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Vermaak | Entertainment > Musiek | Music > Optredes | Gigs

Brilliant JPO concert experience awaits Pretoria public with Korsten and Schoeman in tandem

Ina van Rooyen - 2011-08-04

Untitled Document

Maestro Gérard Korsten and pianist Ben Schoeman

 Combine two of South Africa’s most popular musicians – both born and bred in Pretoria -- in one symphony concert with a Slavic flavour -- and it makes for a brilliant and inspiring experience to look forward to.

Maestro Gérard Korsten, active on the local music scene since his boyhood when he played violin in the South African Youth Orchestra, and now a much asked for and versatile conductor on the local and international scene, is adored for his charm, passion and perfectionism on the podium.  

After opening the concert with Georges Enesco’s Rumanian Rhapsody, op.11, no.1 in A major (Enesco – a Rumanian violinist, conductor and composer, lived from 1881 to 1955), one of the most brilliant young pianists that the country has nurtured over the years, Ben Schoeman, will move in behind the Steinway with his usual flair and self-confidence to showcase, among others, his sensitive musicality, finesse, virtuosity and prowess. He will be performing the technically demanding Piano Concerto, No.1, S.124 in E-flat major by the fiery and colourful Hungarian Franz Liszt (1857).

Schoeman, a most versatile young musician who chose to be a pianist, also virtually grew up on stage.

This concert, also performed in the Linder Auditorium in Johannesburg on Wednesday and Thursday, may be the pianist’s highlight in celebrating the bicentenary celebrations of Franz Liszt’s birthday. He gave solo concerts in several parts of the country in April this year to launch his debut CD, Ben Schoeman: Liszt, sponsored by Standard Bank.

Schoeman, who did the country proud in 2008 by being the first South African ever to win an International Unisa Vodacom Piano Music Competition, was this year’s Standard Bank Young Artist – another proud feather in his cap.In 2009 he also won the coveted gold medal and first prize in the Royal Over-Seas League Music Competition in London, where he is now working on his Doctorate in Music, after studying with various masters in Italy.

After interval, the now world citizen, Maestro Korsten will have his baton in hand to conduct the orchestra in the closing work – Symphony No.7, op.70 in D minor, byAntonin Dvořák (1841 – 1904), composed in 1885. This Czech composer was born in a village on the river Moldau, and looked upon himself as a Bohemian musician who drew inspiration from Czech folk music.                                                 

Born in South Africa, Gérard Korsten began his career as a violinist after studying with Ivan Galamian at the Curtis Institute and with Sándor Végh in Salzburg, Austria

Following his studies in the US and Europe he became Concertmaster and Assistant Music Director of the Camerata Salzburg and later Concertmaster of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe from 1987-1996 when he left the COE to concentrate on conducting.

He held positions of Principal Conductor of the State Theatre in Pretoria and the Uppsala Chamber Orchestra in Sweden before he was appointed Music Director of the Orchestra del Teatro Lirico di Cagliari in Italy from 1999-2005. In Cagliari he conducted the first Italian performances of Richard Strauss’s Die ägyptische Helena, Weber’s Euryanthe, Delius’s A Village Romeo and Juliet and Schubert’s Alfonso und Estrella, as well as the productions of the core operatic repertoire including Die Zauberflöte, Don Giovanni, Lucia di Lammermoor, Carmen, Die Fledermaus, Tosca, Aïda, The Barber of Seville and Don Pasquale.

Since then Gérard Korsten has appeared in most notable opera houses and concert halls around Europe including Teatro La Scala Milan (Le nozze di Figaro), Maggio Musicale Florence (Così fan tutte), Teatro Reggio di Parma (La sonnambula), Teatro Lirico Verdi Trieste (Don Pasquale and La fille du régiment), Opéra de Lyon (Ariadne auf Naxos, Henze’s L’Upupa und der Triumph der Sohnesliebe, Siegfried and La Traviata), Royal Swedish Opera (Don Giovanni), Netherlands Opera (Così fan tutte), English National Opera (Aïda) and Glyndebourne Festival Opera (Albert Herring).

