Ben Schoeman excels with challenging programme – 2017
Chris Rogers – 4 June 2017
Marlborough News Online

In the latest of this popular series of concerts we welcomed back the South African pianist, Ben Schoeman. Ben made his first appearance this year playing the piano realisation of the Poulenc Gloria with the Swindon Choral Society in Marlborough College chapel, and a spectacular performance that was. Ben studied firstly at the University of Pretoria before moving on to study both at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, and then in Italy. In 2016 he was awarded a PhD at City University in London. Ben has already had an impressive international career, playing in a wide range of prestigious concert venues, both in recitals and as soloist in many of the great piano concerti by Liszt, Tchaikovsky and Ravel.
Ben is passionate about Russian music and this formed the basis of his programme this evening. He began with Prokofiev’s Sonata No 3, on of a series of short sonatas which were written in 1917 reflecting the post-revolutionary optimism that was exploding in Russia. It is full of force and grandeur, with sections which remind the listener of clanking machinery and the whole panoply of the brave new world of the Soviet worker. It is a powerful piece, skilfully executed and rich in contrasting mood. There are moments of lyricism, but the overall impression of ruthless energy and a thundering cacophony of dissonances was a superb evocation of the now-vanished Soviet Age.
Scriabin’s Preludes (Opus 11) were written between 1888 and 1896, in the golden age of Russian Romanticism. Ben played a diverse and contrasting selection of nine of these. Many were gently rippling, light and wistful, with faint memories of Chopin in the air, while others are much darker, Russian Romanticism in full flight. There were preludes in a wide range of keys, both major and minor and their brevity enabled Ben to explore very successfully the variety of mood and technique that they demand.
The first half finished with Rachmaninoff’s wonderful Variations on a Theme of Corelli, written in 1932 while the composer was living in Switzerland. The basic theme is a catchy little popular folk melody called ‘La Folia’ which was the source of inspiration to a large number of Baroque composers, including Corelli. Written at much the same time as the more famous Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini there are many stylistic similarities which were not difficult to spot. There is a wide range of moods and technical skill reflected in these variations, two of which are at breakneck speed with furious rhythms thundered out in the left hand. At one point a repeating note sounded like a bell tolling above the cacophony of notes. Other variations are languid and thoughtful. Indeed it is one of the gentle variations with which the work finishes, with Ben reducing the volume to a point where music and time were one, soloist absolutely motionless as a deep silence reigned over Saint Peter’s. What a performance.
The second half began with a piano realization of Tchaikovsky’s much-loved Nutcracker Suite (Opus 71a) transcribed in 1978 by the Russian pianist Mikhail Pletnev. These were very demanding indeed, ample evidence that the transcriber was a very talented pianist himself! The march was thickly textured, there were dramatic scales, leaping arpeggios while the glorious melody of the Pas de Deux soared effortlessly above the rippling scales and arpeggios of the ‘accompaniment’. However, most impressive of all the dances was the Tarantella, that fast and furious Italian dance played here with consummate dexterity; Ben’s fingers lost in a visual blur. Yes, he does have only 10 of them!
The work finished with another great Rachmaninoff Sonata; no 2 in B flat Minor. This was a version reworked in 1931 from a sonata originally written in 1913. (Allegedly a simplified version!) Like the Corelli Variations the work is dark, brooding and very Russian. Perhaps it reflects the coming storm of WW1 and the Russian Revolution from which Rachmaninoff eventually fled, never to see his homeland again. The work is technically very challenging indeed, fiendish runs and scales, out of which periodically there are echoes of the rich and deep sonorities associated with the Orthodox tradition, while at other moments there are hints of the pealing bells of the great Russian cathedrals; images dear to the heart of the refugee composer. It was a virtuoso performance; one of immense craftsmanship and subtle interpretation, ample evidence of Ben’s empathy with Russian music. To bring us all back to earth (and to the south!) Ben played some Scarlatti, playful, gentle and emotionally unchallenging. Just what we needed!
It was a wonderful concert made all the more memorable by Ben’s introductory and very enlightening remarks at the beginning of each half. We hope he will return.
A freshness that keeps radiating – 2015 {Afrikaans}
Paul Boekkooi – 23 June 2015 – Beeld

