The University of Pretoria’s annual Principal’s Concert was held on 10 September 2010. This is one of the highlights on the University’s cultural calendar. The University of Pretoria Symphony Orchestra (UPSO), with Eric Rycroft as conductor, performed Concertino for Piano and Orchestra No 1 by UP composer Pieter Bezuidenhout, Dance to Freedom Op 46 by John Simon and Hungarian Rhapsody No 2 by Franz Liszt.
Pieter Bezuidenhout is a final-year BMus student at the University of Pretoria, who is specialising in Composition under Dr Alexander Johnson. The composition that was performed by the UPSO is his first large-scale work for a symphony orchestra. It has its origin in a cello sonata that was originally written by Carla Taljard, which incorporates a wide range of tonalities, styles and musical ideas.
John Simon’s work arose from the orchestrations that the composer made for Phelani Mnomiya’s choral work Zizi Lethu in 2004, a celebration of ten years of democracy in South Africa. The work has been performed in London by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and in Bremen by the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra. In one of the movements, the composer expands the musical structure, playing on the idea of time passing, the loneliness of exile in foreign cities with distant clocks chiming (tubular bells and harp), resistance fighters lying low in rural areas with the buzz of electric pylons above them (string harmonics) and the sands of time slipping past as people dig away on Robben Island (congas).
The most enduringly popular compositions of Franz Liszt, who left his native Hungary at an early age to live in the capitals of Western Europe, reflect his origins. His celebrated Hungarian rhapsodies are indebted to his own Magyar heritage and also to that of the gypsies to whom Hungary is home. Much of the fiery Rhapsody No 2, which was performed as part of the programme, might well have been entitled ‘Gypsy Rhapsody’ for its feverish rhythmic brilliance.
Due to the construction work in the vicinity of the Aula and the Musaion, this year’s concert was smaller than those of previous years, and was attended by a select audience of about 300 guests, which included representatives of the public and private sector, government officials, members of the education sector, supporters of the University and other dignitaries.