Virtual Winter Symphony Season 2021 – Concert 1

This concert will be available for viewing as follows:

Thursday 19 August (midday) – Saturday 21 August (midnight)

Conductor: Brandon Phillips
Soloist: Charl du Plessis (piano)


Jean Sibelius: Karelia Overture op. 10
George Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue
Modest Mussorgsky: Night on Bald Mountain
Franz Liszt: Les Preludes, S.97 (Symphonic poem no3)

Duration: 60 minutes

We start our programme with Jean Sibelius’ Karelia Overture, Op. 10. Sibelius was commission by a local student society to compose some incidental music for an upcoming celebration of Karelian history. Sibelius was asked to produce corresponding items of music for the seven different scenes of the play, plus an overture. He undertook the project with a passion, and the resulting music is the first incidental music ever written by Sibelius — the first in a very long and distinguished series of such works.

This performance is followed by Rhapsody in Blue – the ever popular composition written by George Gershwin for solo piano and jazz band, which combines elements of classical music with jazz-influenced effects. The rhapsody is one of Gershwin’s most recognizable creations and a key composition that defined the Jazz Age. Gershwin’s piece inaugurated a new era in America’s musical history, established Gershwin’s reputation as an eminent composer, and eventually became one of the most popular of all concert works.

Night on Bald Mountain, is a series of compositions by Mussorgsky, inspired by Russian literary works. Although Mussorgsky was proud of his youthful effort, Night on Bald Mountain was never performed in any form during the composer’s lifetime. It is through a revised version that Night on Bald Mountain achieved lasting fame, and has become familiar to modern audiences.

The final piece – Les préludes, is the third of Franz Liszt’s thirteen symphonic poems. The music was initially composed as an overture but later revised under inspiration from the French poet Alphonse de Lamartine. Its premiere was conducted by Liszt himself.

Conductor: Brandon Phillips

Winner of the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra’s inaugural Len van Zyl Conductors’ Competition in 2010, Brandon Phillips was appointed resident conductor of the CPO in June, 2015. He studied bassoon and viola at the University of Cape Town, receiving his B Mus Hons in solo bassoon in 2005. Phillips currently is principal bassoon of the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, and Artistic Director and Conductor of the Cape Town Philharmonic Youth Orchestra.

As a result of the Len Van Zyl competition, Phillips studied conducting at the Northwestern University in Chicago with Victor Yampolsky and was a conducting intern with the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra. In 2014, he attended Arjan Tien’s conducting class at the Fontys Conservatoire – Tilburg and was Tien’s assistant conductor in a WDR Rundfunkorchester concert in Cologne in Germany. Phillips is regularly invited as an adjudicator and conductor for various competitions such as Artscape National Youth and Schock Singing competitions.

He works with many South African orchestras and choirs such as the Miagi Youth Orchestra, which he conducted to acclaim in Europe, the Johannesburg Festival Orchestra, Bloemfontein University Symphony, and, of course, the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra. He has also conducted at the Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival.

In 2012, Phillips received Western Cape Government’s award for “outstanding achievements by the youth”.

Soloist – Charl du Plessis

As one of the most unique and respected pianists from South Africa, Dr Charl du Plessis has contributed to a resurgence in the popularity of crossover music with his new improvisations combining jazz and classical music. As a versatile pianist, composer and arranger he is in high demand from concert platforms, recording studios, theatre stages to performing as soloist with orchestras. He has released ten albums and two DVDs and won several major music awards including two South African Music Awards, a Fiësta and a Ghoema for recordings by the Charl du Plessis Trio. He frequently performs in Europe, Asia, Australasia and North America, as well as at major music festivals in South Africa. Highlights include the Festival Musikdorf Ernen (Switzerland), Grachtenfestival (Netherlands), Choralies (France) and the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz (South Africa).

Charl is a Steinway artist and a Spirio recording artist who holds a doctorate of music from the University of Pretoria under the tutelage of Joseph Stanford. He also studied with György Sebök in Ernen (Switzerland) Dan Hearle and Stefan Karlsson at the University of North Texas (USA) and Ulrich Koellah at the Musikhochschule Winterthur-Zurich (Switzerland). Charl has been the recipient of major prizes at international scholarship competitions and has performed in London’s Royal Albert Hall, Shanghai’s Oriental Arts Centre, the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg and the Berlin Philharmonie with Chick Corea. Charl recently became the first person to perform on top of Cape Town’s iconic Table Mountain.

Charl is a piano lecturer at the University of Pretoria and specialises in classical and jazz piano and improvisation.

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