Anzél Gerber (Cello), Ben Schoeman (Piano), ZK Matthews Great Hall, UNISA, Pretoria
Kom ons ruim enkele misvattings uit die weg: Musici wat op die vlak van Anzél Gerber en Ben Schoeman internasionaal konserte aanbied het nagenoeg 16 jaar se studie agter die rug om dié peil van voortreflikheid te kan bereik. Hierna hou die proses geensins op nie. Repertoriumuitbreiding bly uitdagend en veral spesialisering in spesifieke rigtings vereis selfs nog meer. Vergelyk dit gerus met dié van ander hoëvlakberoepe. Selfs met dit alles in ag genome, bly dié duo nou nog meer as tevore só in staat om hul gehore deurgaans by hul interpretasies te betrek, dat dit ‘n nuutgemunte varsheid bly uitstraal. Hier is dit skaars ‘n geval waar die luisteraar sou kon dink “ek ken dié Beethoven-sonate deur en deur,” want Gerber en Schoeman benader en belig die wesenskenmerke daarvan uit ‘n ietwat ander hoek om dan ‘n verrassende, opskerpende resultaat te kan lewer. Dit was die geval met hul openingswerk, Beethoven se Sonate no.4 in C, opus 102, no.1 (1815). Teen dié tyd was die komponis totaal doof, maar sy behandeling van die twee stemme (tjello en klavier) is wonderbaarlik geïntegreer. In hul onopgesmukte klankbenadering, aangevul deur uitdrukkingsryke frasering, met uitmuntende vibratobeheer en – kontraste deur Gerber, deel die musiek – soms gekompliseerd, enkele kere ook weerbarstig – voortdurend iets mee. Die dialoog het naatloos gesluit, met spel gekenmerk deur ‘n ideale, gelykluidende twee-eenheid.
Benjamin Britten se vyfdelige Sonate. Opus 65, het deels beroemd geword vanweë Rostropowitsj se assosiasie daarmee, maar Gerber en Schoeman se soeklig het tereg ietwat wegbeweeg van die Rus se registrasies van dié opus. Daar was skaars ‘n voetspoor van navolging te ontdek. Met helderheid en groot detail is die karaktertrekke van elke deel ontsluit. Die oorsigtelikheid van die dele met deurlopende lynespel (veral die Dialogo en Elegia) is heg gehou, terwyl hulle spel in die Scherzo-pizzicato en Moto perpetuo wat enorme virtuositeit vereis het, die geheel genadiglik nie opsetlik na harde werk laat klink het nie.
Schoeman het hom onlangs as ‘n deurleefde Schumann-eksponent begin bewys. Dit was dus g’n verrassing dat hy en Gerber se uitvoering van Schumann se Adagio en Allegro, opus 70 ideaal vorm aangeneem het nie, met laasgenoemde se elastiese klankdinamiek, ryklik soepele strykwerk en speelse musikaliteit. Dit maak haar in gelyke mate één met haar tjello as ‘n sangeres met haar stem: lig, deurdag en vloeiend.
Ten slotte was dit Chopin se Sonate in g, opus 65, wat deurlopend nog verdere kwaliteite van dié duo onderstreep het. Die werk se struktuur is heg gehou deur geen oormatige uitdrukkingsvryhede in hul benadering toe te laat nie. ‘n Onthullende hoogtepunt hier was veral die verrassende liriese ontlading van die Scherzo en die diepgaande sfeer van die Largo wat kernagtig by die betoog in sy geheel aangepas het.
Review of KZNPO Concert - 2015
Michael Green – 21 June 2015
Blog Review:

The cellist Anzel Gerber and the pianist Ben Schoeman played on a Durban platform for the second time in three days when they appeared with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra in the City Hall.
Earlier in the week these South African musicians had delighted a Friends of Music audience with a varied recital programme. With the KZNPO they gave only the second performance of a concerto for cello and piano by the South African composer Stefans Grove, who died recently aged 91 (the world premiere had been given a week earlier in Cape Town). This concerto is sub-titled Bushman Prayers. Grove, who is regarded as one of the most important figures in South African music, researched the spoken and musical traditions of the San (Bushmen), the oldest of Southern Africa’s indigenous peoples, when composing this concerto. Obviously much of it sounds strange to ears attuned to the music of Western Europe, but hearing it was nevertheless an absorbing experience, with the impressionistic Prayer to the Moon the most readily accessible part of the work. The two soloists (to whom the concerto is dedicated) were both excellent¸ and the conductor, Carlos Izcaray, a 37-year-old Venezuelan, guided the orchestra skilfully through this complex work. Barry Carbis narrated the three prayers.
The concert opened with A Johannesburg Overture by Allan Stephenson, who was born in England but has lived in Cape Town since 1973. His substantial musical output includes six geographical compositions, a Cape Town Overture, a Durban, Bloemfontein, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Pretoria overture. The Johannesburg Overture depicts in vivid fashion the bustle of the big city. The City Hall audience was much smaller than usual. Local music does not pull in the customers, it seems.
The African theme was continued with the fantasy for piano and orchestra called Africa, by Camille Saint-Saens, the Frenchman who liked Northern Africa and spent some time there. It has some exotic themes and rhythms, but Paris seems always to be on the horizon. The soloist, Ben Schoeman, handled the difficult piano part, rapid runs and double octaves, with aplomb and impeccable technique. An unusual and attractive work, like most of Saint-Saens’s music.
Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8 in G major took us back to old Europe. Written in 1889, it is a splendid work with a continuous flow of melody (much of it based on Bohemian folk music), all of it brilliantly orchestrated. The performance of this great symphony was a triumph for conductor and orchestra.
Carlos Izcaray, the conductor, has an interesting history. Eleven years ago, when he was the principal cellist of the Venezuela Symphony Orchestra, he was watching a political protest in his home town, Caracas, when he was attacked by the Venezuela National Guard. The protest was against Hugo Chavez, the radical politician who was president of the country until his death two years ago, and whose rule was conspicuous for intolerance, crime and corruption. Izcaray was arrested, thrown into a police van, hit on the head, had a pistol put in his mouth, was given electric shocks, and was tear-gassed. He was eventually released and warned not to complain. He believes that music was the therapy that restored him after this horrifying experience. Not surprisingly, he feels strongly about human rights. He has built a conducting career in the United States and Europe. He recently organised a Concert for Peace and Liberty in Berlin, where he has been living, and he is now moving with his wife and two daughters to Birmingham, Alabama, to become conductor of the orchestra there.
Outstanding recital of cello and piano - 2015
Michael Green – 17 June 2015
Blog Review:

