Listening to…

Fascinating Rhythm

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Undoubtedly in a critical minority, Gershwin is seen as one of the great Modern composers – certainly one of the greatest American composers. He's had a tough road to critical acceptance. You can spread the condescension toward him from the serious writers thick on a bagel. Other than a prejudice toward pop styles and pop acceptance, its hard to see why they take the attitude. A few heavyweights (Copland, Thomson, and Bernstein) and a whole bunch of lightweights blackball him from the True Composing Fraternity. But we can say this: no music like Gershwin's existed before him, and no music in his style...

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Nice weather for Spring

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Recently I was enthralled with yet another Rite (Esa-Pekka Salonen: Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra). Fine as that is, Andrew Litton's new one with Bergen Orchestra is unmistakeably better. For one thing, it is coupled with Petrushka, one of the other GREAT Stravinsky works and Litton paces each of the tableaus with a much surer sense of the drama and poetry within. It's not simply that he takes faster tempos in Tableau One (for example), it's that he uses them to jam together the disparate materials in it, approximating the cinematic quick-cuts and grotesque contrasts that Stravinsky surely...

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Heart of the Matter

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Somehow Augusta attracts just the nicest people. Take this week as an example: it was a quiet day with only one check-in expected. Also, fairly grey being at the onset of winter, but as soon as David and Ruth Aird checked in, they brought with them a sense of warmth and light. The highlight of their stay was to have them for dinner in the African Kitchen and they both delighted in the goodies which we brought for them! This week we made a REAL breyani, the royal kind with sultanas, almonds and saffron milk. They loved it. And we loved having them. To make things even more special was when...

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Ladies who Lunch

Classic Retreat lunch May 2012

We are extremely fortunate to be the Swellendam member of Classic Retreat, which with Classic Representation makes up the much admired Classic Portfolio. Other clients include the Singita collection, The Alphen, Delaire Graff, Le Quartier Francais, Kurland, Makweti, Mount Camdeboo, Prana and the Islands of Siankaba. As part of their post-Indaba road trip they spent some time with us here in Swellendam and we treated them to lunch at Augusta's African Kitchen. Here is the team, with Michel, enjoying their bobotie and sharing some information on the 2012 Indaba, with the eye on the next season.

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Found Art

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Anyone who has been to Augusta here in Swellendam will know that there are several fragments of old ceramics and dish ware and also old glass on display in the garden, casually placed on large rocks or between plants. These are always discovered by accident as you do some scratching in the dirt. Pieces will adhere to a certain pattern and colourway, indicating that at some point, the lady of the house ditched a set or two. We have started putting a set (or two) of shards away to be framed by our favorite framer in Riebeek Kasteel, who will be tasked with the project to mount the pieces in a wild...

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Rihm at 60

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Wolfgang Rihm is a most prolific composer and upon arrival in Karlsruhe, when hailing a taxi and giving the address the driver once knew immediately that it was the home of Professor Rihm. "We pick him up all the time. He doesn't drive, so he knows us all pretty well. He's a really nice guy." Rihm belongs to Karlsruhe. He was born and raised here, he sang in the city's choirs, played the church organs, and now teaches at the conservatoire. The flat where he lives is a stone's throw from his first family home. Since he composed his St Luke Passion for Stuttgart 10 years ago, choral works...

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Barrydale Cellars does it again

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We discovered this little gem a few days ago, an answer to our prayers if you will, because just last week I made a mental note that we need to get grappa urgently as my last drop of Dalla Cia Grappa was finally had. Enter the team at Barrydale Cellars Building on the Klein Karoo's legendary distilling prowess, Barrydale Cellars launches Joseph Barry Husk Spirit, a welcome addition to the region's rich bounty. “Husk spirit – or grappa as it’s known in Italy - is gaining ground world-wide as a trendy lifestyle drink,” says Riaan Marais, CEO of Southern Cape Vineyards. “That’s...

