Easter Monday was a rare magical night for classical music lovers in the Ghanaian capital as the National Symphony Orchestra joined hands with Japanese classical violinist Ryu Goto to present a two-hour performance at the National Theatre.
Mr. Ryu Goto is the younger brother of Midori Goto, herself arguably the world’s foremost classical violinist today. Ryu however, demonstrated such effortless artistry and mastery of technique that he surely cannot be considered less able than his remarkable sister.
The first half of the program featured Antonio Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” The Four Seasons (“Le quattro stagioni”) composed in 1723, is a set of four violin concertos by the Italian composer. The texture of each concerto is varied, resembling its respective season. For example, “Winter” is peppered with silvery pizzicato notes from the high strings, calling to mind icy rain, whereas “Summer” evokes a thunderstorm in its final movement, which is why the movement is often called “Storm”.
Mr. Goto launched into this work with incredible passion and commitment, and as the sweet haunting solo notes of his violin soared, the audience knew they were being treated to the rare experience of a true virtuoso performance. Mr. Goto also won the hearts of the audience with two solo pieces in the second half.
His performance overall was not only technically superb, but beautifully personal and inviting, often punctuated or accompanied by smiles in moments where he was obviously enjoying himself.
Mr. Isaac Annoh is the orchestra’s music director and was the conductor for the night, while German violinist Kwame Thomas led the first violin section. Clearly, the National Symphony is more of a chamber ensemble than a large orchestra, and the sound they generated was sometimes thin and hesitant. However, they were harmonious and technically accurate, and Mr. Annoh should be congratulated for guiding the ensemble through some very demanding repertoire.
Following the two solo pieces played by Mr. Goto in the second half, the full orchestra embarked on a lively medley of local Ghanaian tunes alongside Mr. Goto. This time they were definitely in their element, and played with animation and skill. The program concluded with the national anthem, led beautifully by Mr. Goto to thunderous applause. The crowd was in raptures over the performance, showing their appreciation with ovations, cat calls and whistles. Despite a few distractions – noisy kids, less than stellar acoustics and a late start – this night was unquestionably a hit. The concert was sponsored by the Japanese embassy in Ghana, Toyota, Daikin, Golden Palm Investments and Ryu Goto.
Interestingly, publicity for the concert circumvented the normal channels of radio, television and billboard ads. Rather it was generated through the Japanese Embassy’s direct network of contacts as well as the http://www.accraexpat.com network. This strategy was obviously a success because the hall was filled with several hundred Ghanaians, expats, and diplomats. Also in attendance were Mrs Elizabeth Ofosu- Adjare, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts , who attended on behalf of the president and the Japanese and US ambassadors.
This author notes that Mr. Goto has visited Ghana before, combining a busy performing career with philanthropic and business activities in Asia and Africa. Among other things he has used music to raise awareness about issues of clean water.