Two of South Africa’s most gifted young musicians presented an outstanding recital of cello and piano music for the Friends of Music at the Durban Jewish Centre. Anzel Gerber, cello, and Ben Schoeman, piano, are both well-known as soloists and as chamber music players, and they have often combined their musical talents in recitals such as this one, with most enjoyable results.
The repertory of music for the cello and piano is somewhat limited, possibly because composers have had to face the problems of tonal balance; the bass notes of the piano can obscure the deep tone of the cello. Predictably enough, Beethoven solved the problems successfully in his five cello sonatas, and the first item on this Durban programme was his Sonata in C major, Op. 102, No. 1, which dates from 1815. Both players excelled in this splendid composition. Their calm and dedicated approach to its complexities and subtleties impressed the large audience, as did their mutual understanding, based on their long-standing musical partnership.This was followed by Benjamin Britten’s Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 65, written in 1961.
Britten’s music is not to everybody’s taste, to put it mildly, but there was no denying the quality of the playing. This is a 20-minute, five-movement work and it has many interesting features, such as the development of the first movement from a tiny fragment of melody, the pizzicato, guitar-like second movement, and the solemn slow movement. This was all played with skill and conviction.
In the second half of the concert the players moved to the romantic era, with Schumann’s eloquent Adagio and Allegro, Op. 70, and Chopin’s Sonata in G minor, Op. 65. Chopin’s sonata was written in 1846. It is the composer’s last published work and is one of only nine compositions that he did not write for solo piano. It is rather neglected, inexplicably, because it is romantic, melodious, lyrical, passionate and poetic. The performance was beyond reproach. The players extracted full value from the inimitably Chopinesque melody of the dreamy slow movement (it sounds like one of the composer’s Nocturnes) and from the headlong rush of the Finale. Anzel Gerber produced a beautiful tone from her cello, and Ben Schoeman had ample opportunity to display his virtuoso powers in Chopin’s brilliant score.
Dvořák, Tchaikovsky, Saint-Saëns, Grové, Sibelius - 2015
Andrew Wilding – 13 June 2015
Blog Review:
Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, City Hall, Thursday 11 June 2015.
The overture began at the heart of the orchestra, with opening winds projecting a tranquil pastoral scene, delivered with the excellent control that extended throughout the orchestra. The climaxes were hair-raising, with all the grandeur and commitment of a medieval Hussite army, charged with goose-fleshy thundering bass drum rumbles, and the accelerando into the coda was exhilarating! After last night’s performance, this may well have become my new favourite overture.
Anz‎él Gerber’s Tchaikovsky was a delight in its complexity – her dexterous fingers and graceful souring melodies concealing a clearly hard-earned technique within this virtuosic work for cello. And virtuoso was the flavour of the evening… If Saint-Saëns is occasionally overlooked as a great pianist, there was no doubting it after Ben Schoeman’s performance of the Africa fantasy. This highly technical, syncopated work is a juicy challenge for both piano and orchestra. Schoeman rose to that challenge with accuracy and sensitivity, and the orchestra held his syncopated framework together with the kind of wonder that one finds in architectural structures that have much of the load-bearing rhythm removed, and seem to defy possibility.
It requires a master navigator to hold a flight like this together, and we were fortunate to have an experienced pilot such as Shinozaki on the podium.
I enjoyed the “Bushman Prayers” by Stefans Grové more than I expected after hearing his “Figures in the Mist” in October last year, which I found difficult to access. To quote Ben Rabinowitz: “In art we know when we like, but in music we like what we know.” – It’s quite possible that my ear is tuning in to Grové’s extended tonalities and rhythms, or perhaps Aviva Pelham’s passionate delivery of the prayers (poems by Dia!Kwain) helped connect the awkward, hungry, dissonant sounds, particularly in the first movement – Prayer to the Sun. But it was with the second movement that I connected most deeply: Prayer to the Moon. Gerber and Schoeman, to whom the work was dedicated, created a most beautiful, hauntingly mysterious Moon-rise that seemed to hover larger than life, as if we could see every canyon and crater on the Moon’s surface. The work is rhythmically extremely challenging, and well-handled between Shinozaki and the percussion section.
Fine vehicles for a display of virtuosity - 2015
Deon Irish – 18 June 2015 – Cape Times

SYMPHONY CONCERT, June 11 at City Hall. CTPO conducted by Yasuo Shinozaki, with soloists Anzel Gerber, Ben Schoeman.
THE wintry chill did not deter concert goers from filling the City Hall for an intriguing programme of two distinct halves: a pre-interval collection of disparate works, ranging from three lesser known works by popular Romantic composers, to the last composition of a notable neo-Classicist who died last year. Dvorák, Tchaikovsky and Saint-Saëns are regularly found in concert programmes the world over; yet there remain a slew of orchestral works by each of them which enjoy far less currency. This is not because of inferior quality: choices are governed by factors such as the length of a work, the forces needed (and thus cost) for its performance, and its suitability in the musical context. Both Tchaikovsky’s cello showpiece and Saint-Saëns’ piano confection suffer from being too short to fill a concerto slot and justify the engagement of a soloist; and, in the case of the Tchaikovsky piece, it is a mite too virtuosic to be assigned to many orchestral cellists. One commends the CTPO for finding a neat solution: by programming a relatively short work that required the engagement of both piano and cello soloists, the opportunity was created to assign to each of those instrumentalists another short solo piece. In the case of the overture, its rarity is more curious, since it does fit ideally into the conventional opening item mould. And, as boldly conducted as Shinozaki did, it’s an appealing work, with a strong melodic interest derived from two Hussite hymns, one being the St Wenceslas Chorale, employed during the piece and used to bring the overtly nationalistic work to a rousing conclusion. It remains a popular Czech hymn and perhaps it is this overt religiosity that makes it less appealing in an increasingly secular world. Tchaikovsky wrote his piece in 1887 for the Russian cellist Anatoly Brandukov, then residing in Paris. As can be expected in a piece written for a Moscow Conservatoire gold medallist, the writing is demanding – particularly in the moto perpetuo D major central episode.
Brandukov was known both for his passionate, rich sound and for his technical wizardry. Gerber proved his equal … The lyrical episodes were lovely.
Schoeman then tossed off the “Africa” fantasy with alacrity. It’s a delicious little confection; conceived whilst on a trip to Egypt, the work has obvious references to the exotic sounds of North Africa, although the very prevalent syncopations make it a vehicle for a more widely encountered African music signature. It’s also another vehicle for a display of virtuosity, the often light accompaniment leaving the field open to the soloist to dazzle with a parade of frequently flashy but always exhilarating piano episodes. Schoeman had more than opportunity to create magic with rapid fire broken chords, double octaves, arpeggios, chromatic scales and every other utensil in the cooking battery. Shinozaki and the orchestra scampered along as dutiful cohorts, achieving a neatly precise accompaniment. Marvellous!
The first half ended with Stefan Grové’s Bushman Prayers, a double concerto whose three movements reflect the essence of three poems, each read before its movement: the Sun as the giver of life; the moon, as the constant promise of rebirth; the brightest star as the giver of pinpoint accuracy of the hunt. Grové’s synthesis of Western and African musical elements was an ongoing endeavour for the last 30-odd years [of his life] and, with the admixture of the oral tradition in this score, he might be considered to have achieved something of an apogee. I was intrigued by the work and by the fluent performance it received (with Aviva Pelham a last-minute substitution as reader for the indisposed Rodney Trudgeon.) … the work is undoubtedly atmospheric, a concentrated thesis on each poem, with lovely colouring and idiomatic pulses. The soloists performed with seeming distinction and Shinozaki led the orchestra in a clearly carefully-rehearsed and smoothly delivered performance. The concert ended with a fine account of Sibelius’s first symphony, beautifully conceived by Shinozaki and with fine instrumental contributions – notably by timpanist Muller.
'Bushman Prayers' by S. Grové makes the orchestra sing - 2015 {Afrikaans}
Pieter Kooij – 13 June 2015 – Die Burger

