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Friday, February 5, 2010


Two versions of the Dvořák Cello Concerto and a Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto marked the first of the two final rounds. (Report by Caroline Smart)

Tonight, the Z K Matthews Great Hall at Unisa in Pretoria resounded with the strains of Dvořák’s Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op 104 (twice) and Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major Op 35 as three of the finalists were put through their paces with the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra. This marks the last performances in the Vodacom-sponsored 5th Unisa International String competition which accelerates towards the winning results at the end of the second final round tomorrow night.

Up for grabs are prizes worth R890,000, including first prizes of R200,000 each for violin and cello and Vodacom is to be congratulated for continuing this sponsorship in difficult financial times where support of the arts is dwindling. The developmental strength of this competition goes way beyond its immediacy and resounds internationally to the benefit of South Africa.

The two Dvořák cello concertos were performed by Anton Pavlovskiy and Georgi Anichenko and here were two fascinating versions. While Pavlovskiy’s performance was muscled, technically strong and passionate, Anichenko was soulful, romantic and lyrical. Almost like two lovers: the one experienced and completely at ease with his knowledge of the capricious ways of women, the other suffused with love and heartbreak. This is where the jury’s brief comes into play as to what they are looking for from a contestant. We’ll find out tomorrow night!

With technical fireworks, dazzling runs and an understanding of the composer’s intentions, the Tchaikovsky concerto was safe in the hands of the only female finalist, Yura Lee. She received the strongest audience response of the evening and deservedly so. She also performed sideways, facing the conductor until close to the ending, almost as if she was playing it only to him.

Makes a lot of sense. I often think that soloists have to develop a third eye above their left ear in order to follow the conductor’s baton on a concert platform!

Talking of conductors, all kudos to conductor Conrad van Alphen who has to mould his orchestral support to the capabilities of each of the soloists. Tonight the orchestra played the Dvorak twice with two completely different cellists and van Alphen brought out the best in both performers who were different in their approach, style and mood. And he – and the orchestra - will have to go through Dvořák again tomorrow night as it is on the programme as well as the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, alongside Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor Op 64.

The final rounds of the competition are available via the internet. The live streaming will be done through Radio Today’s website, while in the greater Johannesburg, classical music lovers will listen to the live broadcast on Radio 1485 AM. The broadcast will also be available on Radio Today’s DSTV Channel 169, nationally and across the SADC sub-region. – Caroline Smart