Johannesburg to host 8th annual International Mozart Festival

The 2016 edition of the much-anticipated Johannesburg International Mozart Festival (JIMF) is set to take place between 23 January and 7 February.

Buskaid Soweto String Ensemble. Photo: Buskaid
Buskaid Soweto String Ensemble. Photo: Buskaid

Themed ‘Alla Turca’, the eighth edition of the JIMF pays tribute to Mozart’s ‘Rondo Alla Turca’ and beyond. Ever since Mozart’s days, when the city of Vienna was besieged by the Turks during the war, composers and audiences have been fascinated by the arrival of arabesque elements in Western music. The 2016 Festival reflects the influence of oriental and exotic styles in a colourful variety of composers from the festival’s patron to the present day, from Debussy’s penchant towards Gamelan music and the Moorish flavours in some Spanish guitar music, via Strauss’s ‘Fairy Tales from the Orient’ to the ‘Sān Gloria’ of this year’s composer-in-residence, Peter Louis van Dijk.

Between 23 January and 7 February, numerous artists and ensembles will join forces in concert, dishing out ‘Turkish Delights’ at various venues around Johannesburg. Highlights of the 2016 festival line-up include a vocal masterclass with Professor Josef Protschka, held from 1 January to 5 February at the University of Pretoria, culminating in a recital at Northwards House. There will also be a multidisciplinary workshop with poet Sthembiso Khwela and three young South African composers - Keith Moss, Felicity Mdhluli and Wayne Simpson - at the Goethe-Institut on Saturday 30 January from 3pm.

The Linder Auditorium at the Wits University education campus in Parktown will host the Viennese New Year Concert on 23 and 24 January, a piano recital by Peter Donahoe on 6 February and well as the Final Concert on Sunday 7 February featuring guitarist James Grace, the Johannesburg Festival Orchestra, the Chanticleer Singers and conductor Richard Cock.

At St Mary's school in Waverly, a Choral Concert in the school hall on Tuesday 26 January will see performances by the Chanticleer Singers, the Odeion String Quartet and Duo FourIVTwo. The following night the same venue hosts the Mozart Birthday Concert with the Odeion String Quartet. Then on Saturday 6 February the school’s state-of-the-art 530-seat concert hall The Edge will stage a Chamber Music Concert with the Buskaid Soweto String Ensemble.

Northwards House in Parktown will host various Chamber Concert recitals. These start with a Violin Recital by Sarita Uranovsky accompanied by Andrew Campbell on 28 January, then a piano recital by Pascal Gallet the following day. On 1 February at the same venue, Turkish twin sisters Ferhan and Ferzan Önder will stage a piano recital, followed on 2 February by a duo recital by Johannes Fleischman and Philippe Raskin.

On 4 February, James Grace will stage a Guitar Recital at St Francis of Assisi church in Parkview.

The diversity of the programme reflects the festival’s emphasis on interdisciplinary approaches, providing innovative intersections between classical repertoires, new music, improvisation, film, dance, theatre and contemporary South African art. The JIMF’s educational initiatives are also going from strength to strength, with three vocal scholars currently at the Musikhochschule in Cologne, Germany enjoying success at international competitions and concert engagements.

Arguably the most revered composer of all time, Mozart’s oeuvre comprises more than 600 works that are widely acknowledged as pinnacles of operatic, symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, vocal and choral music. Today, Mozart must be perhaps the most widely performed and broadcast classical composer of all times whose name alone meets with recognition – even for those who would not describe themselves as classical aficionados. As Franz Schubert put it: "O Mozart, immortal Mozart, how many, how infinitely many inspiring suggestions of a finer, better life have you left in our souls!"

The Johannesburg International Mozart Festival takes place annually on and around 27 January – the day of Mozart’s birth in 1756 – during a time when the regular series of the South African classical music scene comes to a halt for their summer break. Audiences get a chance to enjoy a more informal character of classical music-making. The festival provides a unique combination of classical performances on the highest international quality, with a keenly intelligent and creative approach to programming, and an enterprising portfolio of all-encompassing education and outreach projects for children, students and audiences from all corners of society. For more details, visit the festival website.

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