Die hoofwerk in die simfoniekonsert Donderdagaand was Sibelius se Simfonie No. 1, maar die wêreldpremière van Stefans Grové (1922 – 2014) se Boesmangebede: ’n Concerto vir Tjello, Klavier en Orkes oortref in belangrikheid. Die werk is Grové se laaste voltooide komposisie en duur 18 minute. Dit is aan die soliste Anzél Gerber (tjello) en Ben Schoeman (klavier) opgedra. Die uitvoering is aangevul deur Aviva Pelham as verteller wat die drie gebede deur die Sandigter Dia!Kwain voor elk van die drie dele pragtig duidelik voorgedra het. Die eerste deel, “Gebed aan die son”, met sy onstuimige motief is feitlik deurentyd perkussief. Dit werk uitstekend vir die klavier, maar minder só vir die tjello. Albei instrumente kry egter in die middeldeel, “Gebed aan die maan”, deeglik geleentheid om herhaaldelik met ’n kort motief te sing.
Selfs die orkes sing met tye saam. Die derde deel, “Gebed aan die helderste ster in die lug”, ontgin weer perkussiewe kleure.
Die eerste helfte van die program het uit nog drie minder gespeelde korter werke bestaan: Dvorák se Hussiet-ouverture, Tsjaikowski se Pezzo Capriccioso vir Tjello en Orkes met Gerber as solis en Saint-Saëns se Afrika-Fantasie met Schoeman as solis. Gerber se mooi tjelloklank in die baie kort Pezzo Capriccioso het getref en ook later haar ratse tegniese vaardigheid. Schoeman het die vinnige dubbeloktawe waarmee die Afrika-Fantasie begin met verbluffende spoed getakel. Dit was net die begin van ’n baie opwindende, virtuose kragtoer.
Gerber, Schoeman present an intelligent programme - 2015 {Afrikaans}
Hans Potgieter – 4 Junie 2015 – Die Volksblad

Kamermusiekuitvoerings het vanweë die intieme aard ’n besondere aantrekkingskrag vir gehore. Die Odeion-teater is sekerlik een van die geskikste konsertsale vir so ’n uitvoering en dit is verblydend dat ’n groot gehoor vir dié konsert opgedaag het. Anzél Gerber en Ben Schoeman, albei bekend en met indrukwekkende CV’s, het ’n interessante program saamgestel.
Die eerste helfte het bestaan uit Anton Rubinstein se Tjellosonate in D majeur op. 18 en Benjamin Britten se Sonate op. 65. Rubinstein is ’n groot Russiese komponis, maar sy oeuvre redelik onbekend op ons konsertverhoë. Dit is ’n pragtige werk vol ryk, romantiese melodieë wat albei instrumente ten volle benut. Veral die moderato (2e beweging) met sy Siciliaanse ritme is besonders vertolk.
Die Britten-sonate stel groot eise aan die tjellis. Dit is opgedra aan die Russiese meestertjellis Mstislav Rostropowitsj en geïnspireer deur Sjostakowitsj. Dié uitgebreide werk in vyf bewegings het titels soos Dialogo, Scherzo-pizzicato, Elegia, Marcia en Moto Perpetuo.
Schoeman het hierin geskitter en was deurentyd op die hoogte van al die partituur se uitdagings … Die Moto Perpetuo, met ’n minder riskante tempokeuse, was opwindend.
In enige Chopin-werk, soos ook Sonate vir Tjello en Klavier, op. 65, is die dilemma altyd hoe om die komponis se Slawiese emosies binne die streng Latynse raamwerk van sy skryfkuns te laat leef. Gerber en Schoeman se interpretasie het die elegante na vore gebring … die uitvoering suksesvol en het groot byval by die publiek gevind.
In die slotwerk, Martinu se Variasies op ’n Tema van Rossini, het albei kunstenaars geskitter en ’n hoogtepunt van kunstenaarskap en tegniese virtuositeit gelewer.
Die kunstenaars is staande toegejuig en het die gehoor met ’n pragtige verwerking van Rubinstein se Rêve Angélique beloon. Dit het reg laat geskied aan albei musici se talent en vermoëns en was ’n gepaste einde vir ’n geslaagde uitvoering van ’n intelligente programkeuse.
Schoeman, Korsten, Free State Orchestra Outstanding - 2015 {Afrikaans}
Elretha Britz – 1 Junie 2015 – Die Volksblad

