Peta Stewart

Three years ago conductor Robert Moody spent one month in South Africa, realizing a dream. Now finally after Covid shattered orchestral engagements internationally in 2020 and 2021, he is back to relive that dream, but more importantly to conduct all the orchestras: Two engagements with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra on 23 and 30 June 2022 and beginning his tour with the JPO on 9 June (Mozart Flute Concerto and Beethoven Symphony No. 7), and the KNZPO on 16 June (Prokofiev Third Piano Concerto and Beethoven Symphony No. 7).

That one full month of June 2019 was “one of the single most powerful and amazing experiences of my life. I was able to explore so many beautiful areas in and around Cape Town, from hiking Lion’s Head to visiting Stellenbosch, Cape of Good Hope and Boulders Beach, and of course the amazing food in so many stellar Cape Town restaurants.  And I still don’t have the words to describe just how incredible it was to see leopard, elephant, giraffe, rhinos, hippos, and so much more on safari.

Moody is enjoying his 17th season as Music Director of Arizona Musicfest and 6thseason as Music Director of The Memphis Symphony Orchestra (Tennessee)

But safaris aside, it is Cape Town that remains in his mind.

“I’d always heard that Cape Town was a beautiful city full of culture. It surpassed my greatest hopes and of course CPO is a phenomenal orchestra, with truly wonderful colleagues who make the creation of music so rewarding. The hall is classic and gorgeous, and I especially am looking forward to having the epic Norman and Beard Pipe Organ join the music this time around.”

Conductor Robert Moody
Conductor Robert Moody

James Jones, Bryan Wallick

Moody’s second concert on June 30 is with American organist James Jones, who will perform the Poulenc Organ Concerto on the beautiful organ which is undergoing an extensive tuning in preparation.

For his first concert, and that with KZNPO, he will have American pianist Bryan Wallick as his soloist in the Third Piano Concerto by Prokofiev. Wallick, who is well known to South Africans from the years he lived and performed here, relocated to America a couple of years ago and has returned for a national concert tour, which also includes a recital for Cape Town Concert Series at the Baxter Concert Hall on 11 June.

“Bryan Wallick remains one of my great friends and colleagues in the music world. I will be forever grateful to him for introducing me to the vibrant musical world of South Africa. He was guest soloist with me and my Memphis Symphony Orchestra, playing Grieg Piano Concerto the very first week of March 2020. It would turn out to be the last masterworks performance we were able to offer for almost two years, as that moment of course was the onset of the COVID pandemic.  But his interpretation of Grieg sustained us in our memories for many many months after.”

His second soloist in Cape Town, James “Jimmy” Jones is lauded as one of the top organist and choirmasters in the United States. He served as Director of Music/Principal Organ for a number of major churches in the US and has taken choirs on four major European concert tours.  Jimmy is doing double duty in this concert. After the Poulenc, he will join the orchestra in Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, which Moody considers to be one of the most important pieces in symphonic repertoire.

Then he starts on the 5th Sibelius Symphony which may never have been performed in Cape Town. It’s the final work on the June 23 programme and has “maybe THE – most powerful ending of any symphony ever written”.

While 2022 is becoming a great year, Moody is cognisant of the last two years. “On 11 March, 2020, I flew to California to conduct the Sacramento Philharmonic orchestra, arriving at about 7pm. Twelve hours later I received a call … California had just shut down all large public gatherings. Covid 19 made its appearance on my life. I turned around and flew back the Memphis. I remember thinking ‘I hope this doesn’t last as much as two even three weeks’. Oh, we were so naive then!”

“During the next two years I got as involved as possible in creating video ‘collage’ performances, some extremely distanced/masked concerts with no audience, and eventually outdoor, and other concert experiences where audiences could gather, but very safely. Covid has caused great damage to our world spirit. But, just as we did a century earlier, and many times before that, the human soul always comes back.  This energy of ‘returning’ is palpable. We mourn for so many lives lost, but also celebrate that live music experiences will continue to live on, grow, and thrive.

Before leaving South Africa he will have experienced more of the beauty of the country by experiencing another safari in the Sabi area, going to Robben Island and the winelands, doing the Big Rush in Durban (the world’s largest swing that flies across the football stadium). All this will stand him in good stead for his engagements on his return to the US and  concerts at the Sewanee Summer Music Festival in July, and the  Memphis Symphony Orchestra Season’s season which he opens in September with Renée Fleming.

What: Winter Symphonies at the City Hall, Winter Season 2022 with the KZNPO and Winter Season 2022 with the JPO with conductor Robert Moody
When, when: 9 June (JPO, Linder Auditorium), 16 June (KZNPO, Playhouse), June 23 and 30 (CPO, City Hall )
Book: CPO: Artscape Dial-a-Seat 021 421 7695, Computicket, JPO Computicket, KZNPO Quicket
WS