By BRUCE DENNILL
Caroline Leisegang: Oyeblikk – A Series Of Moments Album Launch / Soloists: Caroline Leisegang and Jude van der Wat / Circa On Jellicoe, Rosebank, Johannesburg
There are a good many album launches taking place in major cities during any given month, but there are not that many for collections of new original music by classical composers in their mid-twenties, held in cutting-edge art galleries.
As such, the showcase event for Caroline Leisegang album Oyeblikk (she’s of Norwegian descent; the word translates as “moment”) at Circa On Jellicoe in Johannesburg was both a display of technical excellence by Leisegang herself and fellow pianist Jude van der Wat and a breath of fresh air for music fans who might’ve been to one to many cookie-cutter launches.
The inevitable formality that comes with gathering around a grand piano in a gallery was pleasantly undercut by a relaxed drinks, snacks and chat before and halfway through the recital, which comprised Van der Wat playing the album through in two parts and then Leisegang performing a series of simple (by her estimation, anyway) “circle songs” – compositions that work their way through a number of patterns before returning to the point at which they started.
Van der Wat takes the lead on the more complex album pieces because Leisegang, either through humility or paranoia, declares herself less technically adept than she feels is necessary to do her writing justice. The part of the evening during which she sits at the piano herself suggests she may be being over-cautious, but there’s no doubting that Van der Wat is a wonderful musician, combining shade, emotion and precision as she plays Oyeblikk’s ten compositions.
Leisengang’s writing calls for the playing of constantly cascading notes, swelling and retreating in volume and emotive terms throughout their various running times. Himmelen II, Dromme I and Forelsket stood out in the set, while first single Dromme II is accompanied by a promotional video in which dancer Alice Kok interprets the sounds in an elegant, dramatic way. For the rest of the concert, visuals included both a sequence of non sequiturs that bemuse and intrigue as the music moves momentum forward and an array of fantastic Instagram photographs by Duncan Shelwell, Nicholas Turvey, Tiyane Nyembe, Elsa Bleda and Trevor Cleverly – a smart way to link the music to an allied artistic niche within the same community of creative people.
The Oyeblikk launch, accessible while feeling exclusive and given a friendly, warm tone thanks to Leisegang’s appealing shyness and self-deprecating opinions regarding her considerable talent, may become a model for other artists looking to have their own creations leave an immediate mark. And expect to hear the composer’s haunting, surging music on airwaves and film soundtracks in the immediate future.
Leisegang’s moment is now.