In Bloemfontein is ’n konsert met Gérard Korsten op die podium nie ’n konsert nie, dit is ’n gebeurtenis. Voeg nog ’n Suid-Afrikaner met ’n loopbaan in die buiteland as solis by, en die verwagting van ’n dubbele beloning word vir musiekliefhebbers gewek. Dit het hulle inderdaad gekry. Ook die program was ’n bederf soos min – Rachmaninoff se immergewilde Klavier-concerto nr. 2 in C mineur, op. 18 en Brahms se grootse Simfonie nr. 1 in C mineur, op. 68.
Die Rachmaninoff is ’n werk gevul met Slawiese nostalgie en melodieë wat voldoen aan die basiese vereistes van beweging, spanning en verskeidenheid. Reeds vroeg in die eerste beweging dui con passione die kerngevoel van die werk aan, wat maklik ook ’n slaggat vir ’n oordrewe melodramatiese vertolking kan wees. Ben Schoeman, bekend as ’n pianis met integriteit, het juis dié eienskap laat botvier vir ’n uitvoering wat jou nooit onaangeraak gelaat het nie en terselfdertyd getrou gebly het aan die partituur. Sy swiepende breë frases het die deinings van die musiek beklemtoon en dié golwe is met dieselfde musikale aanvoeling deur die orkes nageboots. Die enkelnoot-passasies in die stadige tweede beweging het Schoeman se sensitiwiteit ten beste belig. Hy het die musiek dromerig en peinsend laat sweef met onverbeterlike toongradering en fluisterende frase-einde. Die laaste mate van die middel was ’n meesterklas in uitdrukkingsvolle piano-spel. Hier moet die eerste klarinetspeler uitgesonder word vir haar roerende solo vroeg in dié beweging. Schoeman se tegniese behendigheid in virtuose passasies in die derde beweging het die werk na ’n sprankelende en opwindende einde gestuur, met drif waar nodig.
’n Mens het weer onder die indruk gekom van Schoeman se volrondheid as kunstenaar. Sy vertolkingskuns is ongetwyfeld geskoei op ’n indiepte ontleding en begrip van ’n werk, maar hy het ook die vermoë om sy emosies vlug te gee sodat die luisterervaring in elke aspek van die kompleksiteite van dié werk ten volle bevredig is.
Ná pouse het die Vrystaatse Simfonieorkes (VSO) sy kans aangegryp om alleen te skitter. Korsten se energieke dirigeerbewegings het die spelers aangevuur tot ’n aangrypende uitvoering geanker in ’n stylgetroue musikaal-verantwoordbare vertolking. Die grondslag is gelê deur ’n deeglike ontleding van dié eerste simfonie van Brahms met sy tipies gepaste instrumentasie vir dié komponis se hartstogtelike erns. Vertroosting in die tweede deel en ’n strelende derde deel is treffend gekontrasteer met die grootse eerste en dramatiese vierde deel. Maar wat veral opgeval het, is die wyse waarop die rykheid aan instrumentasie deur kleiner instrumentkombinasies of instrumentseksies uitgelig is. Elke oomblik in die uitvoering het geboei, soms deur kort crescendo’s wat klein opwellings meegebring het, ’n grasieuse aanslag (derde deel), briljansie (vierde deel) en die ongeëwenaarde mooi horing-solo. Die VSO het die afgelope drie, vier jaar stelselmatig verbeter wat samespel, integrasie van die seksies, vertolking en tegniese vaardigheid betref. Saterdagaand is alle aspekte van orkesspel tot nog ’n groter hoogte gevoer in ’n uitvoering wat die gehoor met ’n lied in die hart huis toe gestuur het. Bravo aan al die musici wat bygedra het tot ’n baie spesiale konsert met Korsten wat weer bewys het waarom hy internasionaal gesog is.
Interpretations offer silent ecstasy - 2014 {Afrikaans}
Willem Bester – 18 August 2014 – Die Burger

Dit was ’n aangename verrassing om die Endlersaal bykans vol te sien vir ’n kamermusiekprogram. Anzél Gerber en Ben Schoeman was genoeg van ’n trekpleister te midde ander aanbiedings die afgelope naweek op Wes-Kaapse verhoë. Beide is van die nuwe geslag uitvoerende musici wat, benewens die gewone résumés van befaamde leermeesters en dirigente, ook doktorale studie op die kerfstok het. Akademiese kwalifikasies is goed en wel vir ’n loopbaan aan ’n tersiêre instelling, maar op die verhoog is konsertvernuf die enigste maatstaf. En volgens dié kriterium moet daar in die rapport ’n dawerende en ongekwalifiseerde “Uitmuntend!” staan. Die program het bestaan uit drie werke deur Russiese komponiste: Rubinstein se Sonate vir Tjello en Klavier, op. 18, Strawinski se Suite Italienne en Rachmaninoff se Sonate vir Tjello en Klavier in G mineur, op. 19. Ofskoon die idee van ’n passievolle Slawiese estetika maklik tot musikale oordaad kon lei, is die vertolkings deurgaans gekenmerk deur ’n stylgevoelige, amper Klassisistiese manifestasie van balans en beheersing.
Dit het nooit gevoel of daar ’n aks energie verlore gaan aan wat nie onmiddellik noodsaaklik was vir die musikale narratief nie. Gerber se klankkleur is omvangryk – meestal stroopsoet, maar sy huiwer nie om haar op die metaal van die snare te beroep nie. Net so is Schoeman se vingerwerk delikaat en veerlig, maar skram hy nie weg van ’n meer robuuste aanslag nie. Sáám was die duo soos soos een lewende wese: ’n gedeelde begrip van hoe die musiek vloei en fyn op mekaar ingestel. ’n Mens kan hare kloof en wonder oor, byvoorbeeld, die “Finale” van die Strawinski waar dit voorgekom het of hulle mekaar momenteel verloor het teen die einde. Daar was ook drama toe Gerber se C-snaar van die tjello se brug afgespring het. Ná vinnige herstelwerk is hulle egter weer vort, sonder enige onderbreking in musikale kontinuïteit. Uiteindelik is dit die lirisisme in die vertolkings wat uitstaan, iets wat ’n mens aan kan dink as ’n stille ekstase. Dis die beste saamgevat in Rachmaninoff se “Vocalise” – ’n sielvolle toegif. Read original article >
Anzél Gerber and Ben Schoeman perform at Carnegie Hall, New York - 2014
Jeffrey James – 13 June 2014 – Published on

