The Alma Chamber Orchestra comes to South Africa for the first time and audiences will be treated to performances by leading classical music talent led by Concertmaster and Artistic Director, Anne Gravoin, featuring the acclaimed Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire under the direction of Lionel Bringuier.
Their World Tour for Unity will launch the European Union’s Europefest 2015 programme, which opens in May to celebrate cultural diversity by presenting their cultural events under the banner, “Let’s culture together”.
The visit will include a series of concerts from 22 to 25 April and will feature the fifty-eight-member orchestra performing works by Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Wael Binali.
The story behind the start of the Alma Chamber Orchestra began when Zouhir Boudemagh contacted Anne Gravoin in December 2012. The businessman, with a passion for classical music had lost his wife and wanted to honour her in a special and personal way. Given Anne Gravoin’s impeccable classic music credentials, Boudemagh offered Gravoin the opportunity to assist him in forming an orchestra that spread messages of peace through their music. “Alma means soul and what matters is to bring musicians together who have beautiful souls”, notes Boudemagh, the President of the Alma Nostra Foundation, co-sponsors of the tour. v
In a recent interview with Paris Match, Anne Gravoin was quoted saying, “when we travel the world we don’t just say…..hello we are French,” but(rather) “hello we are musicians who have come to play for peace. I just find it beautiful that France is the first country to have created an orchestra for peace.” [GARD]
Gravoin, a graduate of the Paris Conservatoire where her teachers included Gerard Poulet, Dominique Hoppenot and Myriam Solovieff, has a string of awards to her name. Her commitment to music is evident in the establishment in 2000 of the “Régie Orchestre” (RO), one of the three largest organisations of its kind in the Paris region, which provides and co-ordinates mostly short-term contracts for orchestral musicians at domestic and international level, providing employment for more than 400 musicians annually.
The biggest coup is securing the famous Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire for this tour. He has had a long and illustrious career – the musical genius started playing the piano at the age of three, performed Beethoven’s Concerto No 5 at the age of twelve, received a Brazilian government grant to study in Vienna with Bruno Seidhofer, followed by winning first prize at the Vianna da Motta International Music Competition in Lisbon. He has continued recording for various record labels throughout his career with his Decca recordings which include a 2-CD set of the Brahms piano concertos with the Gewandhaus Orchestra winning the 2007 Classic FM and Gramophon awards in the Record of the Year and Concerto categories. At the age of 71 he continues to tour the world performing with various orchestras.
The orchestra is brilliantly led by the young French conductor, Lionel Bringuier who is the guest conductor of this tour and who has conducted many of their past performances. His artistic maturity and interpretative depth have led to his being named Chief Conductor and Music Director of the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich in 2012 at age 26.
He first began to gain worldwide attention in 2005 when he was unanimously awarded the Prix du Public, the first prize at the 49th Besancon Young Conductors Competition. Bringuier has appeared as a guest conductor with the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela as well as the BBC Symphony Orchestra. [GARD]
The Alma Chamber Orchestra has just completed a tour through North Africa, Qatar and will be heading to China following their South African season. Concerts are in Johannesburg at the Linder Auditorium on 22 April, Durban in the City Hall on 23 April and a free concert with the Buskaid Soweto String Ensemble at the Regina Mundi church in Soweto on 25 April.
During their brief stay the Alma Chamber Orchestra will host various workshops with young musicians to inspire and engage a new generation of musical talent and music lovers.
The Alma Chamber Orchestra will perform at Umlazi High School, one of the famous and oldest schools in Umlazi township creating an unforgettable and educational experience for children of all ages and abilities. Umlazi High School is one of the few township schools that introduced music as a subject more than 10 years ago
In addition, special workshops, run by the Artistic Director and world-renowned solo violinist Anne Gravoin will also be conducted for the KZN Philharmonic’s National Cadetship Programme. These workshops present a diverse array of musical excerpts – from symphonic masterpieces to intimate chamber works.This programme addresses the limited representation of and increasing demand for local artists in the pool of present and future full-time musicians in our country’s orchestras by equipping very talented young musicians with the tools to meet the requirements of a professional orchestra career.
Founder of the Ichikowitz Family Foundation and sponsor of the South African tour, Ivor Ichikowitz said, “We are indeed privileged to host international musicians of such outstanding calibre in South Africa. We trust that our music loving public will enjoy this unique opportunity with us”.
All tickets, except for the concert at the Regina Mundi Church in Soweto (which is free) are available on www.computicket.com
For more information about the programme and the foundation, visitwww.ichikowitzfoundation.com