The following are selected artists who perform regularly for Music Revival.
Christopher Duigan INTERVIEW
from classicsa.co.za Christopher Duigan, pianist & entrepreneur
Pianist, Steinway artist and musical entrepreneur, Christopher Duigan, will perform Beethoven's Piano Concerto No 5, the Emperor, with the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra (KZNPO) in Durban on 10 March. As producer and impressario, Duigan's Music Revival 'label' has become synonymous with festivals and concert series from Hilton in KZN to Franschhoek in the Western Cape.
These entrepreneurial enterprises are clearly driven by natural instinct, personality and creative flair. Has this always been the case, or did it perhaps, in part, originate from a 'survival instinct'?
Survival certainly was the initiating factor. After returning from studies overseas and making a decision to pursue my career as a performing artist in South Africa I set about chasing as many engagements as I could. Inevitably there were gaps between these performances. I was also finding myself quite alienated from the people around me, in my own community, who knew what I did but had little opportunity to hear me play, and had little or no understanding of what I did. It seemed obvious that I should start promoting my own performances and should do so in a way that I could start to integrate with them as a performing artist.
Yours are innovative presentation and programming, often with a cross over element. Please give some examples of recent projects and ones that you feel has been most successful, from both the performers' and audience's point of view?
I am inspired by the piano as an instrument. It is such a versatile and complete entity. I have always had an interest in different genres of music, classical and popular. In the process of approaching 'new' audiences and armed with a variety of music I also realized that some 'popular' music, while skillfully written for the piano, offered an easy approach for some. Once comfortable with something we know or recognize, we feel like we 'belong', we can own the experience ourselves, and will be more receptive to something new. On another level the juxtaposition of different types of music speak to one another and the juxtapositions inform in an enlightening way. The crossover programmes I present combine short pieces from the classical repertoire with groups of ragtime, tango – nuevo and traditional, jazz transcriptions and film music. In a presentation titled 'Play Piano Play!' for instance, I combine Mozart's Turkish Rondo, the Ritual Fire Dance by De Falla, a waltz by Satie with South American music by Ernesto Nazareth and Astor Piazzolla , ragtime by Scott Joplin and a Gershwin song transcription. Classics that show a variety of piano textures such as a Chopin Waltz, Bach transcription and Moskowski Etude, plus film music by Yann Tiersan or Richard Guinness lead to a finish with a 'big piece like the Chopin Polonaise op 53 or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No 2. Each group of pieces I introduce with something about the composer, the music or style of piano writing to offer insight in to what the audience is listening to.
What is your main aim when conceptualizing innovative presentation and programming?
I try to imagine the situation from the audience point of view. I work by instinct largely, trying to balance the various energies of the music. The 'familiarity factor', a variety of moods and musical weights are all to be considered and I try to stretch these contrasts as far as I can while maintaining a thread. External factors such as the time of year, time of day, the nature of the venue, the 'complete experience' for the audience and other external factors come into play. For instance a Sunday morning concert in a church will have a different energy to a Saturday evening performance in a dinner venue with food and wine. A programme title also goes a long way to holding these elements together.
What's in a brand, or label, in your view? Whether Steinway or Music Revival.
A brand leads to expectation. So the Music Revival or Christopher Duigan brand (difficult to separate these now) will offer a certain type of presentation that includes an innovative varied programme, personal interaction with the audience (where possible) without compromising on the best performance. It is in itself a level of reliability and expectation. But this can also be a limiting factor in that one can not easily step out of those boundaries without disappointing. One has to tread, or migrate, carefully! What I have learnt is that each musician is a brand in themselves, something they often overlook. As your reputation grows the audience becomes increasingly aware of your presence and what you have to offer. Publicity material including a good biography, publicity photographs, good website and media exposure go a long way to building this brand – essentially 'a brand called me'. Being linked with a brand like Steinway and Sons is a phenomenal association. Everyone knows Steinway. It is one of the most iconic brands worldwide that stands for classic values, individual artistry, superior craftsmanship and unparalleled luxury. It is where art and design meet; inspiration meets craftmenship. When people who own a Steinway discuss their piano they call it by name – 'my Steinway'. That is the ultimate.