… The South African duo of cellist Anzel Gerber and pianist Ben Schoeman performed Martinu’s Variations on a Theme from Rossini. They certainly looked happy to be performing, which is always good to see.
They both have easy technique and a nice stage presence. Their fine duo work and lovely, balanced sound tells you that they listen and hear each other, and that they’re two wonderful musicians working as one.
Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto no. 5 at LSO St. Luke’s - 2014
Ben Schoeman plays Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto no. 5 at LSO St. Luke’s under the baton of Anthony Weeden and City University Symphony Orchestra
Robert Matthew-Walker – 24 May 2014

The Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No.5 in F, Op.103 (Egyptian) demands much from the pianist in terms of brilliance, sensitivity and sheer technique. In every particular, Schoeman proved himself fully up to his considerable task, as one might expect from a Royal Over–Seas Gold Medal Winner (2009), and was exceptionally well partnered by the Symphony Orchestra of London’s City University under the clear and expressive baton of Anthony Weeden.
There can surely be little doubt that the performance of the solo part that young South African Ben Schoeman gave was one which, had he heard it, Stephen Hough (who performed the same concerto last Tuesday with the Royal Philharmonic under Charles du Toit) would have applauded mightily in return. Read original article >
Cape Philharmonic Orchestra - April 2014 {Afrikaans}
Ben Schoeman plays with the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra and Conductor Pieter Daniel
Pieter Kooij – 26 April 2014 – Die Burger

Ben Schoeman se pragvertolking van Saint-Saëns se Klavierkonsert No. 5 in F majeur (Egiptiese konsert) in Donderdagaand se simfoniekonsert was ’n fees van virtuositeit. Maar delikate spel en sprankel, wat ook tipies van Saint-Saëns se musiek is, het Schoeman net so uitmuntend vermag. Die Egiptiese konsert is in Kaïro voltooi en in veral die tweede deel verleen die besonderse temas en kleurvolle orkestrasie ’n eksotiese stemming. Schoeman het dié atmosfeer pragtig raakgevat.
In die laaste deel het hy die talle virtuose passasies met oënskynlike afwesigheid van spanning of inspanning eweneens meesterlik vermag. Hierdie werk is, nie sonder rede nie, nie baie hoog op die lys van gewilde klavierconcerto’s nie, maar as dit gespeel word soos Schoeman dit gedoen het, het dit sekerlik trefferkwaliteite. Die gehoor in die volgepakte stadsaal het hom, luid en staande bedank. Read original article {Afrikaans} >
Cleveland International Piano Competition - 2013
Dramatic in concept, full in tone
Daniel Hathaway – 1 August 2013 –

South African pianist Ben Schoeman brought the session to an end with Bach and Haydn that felt completely right. His reading of the Toccata, BWV 911 was dramatic in concept, full in tone, his playing virtuosic where it was meant to sound improvisatory and clear and neat when counterpoint was involved. Schoeman responded to Haydn’s delightful C major Sonata (Hob. XVI:50) with elegantly
cheerful playing full of character and contrast and festooned with pearly passagework. South African composer Surendran Reddy’s Toccata for John Roos was pure dessert: jazzy, bluesy, caffeinated and just bordering on the pianistically trashy, Schoeman played it with amused glee.
Performances at the National Arts Festival in South Africa
South African pianist Ben Schoeman gave concerts at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, South Africa. At the prestigious Gala Concert of this event on 30 June 2013, Schoeman performed Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of conductor Richard Cock. The critic Jeff Brukman (Head of the Music Department at Rhodes University) described his performance as “a sensitive interpretation” and wrote that “compositional features and inner-voiced thematic material were highlighted through
Schoeman’s careful voicing of the richly-hued tapestry” On 2 July Schoeman gave a solo recital at the National Arts Festival. His programme included works of Haydn, Schumann, Wagner-Liszt as well as the South African composer Surendran Reddy. During his South African visit, Ben Schoeman also gave two chamber music recitals in collaboration with his duo-partner cellist Anzél Gerber. The two musicians won the first prize in the IBLA Grand Prize Competition in Italy (2012).
Their first recital took place at the ZK Matthews Great Hall of the University of South Africa on 23 June and was described by the critic Thys Odendaal (Beeld newspaper) as “an ecstatic performance that can surely be described as a highlight of Pretoria’s concert calendar for this year”. On 1 July the Gerber/Schoeman Duo repeated their programme to a capacity audience at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.
Moments of virtuosity - July 2013
Thickly textured piano part unfolded with apparent ease Piano recital in the Rhodes Chapel
Jeff Brukman – 2 July 2013- Cue Newspaper

Two young South African musicians with emerging international careers, Ben Schoeman (piano) and Anzel Gerber (cello), presented a recital that exhibited interpretative maturity and an extraordinary level of performance finesse. In Rachmaninoff’s Sonata for Cello and Piano in G minor these two performers merged into a single performance unit as their complete absorption and identification with the music’s inner core allowed the soul of Rachmaninoff’s creation to emerge. Gerber and Schoeman demonstrated complete understanding for this style, and their surging climactic points juxtaposed with reflective moments of sheer beauty demonstrated their oneness with Rachmaninoff’s compositional idiom. Throughout the Andante movement, through each lovingly presented phrase, Gerber portrayed Rachmaninoff’s representation of Russian melancholy with poignant evocation. In Schoeman’s hands the complex, thickly textured piano part unfolded with apparent ease, as moments of sheer virtuosity were presented with an astonishingly passionate outpouring of emotional intensity. Gerber was an equal partner as this fervent conversation evolved, and their marvellous characterisation and excitingly placed thematic interjections during the Allegro scherzando deserve special mention. Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu’s Variations on a Theme of Rossini received a scintillating performance, with Gerber and Schoeman compelling rapt attention from the audience – especially during the concluding climax that revealed a phenomenal sense of ensemble between both performers.
In this work Gerber demonstrated flawless technical brilliance and control, with her command over unwaveringly secure intonation particularly evident. Schoeman revelled in the score’s virtuosic, bravura setting where his unparalleled digital accuracy was transformed into remarkable artistic characterisation. The recital opened with Richard Strauss’s Sonata for Cello and Piano in F major where Gerber immediately impressed with her ardent response to the score, elegiac phrasing, and abundantly rich, expressive vocabulary. Each sonic facet in her wide, dynamic palette was securely transported throughout the venue – Gerber is an artist with superlative facility in communicating musical ideas. From the outset Schoeman’s warm, velvety and limpid cantabile tone was to the fore, with the thematic material developing effortlessly in his hands. His dazzling execution of fugato passages in the Allegro con brio movement were particularly unforgettable. Schoeman’s visible recognition of the music’s intensity amply translated into passionately directed and energised music-making. Popper’s Elfentanz, a technical tour-de-force for the cellist, concluded this recital. Gerber demonstrated complete control and mastery as her projection of musical ideas, while wading through the work’s plethora of multitudinous notes, verified her magnificent musicianship. Bravo! Read original article >
The Gift of Musical Characterisation: July 2011
Liszt recital swept up in simmering intensity Liszt Recital, Enoch Sontonga Hall, Pretoria
Riek van Rensburg – 10 April 2011 – Pretoria News

