In Conversation with Tessa Uys and Ben Schoeman.

Godfrey Johnson talks to two of South Africa’s finest Concert Pianists, Tessa Uys and Ben Schoeman. Ben Schoeman(BS) Tessa Uys (TU) ...


Godfrey Johnson talks to two of South Africa’s finest Concert Pianists, Tessa Uys and Ben Schoeman.

Ben Schoeman(BS)
Tessa Uys (TU)

GJ: Hello there Tessa and Ben. Two sublime artists performing together. How long have you been working together and what brought you together?

BS: We met at the Royal Over-Seas League in London (we had both won the gold medal at their annual music competition) ten years ago and have been working together ever since – both on two pianos and as a piano duet.

GJ: The art of duet playing requires delicate team work and synergy, how much discussion goes into choosing a repertoire and how much time is spent practicing? 

BS: Tessa discovered the nine symphonies of Beethoven, transcribed by Xaver Scharwenka, amongst her mother’s music. We joined forces playing the 9th Symphony in 2015 at a Festival (stepping in for a solo pianist who cancelled), and in a matter of days we prepared this massive opus. Working on this Symphony and subsequently on all nine in this form, has been a journey of exploration and inspiration. To be able to hear and discover the intricate weaving of all the internal harmonies and melodic lines that one knows are there, but that tend to get submerged in large orchestral ensemble, was indeed a revelation.

Ever since that performance in 2015, we have steadily worked through all the nine symphonies, performing them at music societies and festivals. Audiences have been extremely enthusiastic and appreciative of this genre. We also play a substantial portion of the piano duet music of Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, Brahms and Dvorak and balance these composers’ works alongside the Beethoven Symphonies in our programmes.

GJ: Your upcoming concert at St Martin in The Fields looks like a treat of note and I really wish I could be there to enjoy it. What plans do you have for the Uys/Schoeman Duo for 2020?

BS: In 2020 we celebrate the exciting 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birthday – this means that we will perform all nine symphonies throughout the year at music societies, festivals and special occasions in the United Kingdom (including a concert for the VE Day celebrations in the City of London, playing Beethoven’s 5th Symphony).

Questions for Tessa Uys (TU).

GJ: What advice do you have for a young musician wanting to pursue a career in music?

TU: Follow your dreams and immerse yourself in all kinds of music – go to concerts as much you can. Enjoy making music with others as well.

GJ: What creative endeavors are next for you?

TU: Practicing, teaching and playing concerts takes up a lot of my time, and I have been working with SA composer David Earl on his new Sextet – the Ubuntu Ensemble (of which I am part) gave the world premiere of this work in London.

GJ: What are you reading at the moment?

TU:: A Fine Balance by R Mistry – a wonderful book.

GJ: What resolutions do you have for 2020?

TU: To continue my fitness regime and to enjoy London’s rich cultural possibilities.

GJ; Where can we find you on social media?

TU: I don’t use social media


Questions for Ben Schoeman (BS).

GJ: What advice do you have for a young musician wanting to pursue a career in music?

BS: I love teaching at the University of Pretoria, and I always advise my students to study more than just the pieces they play – get to know the composers and their broader output of works.

GJ: What creative endeavors are next for you?

BS: I will play the Ravel G major Concerto in London in March and all 5 Beethoven Piano Concertos in Pretoria in June (over two nights). The coming Beethoven year has also inspired me to put up solo recitals of his music.

GJ: What are you reading at the moment?

BS: Mozart’s last year (1791) by H C Robbins Landon.

GJ: What resolutions do you have for 2020?

BS: I love Pilates and there are many movements and stretches that I would like to improve.

GJ; Where can we find you on social media?

BS: Here are my social media pages: https://twitter.com/BenSchoeman1
https://www.facebook.com/benschoeman.pianist

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Urban Craft Magazine: In Conversation with Tessa Uys and Ben Schoeman.
In Conversation with Tessa Uys and Ben Schoeman.
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