What are the criteria or process through which one is appointed a Steinway artist and what in your view, is the significance of being awarded this label?
This is by invitation only. Being a Steinway owner is a prerequisite. Obviously one's public profile, performance visibility and artist integrity at an appropriate level are factors to being invited. I received my principal training as a musician and pianist on a Steinway and worked extensively on Steinways all of my career. I simply can not find 'my sound' on any other piano and so being associated with the manufacturer of these inspirational instruments is really a dream come true. Sitting at a perfectly tuned and regulated Steinway is for me an invitation for inspiration. It is of huge significance for me to be invited and be included on a list of pianists that features almost every great pianist of the last 100 years. In addition, not being attached to any educational intuition or having any other external body observe and evaluate my work, personally, this recognition carries immense weight.
Your projects often provide a performance platform for young upcoming artists. Who have you showcased in recent years?
Being able to share the infrastructure of performances networks I have established with other artists, in particular young local musicians, is something that has given me great satisfaction and I do so with pride. Many of these performance opportunities have been for audiences in smaller centres that allow for freedom and experimentation with new work and provides great performing experience away from the critical ears and eyes of the big centre audiences. Performance experience is invaluable and as they say 'one performance is worth 100 hours of practice'. I have worked with and promoted Durban-born soprano Bronwen Forbay consistently over the last ten years. The very talented baritone Federico Freschi is someone I have worked with extensively on a variety of platforms and I have also created and networked numerous performance opportunities for guitarist James Grace, who has become quite an entrepreneur himself. In recent months I have engaged conductor Alexander Fokkens in a series of performances with the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra. I am always trying to promote young local musicians wherever possible. The young KZN oboist Maggie Deppe has been a delight to work with in chamber music performances under my banner as has the very impressive violinist Refiloe Oliphant, now a member of the KZNPO.
Was the Franschhoek Classical Music Festival your brain child? Or how did it come about and how long has it been running for?
Having worked closely with Owen and Gilly Walters who helped me enormously in the early years in KZN, I 'absorbed' much entrepreneurial spirit and endeavour to risk 'new ideas' from them. They even partially designed and built a new home that resembled a small chapel around the idea of hosting my concerts. It was called Wedgewood and the first Wedgewood Nougat (now an international enterprise in itself) was created by Gilly for these concerts. Through them I met Owen's brother, Franschhoek resident and well-known master-craftsman and ceramicist, David Walters. David, a successful artist-entrepreneur himself, worked with me to create a performance platform and eventually the music festival in Franschhoek. Having someone on the ground in Franschhoek connected me with the crucial contacts – venues, sponsors etc. I feel very much part of the community now. The Franschhoek Classic Music Festival was started in 2004 and is one of a series of concerts and music weekends I manage there through the year.
The (now Witness) Hilton Arts Festival has been running for a number of years. When was the classical concert series introduced for the first time?
Subsequent to two solo performances on the fringe at the Hilton Festival I approached festival director Sue Clarence about the possibility of linking a series of concerts in the greater Hilton area to the festival. Her immediate response was that they would welcome me as part of the festival and handed over a venue for the festival weekend, the Hilton College Chapel. I was invited to envision and engineer whatever I thought would work as part of the biggest arts festival in the region. I now present the Music Revival Concert Series as part of the annual Witness Hilton Arts Festival with 10 to 12 concerts over the weekend.
Where does your personal musical development fit into your busy schedule as producer and impresario? Do you still maintain a rigorous practice schedule?