That he is a major talent, Unisa Competition winner and this year’s Standard Bank Young Artist for Music, Ben Schoeman evinced without dispute in this taxing all-Liszt recital in his home town, one of 13 concerts on his CD release tour of South Africa. What was fascinating was the incredibly assured maturity of Schoeman’s style, his inherent temperament and simmering intensity. With virtuoso élan he steered his way through the thickets of notes, yet seldom overdid the dynamic inflexions, and his phrasing was consequently never short-term. In the first two items, Variations on a Theme from Bach’s Cantata No 12 and Ave Maria, Die Glocken von Rom the lyrical line was always individually spontaneous and his colouring special – aristocratic poise, self-confident flair and clear tone. His sound had depth and firmness, yet remained precise. With Les Jeux d’eaux à la Villa d’Este he emerged as a poet with great technical gifts and seemed to have solved all the executive hurdles. He shaped the melody with a wonderfully expressive impact. As in the Hungarian Rhapsody no 12 Encore, the piece contained some finely balanced textures and highly appropriate flexibility of pulse.
In Venezia e Napoli, Schoeman charmed with a firm singing quality, an unpretentious ease and also a vibrancy etched via agile fingerwork. Schoeman met the requirements of the monumental Sonata in B minor with dazzling success, rising to the challenge with relish and remarkable accuracy. There was a wonderful sweep in his playing as well as tender ruminations in the quieter passages. He was rewarded with a rapturous standing ovation. To say playing Liszt is only for stout-hearted technicians is almost an understatement. The music not only requires strength, but stamina and fingers intrepid enough to sprint at top speed for extended periods. On the basis of this CD Schoeman must be judged a pianistic athlete, a real virtuoso as he steers his way through the thickets of notes, yet he is also effective in the quieter, lyric passages, qualities of joie de vivre, playfulness, theatricality which gave greater meaning to pyrotechnical excesses. This enormously gifted pianist is an ardent advocate of the music of Liszt, a timely release for the bicentennial commemoration of the composer’s birth this year.
Ben Schoeman, the 2011 Standard Bank Young Artist for Music
Piano virtuoso with a growing local and international reputation
Warren Holden – Classicfeel Magazine

During his short trip home to receive the award, the London-based musician spoke to CLASSICFEEL’s Warren Holden about his passion for music, education and his ambassadorial efforts on behalf of South African composers. A pianist – or any interpretive artist for that matter – needs to develop three aspects of his or her nature in order to master his or her craft. First and most obviously, technical mastery must be achieved. Second, a beautiful musical performance requires a deep understanding of humanity, of the passions from which music springs and to which it is designed to minister. Last, any good artist should always be reaching for something beyond the material, beyond the expression of human passions to some deeper, intangible essence that underlies them all – call it spirituality, the collective unconscious, Gestalt or what you will. For a performer – in this case, a pianist – to be regarded as great, these qualities must be fully realised. The quality of humanity in the great performer manifests itself, in a word, as humility – extreme respect for the audience, openness to and esteem for collaborators and a willingness to put oneself at the service of the music. This is certainly a quality possessed by the 2011 Standard Bank Young Artist for Music, Ben Schoeman. In his down-to-earth, softly spoken way, Schoeman sums up the main reason he does what he does: ‘I think of myself as a channel through which the music flows. The composers mean the world to me and I really want to bring justice to their genius.
It often happens that all the wonderful details in the music take over and I just enjoy performing it and forget everything around me… I really find it very easy to communicate the emotions in the music to the audience because the composers have already given everything. I don’t have to do anything, I just have to study hard and prepare the music as well as I possibly can.’ The spiritual dimension of a great performer is in his or her ability to create a transcendental experience for the audience. That’s not quite as esoteric as it sounds; a transcendental performance is simply one that draws a listener out of the moment – removing him or her mentally and emotionally from the space in which the performance is taking place and evoking feelings, emotions, memories that are perhaps of another time and place. Schoeman says it best himself in describing his experience of performances by one of his favourite pianists, András Schiff: ‘When he plays, I forget about anything that is material and earthly. I hear only the beautiful and transcendental qualities of the music itself.’ Finally, technical mastery in the great performer takes the form of virtuosity. This is a term we associate with flashy finger-work, speed and showmanship. But virtuosity need not draw attention to itself. In thinking of performances by some of the great pianists, an analogy that comes to mind is that of the duck that seems to glide gracefully and effortlessly over the surface of a pond, while a glance beneath the surface will reveal that the bird is actually paddling frantically to achieve that effect. So with the virtuoso, the hard work is not made apparent – the audience sees only grace, class and apparent ease.
The winning touch of a consummate artist
Recital, Grahamstown National Arts Festival
Jeff Brukman – 30 June 2011 – Cue

