The Jussen brothers, Lucas and Arthur, from the Netherlands, will be opening the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra’s 13th Summer Music Festival. PETA STEWART spoke to them:
Brothers and not twins, the Dutch piano duo Lucas and Arthur Jussen are so alike in so many ways that even they say “it’s probably easier for our parents to tell the difference than for us to! It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact differences but, if we had to, we would say that Arthur is probably a little more organised than Lucas.”
The end result, no matter how different the preparation, is always the same: totally seamless playing which Cape Town audiences will experience on Thursday, 24 January 2019 when the duo opens the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra’s 13th Summer Music Festival at the City Hall with the Poulenc Concerto for Two Pianos. Also on the programme is a praise piece for Nelson Mandela by South African composer Litha Jali called Huntshu Mthembu and the Second Symphony by Rachmaninov. Returning to the podium will be the Bulgarian conductor Martin Panteleev.
Jussen brothers: “100% prepared”
The brothers made their debut together when they were 11 and 8 and now spend about 80 per cent of their time performing together, with the rest of their time spent in solo performance. As for the practicing, they naturally spend less time together but always make sure “that, individually, we are prepared 100%. After that we come together and start rehearsing as an ensemble.”
With a father who is the timpanist in the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra in Holland, and a mother who is a flautist and a music teacher, they grew up surrounded by music. But that said, it was football that provided the impetus for Lucas to begin to play. So close are they, they speak as one: “We always had a piano in our house and one day Lucas just sat behind it and started smashing some keys. It was at the time the Dutch football squad was participating in the world championship and the national anthem was played before each game. Lucas loved the anthem and it was the first piece my mother taught him to play. So actually, he started playing because of football!”
Arthur, being younger, always listened to Lucas but he did hesitate between violin and piano when he was five. However, “in the end he, of course, chose the piano.”
A duo they may be, but they feel “it also very important for us to develop as individual artists because in the end this also makes the duo better. And apart from that, the solo repertoire is just too beautiful to say no to!”
“The duo will always be our Number One priority, but we feel lucky that – especially in the Netherlands – we have solo careers as well.”
The pair were the winners of the first ever Concertgebouw Young Talent Award in 2011, and since then have received international acclaim. Words by Dutch newspapers to describe their playing include “ the two pianos form one flowing instrument” and “two souls, one mind”.
The Jussen brothers have played for the queen
While they studied with different teachers, they did study together in Portugal and Brazil with Maria João Pires. Their debut CD under contract to Deutsche Grammophon of works by Beethoven received platinum status, followed by four more prizewinning releases. They have performed in the Concertgebouw, for the former Dutch Queen Beatrix, accompanied King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima on their first official visit to Poland, and performed in concert halls and festivals across Europe, as well as Japan, China and South Korea.
Just 22 and 25, they have already had many high points in their lives, “many beautiful moments but the most special moments were always together.”
Last August the duo performed in the Prinsengracht, a main canal in Amsterdam and this “concert is something that we’ll probably never forget. All those people around you on the boats in the canals is not a sight that you get to see every day.” It’s the largest open-air concert in The Netherlands with about 10 000 and it was televised. The Jussens hosted this year’s 38th edition, and also received the best ratings the concert had in five years. The final song, an ode to the city of Amsterdam, and one in which the audience sings along, was viewed by nearly one million people. Here’s a link if you want to see more https://www.prinsengrachtconcert.nl/
Naturally, they are expecting their only South African concert to be a highlight as well!
What: CPO 13th Summer Music Festival opening concert with Jussen brothers and CPO
Where and when: Cape Town City Hall, 24 January 2019
Book: Computicket, 021 421 7695