He returns next season to conduct Offenbach’s La Vie Parisienne for Opéra National de Lyon in France.

His past symphonic engagements have included concerts with the Budapest Festival Orchestra, Salzburg Mozarteum, Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai Turin in Italy, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, Swedish Radio Symphony, Yomiuri Nippon and Melbourne Symphony orchestras.

Among his recordings are the CD of Tchaikovsky’s Serenade and Souvenir de Florence with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe on Deutsche Grammophon, Die ägyptische Helena, Euryanthe and Alfonso und Estrella with Orchestra del Teatro Lirico di Cagliari on CD and DVD with Dynamic, as well as a DVD recording of Don Pasquale released on TDK.

Highlights of recent and forthcoming engagements include concerts with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields at the Beijing Festival, the German Bamberg Symphony, Leipzig Gewandhaus, SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden Baden und Freiburg, the Hong Kong Philharmonic, Orchestre National de Lyon and the BBCSSO.

The 2011-12 season sees him touring to eight venues in the US with the Irish Chamber Orchestra, returning to the Budapest Festival Orchestra, the Latvia National Symphony and Camerata Salzburg in both Vienna and Salzburg.

Gérard Korsten is currently Music Director of the London Mozart Players and Principal Conductor of the Symphonieorchester Vorarlberg Bregenz in Austria.

Although pianist Ben Schoeman has been living abroad for a number of years now, he regularly performs concertos with the leading South African symphony orchestras, including the Johannesburg, KwaZulu-Natal and Cape Philharmonic Orchestras. He also frequently gives solo and chamber music recitals throughout South Africa.

His recent nationwide tour of 23 concerts received rave reviews and he was praised for his “dazzling virtuosity” (Pretoria News) as well as his “magical music-making” (Classic Feel Magazine). His performance with the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra of Brahms’s Piano Concerto no. 2 was described as “powerful…with enormous musical insight and pianistic ability” (Die Burger).

Internationally Ben Schoeman gave performances across Europe, Canada and the United Kingdom. He played in prestigious concert halls, such as the Wigmore Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, the Grande Auditorio of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon, Portugal, the Romanian Atheneum in Bucharest, the Teatro del Giglio in Lucca, the Paleis Het Loo in the Netherlands, Schloss Moritzburg in Dresden and the Konzerthaus in Berlin.

He also gave recitals at various international festivals, among others the Chester Festival and King’s Lynn Festival (United Kingdom), the Festival da Bach a Bartók and the Festival Pianistico “Mario Ghislandi” (Italy), the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival (Canada) and the Crans-Montana Semaines Musicales (Switzerland). He has collaborated with internationally-acclaimed musicians, such as Matei Varga, Andrian Pinzaru, Dawid Venter, Tessa Uys and Anzél Gerber.

He obtained a Masters in Performing Arts (cum laude) from the University of Pretoria, as well as a Master Diploma from the Accademia Pianistica ‘Incontri col Maestro’ in Imola, Italy. He is currently undertaking a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at City University of London and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He has studied with well-known musicians, including Joseph Stanford, Michel Dalberto, Louis Lortie, Boris Petrushansky and Ronan O’Hora.

In 2008 he received the prestigious Laureate Award from the University of Pretoria Alumni Association for his achievements as well as his contribution to music in South Africa. Salon Music and UNISA recently launched his DVD-recording of concertos by Mozart and Tchaikovsky. His solo album with works of Franz Liszt was released in April 2011 under the TwoPianists label.

The concert will be held at 15:00 in the ZK Matthews Great Hall at Unisa’s Muckleneuk Campus. Bookings have to be done at Computicket. Word has it that the tickets are almost sold out.

  • Ben Schoeman will be on stage again for a chamber concert at Unisa’s Enoch Sontonga Hall, Sunnyside Campus, on Saturday 27 August at 18:00 to accompany his brother-in-law, he well-known flautist David Venter. Tickets will be sold at the box office only.