LAUREN WESLEY-SMITH & RENÉ ESTERHUYSE
In a massive musical collaboration at Stellenbosch University, musicians from all throughout Stellenbosch united to perform Ludwig van Beethoven’s epic Ninth Symphony in the Endler Hall. Joined together onstage were the University of Stellenbosch Symphony Orchestra (USSO), Schola Cantorum, Canticum Novum, students from the Singing Division of the Music Department, and various Stellenbosch alumni – all under the baton of Professor Corvin Matei.
This performance was not only part of the Centenary celebrations, but also marked Matei’s final concert before his retirement at the end of the year. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was first performed in 1824 when Beethoven was already completely deaf. The enlargement of the orchestra and the inclusion of vocalists in the fourth movement are some of its biggest innovations. The fourth movement, based on Friedrich Schiller’s “Ode to Joy”, has become one of the world’s most famous melodies.
Matei, the resident flute lecturer of Stellenbosch University, and conductor of USSO, was optimistic about the concert. “The Symphony no.9 represented a milestone in Beethoven’s life, and in the history of music. I am very proud our performance coincides with the Stellenbosch University’s 100th anniversary – it will be an electrifying performance. In years to come it will be remembered as a milestone in the history of the Music Department and the university.” He adds, “Schiller’s words are more contemporary than ever, and prophetic ‘Embrace yourselves, you millions’”. Du Toit-Pearce says that she is proud of all the musicians. “It is really taxing work, and I think the orchestra did extremely well. I’m of course very proud of our undergraduate singing students who participated in the choir – it is a big sing for them. It was also wonderful to sing alongside my colleague, Lauren, and to have some of our colleagues on stage with us.” Dr Pieter Grobler, head of the Music Department, describes this symphony as “one of the most outstanding works” of classical music, and says that it was a very fitting way to conclude Matei’s career. “It also brought the Centenary celebrations to a wonderful climax,” says Grobler.
Christian Brand, a fourth year music student and concertmaster for the orchestra, also expressed his enthusiasm about the concert in the lead up to the performance: “It’s my last year here, and my last concert here in USSO, and so I am very excited. I think we are making good progress.” Brand also expressed his regret that only one performance was scheduled, as tickets were completely sold out days before the concert.