Violinist Pieter Schoeman
Violinist Pieter Schoeman

PETA STEWART

It’s entirely appropriate that Pieter Schoeman, the concertmaster of the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) is coming back to South Africa to play in the Huberte Rupert Memorial Concert on 30 November 2018 with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra in Stellenbosch.

Benefactor Mrs Rupert

For it was Mrs Rupert who has been such an influence in his life as a friend, almost a parent and certainly a benefactor.

“I would not be where I am without her,” he says.

“I met her one evening after a concert I gave with Lamar Crowson in Stellenbosch. I was 19 and already studying in America. The very next day she became my sponsor, which lasted for years. We had such a good relationship that when, in desperation because the banks in France (where I had my first job) wouldn’t lend me the money to buy a better and very necessary violin, I called her.”

“Who else would you call, she told me – showing me that in times of crisis you turn to family. Through this violin she will always be in my thoughts, and when I think back how she facilitated the loan I remember her not only with gratitude, but with warmth.”

That was in 1999 and he says he will play that violin forever!

Many milestones

When Pieter Schoeman was four, Paul Martens was teaching the Suzuki method of violin playing, and he joined in. He enjoyed playing and played so well that when he was 10 he won an Eisteddfod and made his solo debut with the Cape Town Symphony. Two years later Jack de Wet took him on as a student, and he knew that music was going to be his life.

The first milestone in his life was at age 15 winning the World Youth Concerto Competition at Interlochen in America, which opened up many doors for him.  “That was a game changer,” he says. After that there was no turning back.”

At the age of 17, he moved to America and studied in Los Angeles, Dallas and New York.

The second milestone was meeting Mrs Rupert in 1989.

The third milestone was meeting Pinchas Zukerman two years later, whom he had always seen as a hero.

Trinity Laban Conservatoire

“I teach at Trinity Laban Conservatoire now, and it always amazes me that kids today don’t have heroes anymore. They think they know it all, but Zukerman was a true hero. Zukerman invited me to join him when he was playing concerts in smaller towns and he would take the time to teach me. I am still in close touch with him. Then he sent me to Sylvia Rosenberg, who was my final and most formidable teacher”.

Another milestone was getting invited by Yannick Nezet-Seguin, the chief conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Metropolitan Opera, to play chamber music with him throughout Europe. As you can see, he firmly believes that milestones don’t have to be events but can be people!

He recently returned from the Brazil side of the Iguazu Falls where a chamber group from the LPO gave a concert at sunset, with the falls as a backdrop. Since the hotel group, a partner of the LPO, also owns the Mount Nelson, what are the chances of a group coming from the LPO to Cape Town?

A final milestone (apart from being appointed concertmaster of the LPO) he mentions is being concertmaster for the first half of a concert to honour the late Kurt Masur. Musicians from several orchestras where Mazur had held titles joined the Gewandhaus Orchestra to pay homage to him.

About the  Bruch Violin Concerto, the centre piece in the CPO concert in Stellenbosch which will be conducted by Chad Hendricks he says: “Bruch is a concerto that I really love … it is unashamedly Romantic. “It is all about sound, and that’s the most important thing in music. That’s my passion.”

The same night he plays Bruch with the CPO, his violinist wife will be accompanying the same violin concerto with the LPO in the Royal Festival Hall.

Pieter Schoeman has had to take leave to do this concert, and for him there was no doubt it was the right thing to do. He will also be back two weeks later with his wife and three children to have a holiday here.

“Mrs Rupert taught me that you have to work for what you want. She never just blindly gave. She made it possible for me to help myself. Next season I am playing in a string quartet concert in London with Anne-Sophie Mutter, a violinist Mrs Rupert adored. She was at her debut with Karajan all those years ago. I would have loved for her to know!”

Who: Violinist Pieter Schoeman
What: Huberte Rupert Memorial Concert with CPO, conductor Chad Hendricks
Where: Endler Hall, Stellenbosch, South Africa
When: 30 November 2018, 8pm
Info, book:  http://bit.ly/PieterSchoeman, Artscape 021 421 7695
WS