Most lovers of classical music are aware of the high esteem in which violinist Zoë Beyers (pictured left) is held: this South African virtuoso is a familiar presence on various concert stages in the United Kingdom, where she is currently based, says BEVERLEY BROMMERT:
Apart from extensive contributions to chamber music, she has also been concertmaster of the English Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.
At present she is back in her native country on a short tour with the prestigious Dante Quartet which she recently joined to play first violin.
Asked whether she has a preference for intimate ensemble, solo, or large-scale orchestral playing, she has no hesitation in replying, “No, I love them all; even in solo performance you are not completely alone, as the audience is there with you…it is never a one-way process, there is always some chemistry between player and listeners.”
She also believes that confining one’s chosen repertoire exclusively to either chamber music or orchestral works can have undesirable consequences, such as sacrificing some of a composer’s finest compositions.
For Beyers, the Dante Quartet is like “a chosen family”, a group of organic cohesion that was formed halfway through the Covid pandemic: “We had played together previously over a long period of time, so there are no surprises on the personal level.” It goes without saying that trust between the foursome is mutual and complete – a sound basis for harmonious execution. Not without reason, she regards their shared camaraderie as “a unique privilege “.
Her views on the role of a musician interpreting well-known classics confirm her clarity of vision and grasp of the pleasures and responsibilities of one who is effectively the custodian of beautiful works to pass on to posterity:
“Stamping your mark on the rendition of a familiar piece has to be utterly sincere; you are entering an ongoing timeline in the moment of execution, and if you venture beyond that established line to be different, you must have integrity and commitment – otherwise it can become showy and egotistical. An audience can easily identify when that’s so.”
Passionate commitment to tuition
She feels that the greatest executants are humble and above all, genuine as they endeavour to do justice to the score they are interpreting.
“Above all, music is non-elitist: amateur musicians performing in their own home are as meaningful in their way as professionals making their début at the Wigmore Hall. It’s all about playing to the best of your ability, with absolute honesty.”
This is where her other role in her chosen career, namely teaching, comes into play. “The teacher’s function is to bring out a player’s ability, to get the dynamic of teacher/pupil right.” Her commitment to tuition is passionate. She regards it as a mutually undertaken quest by mentor and mentee for solutions to the challenge of music making: “Respect for your pupils is vital if they are to be encouraged in their career…new young musicians represent the next generation,” she comments.
During her present visit here, music students from both Stellenbosch University and UCT will be able to benefit from her guidance in workshops.
Just as teachers learn from their students (“a two-way process”), performers both give to, and receive from, their audiences, especially in less formal settings. Thus she delights in dialoguing with her listeners, and thoroughly approves of the new trend towards crossing the invisible boundary traditionally dividing them.
This openness of spirit, together with her inclusive approach to mentees and audiences, makes her a welcome visitor to these shores.
What: Zoë Beyers and the Dante Quartet
Where and when: 18 October at St Andrews Presbyterian Church in Green Point at 7.30pm