I practice on demand. I am fortunate in that I don't teach at all. I divide my time between liaising with artists, venues and other infrastructural components, writing press releases and publicity material, a substantial amount of design work for posters and programmes which I enjoy, and practicing on my own or rehearsing with other musicians to present the concerts. Once a programme is up and running I try to repeat it in as many performances and circumstance as possible. A number of these projects accumulate in a festival weekend. Performances also take place in my own home so the final performance day can involve a lot of activity that doesn't involve a piano! [I find cleaning a very rewarding activity as, unlike piano practicing, at the end of it you can visibility see what you have achieved!]. Practicing at any point in time includes revising works from an extensive repertoire (which I fortunately seem to retain and access quite easily) as well as fine tuning and gearing up for the next performance. I am also constantly extending my repertoire with new works, which I love exploring, as I choose to programme them. That is one of the unique and hugely positive aspects of what I do in that I can choose exactly what and when I wish to play as I am responsible for the production of each concert. Preparing for concerto performances, when the invitation arises, requires intense and rigorous preparation.
You are a graduate of the University of KwaZulu-Natal and also the prestigious Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester in the UK. What has been your international exposure and did you ever consider a more permanent move abroad?
I was fortunate to receive an invitation to study at the Royal Northern with Brazilian virtuoso and Liszt specialist Arnaldo Cohen, assisted by scholarships and bursaries from UCT and UNISA. It was a wonderful opportunity. From him I gained first hand knowledge that showed me for the first time, quite literally, how to really play the piano. I have returned to the UK several times to perform in various London venues and the Edinburgh Festival at the invitation of the Royal Overseas League (ROSL). But there are some many fine pianists in that 'big pond' I prefer to focus my activities locally where I feel I have an impactful role to play. I don't see that an audience in an outlying community of KZN is going to any less important or interesting to perform for than one in a big city like London. And I would certainly prefer to live here!
You managed more than 30 performances, from Hilton to Franschhoek and Grahamstown, of Celebrating Chopin, a recital programme marking the 200th anniversary of Frederic Chopin's birth, last year. Do you have any similar project planned for this year?
The Celebrating Chopin project was an amazing experience for me being able to play the same programme so many times; a real luxury. I played almost nothing but Chopin recitals for six months and it was incredible to note how the musical and technical aspects of the music became increasingly spontaneous and more fluent without extraneous distraction. I absorbed more and more of the nuances with each performance. Each composer has a different technique, sound world and head space and I felt that by the end of it that Chopin and I were good friends. Trying to avoid successful formulas I was reluctant to embark on another 'single composer' focus. But this year's 200th anniversary of Franz Liszt's birth in 1811 is too much of a milestone opportunity to miss. This is a big piano moment. So I will be playing a number of all Liszt programmes in various centers titled 'Liszt vs. Liszt' the title referring to the varied nature of his output, in genre, style and content, while playing on the uniquely mixed reception he still receives.
What, to you, constitutes the ultimate performance - piece, orchestra, venue, occasion?
The purely musical elements of an ideal acoustic, a great piano (I try to travel with one of my own pianos wherever possible) go a long way to that 'ultimate performance' but crucially, having an attentive audience is a gift. Music that really speaks to me, and my conviction, that it will speak to the audience (that's the risk) is essential for it to be a winner. Sometimes all these elements align in surprising ways. A recent Chopin performance at a restaurant in the KZN Midlands was magical. In the perfect acoustic of a simple barn-like building, a content audience who had wined and dined, observed a chilled winter afternoon sunset through huge windows behind me while I played. All this proved to very memorable occasion in the absolute silence of this rural setting. Also, a recent concert of orchestral show pieces we produced with the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra in the historic Pietermaritzburg City Hall, including the Shostakovich Piano Concerto no 2, proved to be quite a challenging surprise, and meaningful one, for much of the audience.
Please share some programme notes for your upcoming performance of Beethoven's Emperor with the KZNPO?
It's a big work. The title is actually quite fitting and I guess that's why it has remained. As one conductor said to me "It's a symphony for orchestra and piano". Beethoven abandons the virtuoso style of piano writing of the previous concertos for a more integrated model where the piano blends with the orchestral texture, coming in and out of focus. It is not mere orchestral accompanying of the solo piano part. The difficulty is being ready to adapt, on the spur of the moment, to the orchestral line. One has to conceive this on your own before hand. Two weeks worth of rehearsal would be lovely, but we all know that doesn't happen! It is a big, open-hearted piece with confident expression that provides opportunity for the pianist to ride amidst the waves of the orchestral sonority in a way that I think no other concerto offers.
