Luis Magalhães has a strong arm! By dragging Stellenbosch pianist and paediatrician Bernard Linde across the room at the Piano Symposium earlier this year to meet Julien Kurtz, the man behind the Les Amateurs Virtuoses festival, he helped fulfil the festival’s aims: to bring together the best amateur and professionals from around the world in a festival that celebrates love of music and includes master classes and recitals.
This, the 10th festival, takes place between the Baxter Concert Hall and the Endler Hall, with a side trip to Gugulethu in between. All from November 10 to 18 November 2018. It culminates in a “first”, a finale with six pianists, including Dr Linde, with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra.
Julien Kurtz was delighted to meet Bernard, who belongs to a tiny group of the most accomplished amateur pianists in the world, both a UNISA and Eisteddfoddau prizewinner and a competitor in various national piano competitions such as the Hennie Joubert and the UNISA Grade 8 bursary competition.
He is also a dedicated amateur pianist, growing up with music in the home. His mother was a music and piano teacher at DF Malan School in Bellville, later becoming an accompanist. Her sister, Mariette Malherbe, who is based in Pretoria and is married to an engineer/French Horn player, is the professional musician in the family, currently doing mostly freelance work as a violinist. Bernard’s late grandfather, Willie Liebenberg, was also a violinist and became the young Bernard’s teacher when his grandson was about nine. Liebenberg also conducted the amateur symphony orchestra in Paarl many decades ago. His grandmother was an accomplished church organist, also in Paarl. On his father’s side, the musical lines are a bit more faint, he says, but his father did play the piano while at school.
Although his parents encouraged the young Bernard Linde to play the piano – he was five when he had his first lessons – they never pressured him into pursuing music as a career. In fact, he suspects that his parents were quite relieved that he did not choose to study music, but at the same time, his father who is also a doctor, probably wished he did not choose medicine either! “I still do not quite know how I ended up in medicine because I eventually decided to study geophysics, but here I am!”
In Grade 10 he began taking lessons with Bennie van Eeden at the Stellenbosch Conservatoire, and a weekly afternoon commute from Worcester to Stellenbosch became a way of life, but it was only after his final matric exam that he decided that medicine was to be his field and he was accepted by the University of Stellenbosch.
He managed to keep his two loves going for a while but then, with the demands studying made on his time and the fact that Faculty of Medicine was in Bellville and his music teachers were in Stellenbosch, he took fewer and fewer lessons. Then, in his internship year in Pretoria, he picked up the violin and viola again and joined a quartet of medical professionals, playing the viola. He also did some ad hoc chamber music and orchestral work during that time which incidentally is the first time he played under the direction of the CPO’s principal guest conductor Bernhard Gueller for a performance with the Johannesburg Music Initiative.
Does he ever regret not studying music?
“There was a time, quite recently, when I did regret not pursuing music as a full-time career, but in the end I prefer to get enjoyment out of music. I’d hate it if the magic of making music is lost and playing becomes only a means of paying the bills, something which I suspect is a reality for some professional musicians.” Now he has the best of both worlds. After his internship and community service years, he worked in the provincial hospital in Worcester and returned to Tygerberg Hospital in 2006 to continue his specialty training in Paediatrics and Child Health. In 2009 he settled into a private practice in Stellenbosch and decided to “tie up loose ends and finish my performer’s licentiate, something I had planned to complete 10 years earlier! In the process, I resumed lessons and completed my Dip ABRSM and LRSM (Performance).” He earned both with distinction, and again studying with Bennie van Eeden.
Bernard Linde will play with some of the other 24 pianists and 40 young Muzikids violinists in the opening concert at the Baxter on November 10, and together with pianist Thomas Yu he will play the Poulenc Piano Concerto for Two Pianos with the CPO under the direction of Daniel Boico at the City Hall on November 18. Maybe these performances will give him the impetus he needs to venture more into solo performance and especially chamber music, despite the juggling he will have to do to fit more music into his work schedules. But his love for music certainly gives him the will to do it. Unless his love for cycling in the winelands consumes him!
Who: Bernard Linde pianist
What: Les Amateurs Virtuoses Cape Town
Where: Endler Concert Hall, Baxter Concert Hall, Cape Town City Hall
When: November 10 – 18; Festival Finale Concert with pianist Julien Kurtz, June Wu, Xavier Aymonod, Thierry Goldwaser, Bernard Linde, Thomas Yu, the CPO/Daniel Boico (conductor)
Les Amateurs Virtuoses tickets: firstname.lastname@example.org/, https://www.pianestival.org/
CPO concert: http://bit.ly/LesAmVirt / /Artscape Dial-A-Seat 021 421 7695