Young up-and-coming musicians will take to the stage in a vibrant classical music event, performing alongside the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra (JPO) as part of the annual Youth Concerto Festival.
The event, now in its sixth year, hosts some of the country’s most exceptional instrumentalists. Each has been handpicked from a plethora of talented individuals and they range in age from eight to 25.
“We held auditions earlier this year and the response was overwhelming,” says Sonja Bass, who heads up the festival and oversees the JPO’s development and education programme. “Out of 64 entrants nationally, we selected the top 18. This meant taking the decision to run the event over two nights, showcasing nine outstanding participants on each night.
“The beauty of the Youth Concerto Festival is that it affords our aspiring musical prodigies the opportunity to shine on a professional platform. It also demonstrates the JPO’s commitment to music development.” Bass will be conducting on both evenings.
The young entrants have already amassed a wealth of experience, playing in youth orchestras and excelling in eisteddfods as well as in local and overseas competitions. Most are either still studying at school or completing their tertiary education. Six participants hail from Pretoria, six are from Johannesburg, five are representing Cape Town, and one – double bassist Johann Schuster – is flying the flag for Bloemfontein.
The first night, 30 August, will feature the following participants:
There are two pianists on the programme: Janri Geldenhuys and Jordyn Hurly. Janri (17) has played in the Czech Republic and excelled this year in the Beeld Eisteddfod. She will perform the second movement of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 Op 18, in C minor. At just 12 years old, Jordyn has already played as a soloist several times with the Johannesburg Symphony Orchestra. She will perform the first movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 8 in C major (K246).
There are two violinists. Wilmien van Rensburg (15) is the recipient of Roedean Girl’s College Scholarship for Culture and Music where she is currently a grade 9 learner. This year, she was selected to be part of the Unisa Music Foundation’s Programme for Gifted Young Musicians. She will play the third movement of Kabalevsky’s Violin Concerto Op. 48. Anna van der Merwe (21) began violin lessons at age six. In 2010 she played at the Klein Karoo Klassique Festival in Oudtshoorn. Currently in her second year at UCT, she is Concertmaster of the UCT Symphony Orchestra. She will perform the first movement of Saint-Saëns’ Violin Concerto No. 3 in B minor Op. 61.
Trumpeter Alexander Urban (22) has played in various youth orchestras and is a third-year B. Mus student at Pretoria University. He will perform the first movement of Neruda’s Concerto in E flat major. Flautist Tatiana Thaele (21) is a student at UCT and has had masterclasses with the likes of Eva Tamassy, among others. She will perform the first movement of Reinecke’s Concerto in D major Op. 283. Soprano Melissa Gerber (21) began voice training at age 10 and is currently a third-year B. Mus student at Pretoria University. She will sing Bernstein’s “Glitter and be Gay” from Candide.
Cellist and double bassist Zanelle Britz (25) has toured Hungary and the Czech Republic as part of a string quartet. She is currently a cadet with the JPO on the double bass. She will play Faure’s Elegie Op. 24 on the cello. Saxophonist Asiri Rathugamage (18) plays in various ensembles and will perform the second and third movements of Milhaud’s Scaramouche.
The second night, 31 August, will feature the following participants:
There will be two pianists. The first, Iman Bulbulia, is just eight years old. She started playing at the age of four and last year won no less than three prestigious awards in various competitions. Currently, Iman is a student of the Unisa Music Foundation’s Gifted Young Musicians Development Programme. She will play the second movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 23 (K488) in A major. Jane Yu (23) is a fourth-year student at the South African College of Music. She has won competitions here and abroad, and was invited to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York. She will perform the first movement of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 Op. 37 in C minor.
The two violinists performing tonight are Neo Motsatse and Jonathan Mayer. Now just 11 years old, Neo started playing violin from age six and is currently a student of the JPO’s concert master, Miro Chakarian. She will perform Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto, Op. 3, No 6 in A minor. Jonathan (16) performed in last years JPO Youth Concerto Festival and has been a concertmaster for various youth orchestras. He will play De Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs) Op. 29.
Violist Kate Moore (25) started playing the viola at age 14 and was awarded a postgraduate scholarship to Manchester in 2007. She will perform Bruch’s Romanze, Op. 85, in F major. Rebecca Brouckaert (23) is currently in her third year of study at Stellenbosch University and is the co-principal clarinetist in the university’s symphony orchestra. She will play the first movement of Krommer’s Clarinet Concerto, Op. 36, in E flat major. Double bassist Johann Schuster (23) studied double bass both here and in the US. He has played with various local and American orchestras, including the JPO, the Miagi Youth Orchestra and Boston Conservatory Orchestra. He will perform the first movement of Vanhal’s Double Bass Concerto in E flat major.
Cellist Colette Brand (16) has won many awards and was selected to be part of the 2011 Unisa Foundation’s Programme for Gifted Young Musicians. She will play Saint-Saëns’ Cello Concerto No. 1, Op.33 in A minor. Emil Bruwer (22) started playing the French horn at 11 years old and has performed with international musicians at various concerts. He will play the first movement of Strauss’s Horn Concerto No. 1, Op. 11 in E flat major.
The JPO Youth Concerto Festival 2011 takes place on 30 and 31 August at the Linder Auditorium in Parktown, Johannesburg. Tickets are available from Computicket and the concert starts at 19:30 on both nights. Seating is unreserved. Tickets are priced at R50 for adults and R20 for students.