For details of Christopher Duigan's performance schedule for 2011, visit http://www.christopherduigan.com or consult the What's On calendar.
The Greg Sandow Blog
The MUSIC REVIVAL story was recently featured in a blog by Greg Sandow. Greg is is highly regarded and followed blogger on the future of classical music, worldwide. He also teaches at Julliard in
- To read the story (and a great number of really interesting thoughts) www.artsjournal.com/sandow/2012/01/promoting-with-gusto.html
- The Music Revival story is included here under his Julliard Course Work (the week of 28 March) www.artsjournal.com/sandow/2012/01/my-juilliard-course-updated.htmll and directly here www.gregsandow.com/popclass/
In March 2010 Christopher Duigan was invited by the world's premier piano manufacturers Steinway and Sons to join their International Steinway Artist Roster recognizing his calibre of performance, artistic commitment, profile as a musician and his contribution to music in South Africa.
The sixth pianist in South African history, as a registered Steinway artist he joins an exquisite circle of renowned musicians including Franz Liszt, Richard Wagner, Arthur Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz as well as contemporary International Artists Evgeny Kissin, Martha Argerich, Lang Lang, Keith Jarrett and Diana Krall.
Widely regarded as one of South Africa's most innovative concert pianists CHRISTOPHER DUIGAN has maintained an busy performing schedule since his professional debut with Cape Town Symphony Orchestra in 1991. He has performed extensively with all leading South African orchestras including the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic, Cape Philharmonic and Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestras in a repertoire of more than 25 concerti. In 2006 he was invited to appear with the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra in the opening concert of their World Symphony Series Winter Season. In recital he has achieved a popular following through his innovative presentation and programming featuring a broad and eclectic taste in music.
International performances include those in London at St Martins in the Field, St James'- Piccadilly, South Africa House and at the Edinburgh Festival 2001 and 2003 where he was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3. Many of his live performances have been broadcast on SABC Radio and TV and his CD recordings are regularly aired on ClassicFM and Fine Music Radio.
In March 2007 he shared the stage with the cream of South African pianists for the return of Steinway and Sons to South Africa. Engagements for 2009 included recitals at the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town and Endler Hall in Stellenbosch and concerto performances with the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Based in KwaZulu-Natal he is committed to promoting classical music locally and further afield. As producer and impresario he is the director of the widely acclaimed MUSIC REVIVAL which he established in 1997and now includes the Concert Series at the Hilton Arts Festival, the Franschhoek La Motte Classic Music Festival and performances by the Kwa-Zulu Natal Philharmonic Orchestra' including the ' Concert in the Park' as annual events. In addition Music Revival presents numerous recitals and chamber music performances throughout KZN, Johannesburg and the Cape Winelands. Through this groundbreaking work he has been able to attract new audiences, build an unusually large and loyal following and re-invent many of the norms of concert performance especially with regard to presentation and programming. His crossover presentations combining virtuoso and popular classical repertoire with jazz transcriptions, ragtime, tango and film music have been particularly enthusiastically received. Music Revival has also offered numerous performance opportunities to some of South Africa's leading young artists including sopranos Angela Gilbert and Bronwen Forbay, baritone Federico Freschi, a number of musicians and ensembles from the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Christopher Duigan studied at the University of Natal with Isabella Stengel, the University of Cape Town with Lamar Crowson and Albie van Schalkwyk, leading to postgraduate study at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester with Brazilian virtuoso Arnaldo Cohen. In Manchester he was awarded the Professional Performer's Diploma and won first prize in the prestigious RNCM Recital Prize for Pianists. In addition he has received the UNISA Overseas Scholarship Competition (1994), Crossly/Kramer Scholarships for International Study from UCT, 1st prize in the Adolph Hallis Piano Competition (1996), awards for the best South African pianist in the UNISA International Piano Competition (1996) and the Cape Town Symphony's Joseph Lan Award for his performance of the Bartok Piano Concerto No 3 (1994). He has participated in master classes at Dartington Summer School with Stephen Kovacevich and at the Mozarteum, Salzburg.