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Canadian Bach

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Thanks to their abundant tunefulness, exuberance and virtuosity,Bach’s concertos for solo keyboard and string orchestra remain widely popular with audiences and performers. Written originally for harpsichord, they are performed today equally often on modern piano. From 1729 to 1741, Bach was director of the Collegium musicum in Leipzig, a student musical society, founded by Georg Philipp Telemann in 1703 and run before Bach by Balthasar Schott. The Collegium musicum often gave performances at Zimmermann's coffee-house. It was for these occasions that Bach produced his harpsichord...

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Café Zimmermann

Located in Saint-Catherine street in Leipzig, Gottfried Zimmermann's coffee house would host weekly concerts by theCollegium Musicum back in the XVIIIth century. The ensemble, founded by Georg Philipp Telemann, and conducted by J. S. Bach between 1729 and 1739, performed secular cantatas and instrumental music for an audience of experimented music-lovers. At the time, Leipzig and the neighboring town of Dresden drew numerous musicians eager to meet the famous Cantor or participate in the rich musical life of the Saxon capital.  Hence, Zimmermann's coffee house offered a broad spectrum from the repertory : music written by Bach and his sons, by Telemann and the vituosos, also composers of the Dresden Chapel Orchestra...  It was this spirit of open-mindedness and conviviality uniting the audience, repertory and musicians wich drove Pablo Valetti and Céline Frisch to found in 1998 the Café Zimmermann Ensemble.  They assembled six musicians - five bow instruments and a harpsichord (Pablo Valetti, Nick Robinson, violin: Patricia Gagnon, alto; Petr Skalka, cello; Ludek Brany, double bass and Céline Frisch, harpsichord). Other strings or wind instruments would be added depending on the programme.  The ensemble Café Zimmermann is one of the new breed of Baroque groups offering lean, high-energy performances on historical instruments. Imagined in the Leipzig coffeehouse where Bach's Collegium Musicum instrumental ensemble might have performed in the 18th century, the one-instrument-per-part performance here is plausible, although evidence that such performances occurred in Bach's time does not indicate that such performances were desirable. Bach himself requested an orchestra of 24 players from the Leipzig city council, and a piece like the Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068, echoes French ensembles of that size.  Tempi are quick, with the suite's famous Air on a G string taken at an unusually brisk clip, but the textures remain unusually transparent, and the overall feel is lively and clear. The Brandenburg Concerto No. 6, BWV 1063, the most troublesome of the set of six with its unusual double-viola scoring, gets a rich, complex reading. Another attraction comes from the Alpha label's practice of pairing musical works with detailed art-historical essays on a painting of the period; the work by Antwerp artist Peter Jacob Horemans, though only tangentially related to Bach, is full of fascinating details such as a cup of coffee or tea being dumped into a bowl, perhaps to be given to one of the four dogs appearing in the painting. As always, buyers of Alpha's series can give themselves a decent grounding in art history at no additional cost.

Located in Saint-Catherine street in Leipzig, Gottfried Zimmermann's coffee house would host weekly concerts by theCollegium Musicum back in the XVIIIth century. The ensemble, founded by Georg Philipp Telemann, and conducted by J. S. Bach between 1729 and 1739, performed secular cantatas and instrumental music for an audience of experimented music-lovers. At the time, Leipzig and the neighboring town of Dresden drew numerous musicians eager to meet the famous Cantor or participate in the rich musical life of the Saxon capital. Hence, Zimmermann's coffee house offered a broad spectrum from the repertory...

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Recital-time in Swellendam

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An exciting programme of music to suit all tastes is in store for visitors on 22nd January at 4 p.m. in the beautiful setting of Red Roan Ranch, Hermitage, Swellendam and on 29th January also at 4 p.m. in the welcoming and intimate atmosphere of 41 Tennant Road, Barrydale. The artists who will entertain you are Brad Liebl (baritone) and Sylvia Schulman (pianist). Brad is a superb singer, master of his art. Dr. Brad Liebl (summa cum laude from University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music) is an Associate Professor of Classical Voice and Co-ordinator (from 1998 to 2003) of that division...

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