Music: Cape Town Concert Series 2020, during Covid-19

Most theatres around the world are not operational because of the worldwide Covid-19 Pandemic. Although the Cape Town Concert Series is not able to complete its wonderful programme for 2020, its general manager Louise Howlett has shared the programme notes that had already been prepared by musician Albert Combrink. To receive a copy of the notes, e-mail Howlett at email She will add your name to the mailing list.

The Cape Town Concert Series is staged at The Baxter Theatre. As I write, week of May 11, 2020, it is impossible to say when the Baxter will be operational. Theatres are currently closed in South Africa and in most countries.  For now, it is a matter of enjoying what is available through YouTube and other platforms. Links to http://youtube are included in Combrink’s notes: Inside the concert with Albert Combrink and The Cape Town Concert Series.

On April 25, piano duo Natalia Lavrova and Vassily Primakov (Russian born musicians who met at the Julliard in New York) were due to play. The Ubuntu Ensemble was supposed to be on stage on May 23. Award winning pianist Bryan Wallick was due to perform on June 13.

On April 25, Natalia Lavrova and Vassily Primakov were going to play Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 as part of their concert programme. It is a symphony loaded with conspiracy theories.

Tchaikovsky’s “Suicide Symphony”

I was intrigued to read that Symphony No. 6 is often referred to as “The Suicide Symphony”. Why? Tchaikovsky died, nine days after the premiere of the symphony. The composer was 53 and died in Saint Petersburg. Controversy surrounds his death. Some say that his death was a result of cholera and others surmise that he died as a result of drinking contaminated water. Rumours popped up that it was death by suicide. It was suggested that his death didn’t fit a cholera profile – whatever that was supposed to be. It was said that Tchaikovsky was depressed and sexually suppressed. After his death, people interpreted the symphony motifs as laments and as a kind of suicide note. Richard Taruskin, a music critic and historian has written extensively on the symphony and its alleged tag as a suicide piece. In his notes for The Cape Town Concert Series, Albert Combrink makes reference to Taruskin’s writings.

That is a snippet of the story about the alleged “Suicide Symphony” by Tchaikovsky. Hopefully, when the concert series is in action again, the young Russian pianists, Natalia Lavrova and Vassily Primakov will perform and we can hear their interpretation of the symphony.

Image credit: Vassily Primakov and Natalia Lavrova. The pianists were scheduled to play at The Cape Town Concert Series on April 25, 2020. Photo supplied.

The Cape Town Concert Series travel advisory