This year’s Standard Bank Young Artist for Music, the unassuming, friendly and engaging Ben Schoeman, delivered an astonishing first of two solo recitals. Here is a pianist that engages directly with the soul of the music while communicating the sheer joy of music-making. Schoeman traverses a wide range of styles with ease and immediately situates himself within a new and concentrated artistic sound-world, a truly remarkable feat for such a young artist. From the commanding flourish of the opening mordent, Schoeman displayed his musical confidence and consummate artistry in an astounding interpretation of Bach’s Toccata in C minor, where the polyphonic strata were clearly delineated and finely etched, contrapuntal voice leading emerged from the translucent texture. Ebullient rhythmic projection propelled the ever-changing expressive landscape. In South African composer Stefans Grové’s piano fantasy Nonyana, the Ceremonial Dancer, Schoeman demonstrated his mastery over finely etched dynamic contrasts, evocatively shaped nuances and a variety of touch articulations. This work … seeks to synthesise western compositional language through interspersing snatches from African song and interlocking rhythmic cycles, with modernist clusters and meaningful use of harmonics …
Franck’s Prelude, Choral et Fugue allowed Schoeman the scope to successively pile carefully crafted phrases amidst the score’s lush texture and rich harmonic palette without the thematic focus becoming undimmed. The suppleness of Schoeman’s forte tone production was especially admirable in this performance. Schoeman’s performance of Grieg’s Sonata in E minor received a rapturous reception. This interpretation combined a symphonic conductor’s bird’s-eye-view of the score with meticulous attention to detail, each phrase sweepingly communicated with orchestral-styled panache. Here Schoeman was able to give full rein to his musical imagination and extraordinary aptitude to intelligently communicate musical ideas with the audience. His ability to draw a plethora of sound possibilities from the piano is laudable. The recital concluded with seven trifles from the pen of Percy Grainger … Schoeman played each work with polish and finesse … This was a remarkable performance from an outstanding performer; a true ambassador of classical pianism and a very worthy bearer of the Young Artist Award.
Schoeman absoluut wêreldklas {Afrikaans}
Liszt Uitvoering, Odeion, Universiteit van die Vrystaat
Hans Potgieter – 16 April 2011 – Die Volksblad

Franz Liszt is 200 jaar ná sy geboorte in 1811 steeds ’n omstrede figuur in die musiek. As pianis en komponis het hy die musiektradisie van sy tyd só beïnvloed dat ’n mens sou kon sê Liszt se skeppingswerk en invloed het die ontwikkeling van Westerse kunsmusiek in die tweede helfte van die 19de eeu gedefinieer. Reeds in sy leeftyd was musici verdeel in kampe teen of vir Liszt. Dié tendens kom ongelukkig vandag steeds voor. Gelukkig vir musiekliefhebbers is daar pianiste soos Ben Schoeman wat die skoonheid en essensie van Liszt se musiek kan weergee.
Saterdagaand se uitvoering was ’n besonderse ervaring: Schoeman se tegniese beheer van sy instrument en kunstenaarskap is in alle opsigte wêreldklas. Hy slaag daarin om ondanks die tegniese vertoon ook die diepe opregtheid en emosie van Liszt se musiek te openbaar.
Liszt se persoonlike lewe is gekenmerk deur die konstante soeke na meer as net die materiële, en die titels van sy klavierwerke spreek van hierdie geestelike swerftog na waarheid (Années de Pèlerinage, Harmonies Poétiques et Réligieuse en so meer). Die teenoormekaarstelling van die idees van die Aufklärung, soos deur Goethe verwoord, en die religieuse mistisisme soos vervat in die Rooms-Katolieke tradisie, vind in die skeppingswerk van Liszt ’n besonder vrugbare terrein. Schoeman se programkeuse was ’n uitstekende illustrasie hiervan, en dit is ook so verduidelik deur die pianis in ’n kort inleiding van die verhoog. Die openingswerk was die meesterlike Variasies op ’n Koraaltema van J.S.Bach se ‘Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen’. Schoeman se interpretasie het die diep ingehoue emosies van smart en verslaenheid weergegee.
Hierna is die gehoor verder “op reis” geneem met werke wat geïnspireer is deur Liszt se reise en ervarings in Italië: Ave Maria, die klokke van Rome, Die waterfonteine (Jeux d’eaux) van die Villa d’Este buite Tivoli, en die lighartige juweel Venezia e Napoli wat aan die volksmusiek van Venesië en Napels herinner. Die slotwerk was die monumentale Sonate in B mineur. Al hierdie werke is meesterlik voorgedra, maar veral Schoeman se weergawes van Les Jeux d’Eaux à la Villa d’Este en die Sonate in B mineur was absolute hoogtepunte in ’n baie uitsonderlike konsert. Die staande toejuiging deur die gehoor was ’n gepaste reaksie, waarna die Bloemfonteinse publiek verder bederf is met die Hongaarse Rapsodie in C kruis mineur.
Brahms Concerto No 2 {Afrikaans}
Kaapse Filharmoniese Orkes
28 Augustus 2010 – Die Burger

In die laaste konsert van sy winterseisoen het die Kaapse Filharmoniese Orkes Donderdagaand puik spel in ‘n interessante program gelewer. Die Suid-Afrikaanse dirigent Conrad van Alphen was op die podium met Ben Schoeman as Klaviersolis. Na die pouse was Schoeman met ‘n sterk en kragtige toonklank die opwindende solis in Brahms se enorme Klavierkonsert no. 2.
Wat my lank sal bybly was Schoeman se wonderlike spel in die stadige deel. Sy prag-toonklank was ‘n belewenis en die wyse waarop hy Brahms se lang lyne van dubbelmelodieë wat oktawe uitmekaar lê volvoer het, het van groot musikale begrip en enorme pianistiese vaardigheid getuig. Die konsertseisoen is inderdaad met ‘n waardige hoogtepunt afgesluit.