Since february 2010 he has presented Celebrating Chopin, recital programmes marking the 200th anniversary of Frederic Chopin's birth, in more than 35 performances including those in Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Franschhoek, Johannesburg, the Memorial Concert Hall at Hilton College and ClassicFM Soirees in Pretoria. This programme was presented in four performances at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in June. ( see review below)
Other major forthcoming performances include recitals in Durban at the Howard College Theatre in Durban and at the Franschhoek Literary Festival in May, concerto performances with the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra in the City Hall Pietermaritzburg (August) and in the World Symphony Series in the City Hall, Durban.
In March 2010 Christopher Duigan was invited to join the Steinway Artists Roster joining an exquisite circle of renowned musicians including Artur Rubenstein, Vladimir Horowitz, Alfred Brendel and Lang Lang.
Doing it Steinway
Doing it Steinway
22 Apr 2010
PIETERMARITZBURG pianist Christopher Duigan has just been named a Steinway Artist, joining what the piano company calls an "exquisite circle of pianists" that includes Vladimir Horowitz, Arthur Rubinstein, Alfred Brendel, Martha Argerich, Lang Lang and Diana Krall.
"We are delighted to welcome Christopher Duigan to our band of 'local heroes' as a member of the Steinway family," says Deon van Vuuren, owner of Pianoforte Steinway SA in Cape Town.
Steinway & Sons has previously added five South African names to its worldwide artist roster — Abdullah Ibrahim, Bheki Mseleku, Anton Nel, Charl du Plessis and Jill Richards.
Speaking to The Witness about the accolade, Duigan said: "I am thrilled. It is an enormous privilege to be recognised by such an iconic group and a premium international brand such as Steinway & Sons. The level of commitment in the manufacture of these instruments is itself an inspiration."
He added that as a musician it is a wonderful affirmation, which recognises both his commitment to promoting music in South Africa and the artistic level he is constantly striving for.
"It is unsolicited and comes from a very 'real world' organisation," Duigan said. "As a freelance musician who works largely in isolation it is a hugely important acknowledgment for me."
Asked if he had known Steinway & Sons, which returned to South Africa in March 2007, was planning to recognise him, he said: "I have been aware for some time that they had an eye on my work and the profile I enjoy as a concert pianist performing around South Africa.
"Deon van Vuuren attended several of my concerts in recent years and invited me to perform in the launch concerts in Cape Town and Johannesburg. [And] James Ledgerwood, district sales manager for overseas territories in the Steinway & Sons Hamburg head office, also noted my performances at these events."
Duigan, who owns a Steinway piano, also considers it a privilege to be given the opportunity to be associated with the company and its instruments on such a public platform. "In my testimonial I mention the notion that only a Steinway can produce the unique 'sound' that I call my own. And music is all about sound," he said.
Widely regarded as one of South Africa's most innovative concert pianists, Duigan has maintained an active performing schedule since his professional debut with the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra in 1991.
He has performed extensively with all leading South African orchestras, including the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic, Cape Philharmonic and Johannesburg Philharmonic orchestras, and internationally at St Martin- in-the-Fields, St James's Piccadilly and South Africa House in London, and at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland in 2001 and 2003, where his performance was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.
Locally he hosts the popular Music Revival concerts at his home in Athlone, as well as the concert series at The Witness Hilton Arts Festival.
Later this year Duigan will be performing Celebrating Chopin, a recital programme marking the 200th anniversary of Fr é d é ric Chopin's birth, at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, and concerto performances with the KZNPO in the Pietermaritzburg City Hall and at the World Symphony Series concerts in the Durban City Hall.
