo Opera House
• Stockholm Royal Swedish Opera
The audience was very happy! Hugo did a fantastic job with Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto and CPO performed Beethoven’s dramatic Symphony No. 3 exceptionally well.