News: June, 2015


MusicWeb International (Leon Bosch) - Read full review

His voice is in any event a mature and distinctive one, which deserves to be more widely heard ... The compositions presented here are structurally compact, technically assured, with firm intellectual underpinning and possess a compelling communicative power. Members of the Fidelio Piano Trio provide the backbone to this excellent disc, and are joined by the soprano Patricia Rozario and the bass flute of Carla Rees; all of whom contribute committed performances throughout.
I look forward to hearing recordings of larger scale compositions from Robert Fokkens.

Review: Mzantsi Nights at the Juilliard School, Paul Recital Hall

New Music South Africa Bulletin (Lukas Ligeti)

Opening the second half of the concert, Robert Fokkens’ Mzantsi Nights, also written for this concert, was perhaps the most intriguing piece on the programme. Inspired by a wide range of music across the spectrum from classical to popular and Western to African, Fokkens has evolved a personal vocabulary that includes a quarter-tone-based tuning derived from Xhosa bow music and strongly original approaches to ensemble writing. In Mzantsi Nights, the musicians are instructed not only to play, but also to shout brief syllables; while such theatricality might seem contrived, it blends very well here with the interlocking, hocketing instrumental parts. This is a highly individual work, perhaps a tad brief considering the wealth of ideas presented, but highly successful in the way it walks the tightrope between African and Western soundworlds.

FolkyThings review Tracing Lines concert

This concert and evening showcased the relationship between the Fidelio Trio and the composer Rob Fokkens. The programme featured original compositions which had been created for, and work-shopped in progress by the Fidelio Trio.

The compositions focused on the differing elements of Fokkens’ identity, taking influences from both his South African, and Western roots. Each movement or composition reflected these conflicting identities in a variety of ways. Fokkens imaginatively uses the elements of Western harmony and structure mixed with extended techniques (to evoke native South African instruments), alongside African “sound worlds” and some melodic influence of traditional South African songs, to create a unique blend of musical sounds and styles. While all the pieces on the program will well-crafted and highly engaging, one of the pieces that most inspired me was “On Disruption and Displacement”. As it states in the programme notes, this piece focuses on the ideas of collision, compromise, and the ways in which two different elements change as they try to find a pathway through and around the disagreement. Fokkens replicated this by using the two instruments (cello and piano), assigning them two very distinct roles. These musical roles were then juxtaposed as musical ideas against each other, the piano having the role of being more aggressive, bigger, bolder, and stronger than the cello line. The cello line was a quieter more melodic influence, but what was really impressive was the way in which the two ideas began to slowly take on elements of each other until they reached the point where they could no longer dance around each other, and no more compromise could be made. At this point there was an obvious musical collision and then one voice (the cello) rose out of the chaos victorious with the gentler motif now being support by the piano line, rather than being attacked by it. The way that this was handled both by the players and by the composer was enormously effective and made a really lasting impression on me.

The performers were not only technically stunning easily finding their way through fiendishly difficult music, but they were also totally and utterly engrossed and devoted to each note they played. It really showed that they had been involved in the development process for these pieces, because every element of the piece was understood by the performers, and they were able to use this to make their performances imaginative and inspiring. The evening as a whole was run with an informal atmosphere, but at no point was any part of the performance or presentation anything less than utterly professional. There was an interview with the Fidelio Trio and Robert Fokkens after the concert which was not only really interesting, but it allowed me to gain a better understanding of Roberts influences, and gave yet another dimension to the already very effective pieces.

I would recommend buying the CD Tracing Lines and especially listening to “Mammals of Southern Africa” and “On Disruption and Displacement”, both of which exhibit very different sounds and styles, and both of which are highly effective in their evoking the required atmospheres and images.

Juice at the Royal Welsh College

The vocal ensemble, juice, will be performing Words at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama this November.

Friday 27 November 2015

Dora Stoutzker Hall, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff

Harriet Mackenzie and Danny Driver at Keele University

Harriet Mackenzie (violin) and Danny Driver (piano) will perform Irreconcilable Truths at Keele University this October as part of Keele Concert Society Events.

Event Site

Wednesday 28 October 2015, 7:30pm

Westminster Theatre, Chancellor’s Building, Keele University

Five Miniatures in Japan

Jill Richards performs Robert's piece Five Miniatures in a concert featuring new works by Japanese composers, as well as works by South African composers - Volans, Fokkens, and Khumalo. Jill shares the programme with another pianist, Satoko Inoue.

Ryogoku Monten Hall, 31 July, 1 August, 2 August

Conducting in South Africa

At the end of July, Robert will be conducting the SA New Music Ensemble in a gala concert of music by contemporary South African composers. This will include his own piece (Amorphic Counsel) for the ensemble as well as pieces by Diale Mabitsela, Charlotte Seither, Hendrik van Blerk, Malcolm Dedman, and Pierre-Henri Wicomb. The concert is in association with New Music Indaba. Some more details are available here.

His pieces, Five Miniatures and Tracing Lines, will also be performed in another concert on the third day of the festival (24 July).

Amorphic Counsel will feature in the Saturday Gala concert on 25 July.