Largest city in the Republic of South Africa and principal city in Gauteng province. It started as a mining camp in 1886, with the discovery of gold on the Rand, and by the end of 1887 Luscombe Searelle had established a professional opera company there; the Rand was soon included in the itineraries of touring companies. Local amateurs also provided musical presentations in the early years.
Percival Kirby (1887–1970), Scottish-born composer and instrumentalist, was head of the Witwatersrand University music department (1923–52). He was responsible for numerous performances of little-known operas, directed the university orchestra and pioneered the study and collection of African music and instruments.
In 1926 John Connell, then city organist, started an annual ‘Music Fortnight’, which offered orchestral and operatic performances using local musicians recruited for the occasion; there were also occasional visits by the Durban and Cape Town city orchestras. A professional orchestra was clearly needed: the Johannesburg City Council founded its orchestra (about 37 members), which combined with the regional radio orchestra of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) to give its inaugural season in 1946 under Sir Malcolm Sargent. A highlight in Johannesburg’s musical life occurred in 1948, when Sir Thomas Beecham (on a visit that included Cape Town and Durban) conducted the combined forces of the Johannesburg City Orchestra and the three regional studio orchestras of the SABC.
After a period of guest conductors, Frits Schuurman and Gideon Fagan were appointed permanent conductors in 1949, but the City Orchestra was destined to be short-lived. When broadcasting was centralized in Johannesburg in 1954, the SABC, by agreement with the City Council, formed its own symphony orchestra from the members of its own studio orchestra, the City Orchestra and the small orchestras previously maintained by its regional studios. It had about 80 players and was the first South African orchestra of true symphonic dimension and was the focus of Johannesburg’s musical activity for many years after its inception. It became the National SO of the SABC (NSO) in 1971. Eminent guest conductors included Boulez and Stravinsky; the permanent conductors were Jeremy Schulman, Anton Hartman (head of music of the SABC, 1960–77), Edgar Cree and Francesco Mander. The NSO toured provincially, gave school performances and accompanied opera seasons before the Performing Arts Council of the Transvaal founded an orchestra in Pretoria (1965). By agreement with the city council, it always gave numerous public concerts, which were also broadcast.
The programmes of the NSO showed considerable enterprise: the traditional repertory was frequently supplemented with modern works given their first South African performance, for example Penderecki’s Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima. Besides premières of South African works, it gave the world première of Badings’s Variations on a South African Theme in 1961. International artists were presented, often in collaboration with the principal societies, the Johannesburg Musical Society (founded 1902) and Musica Viva. The orchestra was privatized in 1998 after the SABC had stopped funding its activities. Although still called the NSO, it is now principally an orchestra of the city of Johannesburg.
Besides its primary role in fostering South African music, the SABC maintained a large choir and a junior orchestra, whose members took part in the International Festival of Youth Orchestras in Lausanne (1972). It also participated in international competitions, exchanged transcription recordings with several countries, and broadcast symphony concerts and recitals, illustrated talks and church music. In recent years, the SABC has scaled down its broadcasts of live music, especially of Western music.
The Performing Arts Council of the Transvaal (PACT) contributed a great deal and was responsible for most opera productions there. Based in Pretoria, its orchestra started with about 60 members and made frequent provincial tours. All of its productions are now in the State Theatre in Pretoria. With the gradual phasing out of the provincial arts councils by central government, the PACT opera company and orchestra have also been privatized.
The South African Society of Music Teachers developed from a small association of teachers formed on the Rand in 1919. It has become a national society; in 1931 it began publishing the biannual South African Music Teacher.
The principal halls in Johannesburg are the City Hall, the Civic Theatre and the university’s Great Hall.
Directory: New%20Grove%20Dictionnary%20Of%20MusicNew%20Grove%20Dictionnary%20Of%20Music -> Uccelli [née Pazzini], Carolina Uccellini, MarcoNew%20Grove%20Dictionnary%20Of%20Music -> Kaa, Franz Ignaz Kàan, Jindřich z AlbestůNew%20Grove%20Dictionnary%20Of%20Music -> Aagesen, Truid [Sistinus, Theodoricus; Malmogiensis, Trudo Haggaei]New%20Grove%20Dictionnary%20Of%20Music -> Faà di Bruno, Giovanni Matteo [Horatio, Orazio] Fabbri, Anna MariaNew%20Grove%20Dictionnary%20Of%20Music -> Oakeley, Sir Herbert (Stanley)
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