MAXINE MATHEWS (alto saxophone)
Born in Mauritius, South African saxophonist Maxine Matthews, started playing the flute at the age of twelve at the Kimberley Academy of Music. At fifteen she decided to start the tenor saxophone as her second instrument and continued under the tutelage of Werner Dannewitz and at the Durban Music School when she moved to Durban in 2004. While studying at DMS she received distinctions for her grade 8 practical exams through the Royal Schools of Music in the same year, as well as her Performance Diploma exam and was awarded her Licentiate two years later. In May 2006 Maxine moved to Athens, Greece, to study on a full scholarship at the Athens Conservatoire. It was here where she struck up a songwriting partnership with the Spanish saxophonist and composer, David Salleras, which has led a number of original pop/rock songs. In the August of 2008 Maxine moved to Besancon, France, to audition for and be accepted to study at two Conservatoires in Besancon and Dole under the renowned classical saxophonists Cecile Dubois and Laurent Blanchard. After two years she was awarded the "Diplome dʼEtudes Musicales" (Diploma of Musical Studies), and was awarded her "Diplome de Perfectionement" (Perfectionment Diploma) in June this year with distinction, bringing her studies in France to a close.
Maxine has vast experience, both professional and amateur, on the performance stage. She has played professionally in a number of big bands, jazz bands, and wind bands from the age of fourteen and was the saxophonist in a rock group this year in France. She has also performed on a number of occasions as a soloist and extra with the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra. Maxine is moving to Liverpool in September next year (2012) to take up the highly sought after position in the class of music at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA). This is Paul McCartneyʼs school of performing arts which specialises in Music, Dance, and Drama. Maxine was accepted into the undergraduate program where only 55 candidates are offered a place of which about 1800 people audition each year. Maxine is exceptionally grateful to be sponsored by Yamaha Instruments South Africa and plays on a "6 Series" soprano saxophone and a "Custom EX" alto saxophone.
JAMES GRACE is one of South Africa's leading concert artists. He is the first guitarist ever to have received the Tagore Gold Medal from the Royal College of Music in London, where he studied with Carlos Bonell. Returning to South Africa in 2004 James made his debut performance with the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra as the soloist in Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez. The following year James released his first CD entitled Granada - Music of Spain and was appointed Head of Classical Guitar Studies at the South African College of Music at the University of Cape Town. James released his second album, Portrait, in August 2007 on his newly founded record label; Stringwise Records. As well as sustaining a full time performing and teaching schedule, James recently wrote and presented 'Guitar – a Timeline' on Fine Music Radio. This year James will be making his debut with the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra as the soloist in the Aranjuez Concerto with Bernard Gueller. He is also planning to record his third solo album. James plays on a guitar made by Australian luthier Jeff Kemp.
Baritone Federico Freschi studied opera at the University of Cape Town's College of Music, where he received a number of prestigious awards and bursaries, including the first prize in the Wendy Fine Singing Prize, and being placed as a finalist in both the Oude Meester Music Prize and the SABC Singing Competition. He was subsequently invited to join the CAPAB Singers' Studio, and made his professional début singing Count Almaviva in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro. Since relocating to Johannesburg, Federico has been a sought after opera soloist, and has sung the principle baritone role in various highly successful productions in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Windhoek, including Germont in La Traviata, Marcello in La Bohème, Dr Malatesta in Don Pasquale, Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor, Dr Falke in Die Fledermaus, Sulpice in La Fille du Régiment, Count Danilo in Die Lustige Witwe, Escamillo in Carmen, Pappacoda in A Night in Venice and Zurga in Les Pêcheurs de Perles. Federico maintains a busy concert schedule, and is regularly invited to perform at festivals and concert venues throughout South Africa, including orchestral concerts with some of the country's leading orchestras. Together with pianist Christopher Duigan he is pursuing an ongoing exploration of baritone concert repertoire – particularly in the genre of French song – with performances throughout the country. Recent CD recordings include Salon Music's popular Boulevard Café. Federico's multi-faceted career has seen engagements as director of Tom Johnson's The Four Note Opera for the New Music Indaba at the Grahamstown National Festival of the Arts (in which he also sang the role of The Baritone) and Strauss's Gypsy Baron for Salon Music, as well as writing a number of scripts for Salon Music operas. Federico shares his talent for singing with a love of the visual arts and holds a Doctorate in History of Art, in which he lectures at the University of the Witwatersrand's School of Arts.