Rising star, Brandon Phillips, to conduct Symphony in the City in ‘Maritzburg


Conductor, Brandon Phillips. Photo: Supplied

BRANDON Phillips, resident conductor of the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, will make his debut with the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Symphony in the City concert in the Pietermaritzburg City Hall at 7.30pm on Friday, March 24.

“I have not worked with the KZN Philharmonic before,” says Phillips, who is also the artistic director and conductor of the Cape Town Youth Orchestra.

“I have heard many great things about the orchestra and it was always a dream to meet and work with them. I know a few members of the orchestra because we studied together at the University of Cape Town and also attended music festivals together.”

The orchestra will be playing the Karelia Suite by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, Rossini’s Overture to The Silken Ladder and the haunting Pavane by French Romantic, Gabriel Faure.

There will also be solo performances by:

  • cellist, Aristide du Plessis, who will play the first movement from the Dvorak Cello Concerto, violinis;
  • Fifi Olifant, who will perform the Adagio from Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, a broad symphonic collection based on traditional Scottish folk melodies;
  • Pietermaritzburg pianist and Steinway artist, Christopher Duigan, who will play the opening movement of the Beethoven Piano Concerto No 3; and
  • principal clarinet of the orchestra, Junnan Sun, will play two movements from the Clarinet Concerto No 1 by Weber.

Speaking about the programme and what he was looking forward to conducting, Phillips said: “The programme is filled with such beautiful music, [but] the Beethoven piano concerto is a winner for me.”

The conductor, who loves the work of Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Brahms, has previously worked with Duigan, who will be performing the work.

“He was the soloist for my debut symphony concert in Johannesburg,” he said. “I think that was in 2013. I enjoyed working with him… he is a great personality and very musical. I am looking forward working with him again.”

Winner of the CPO’s inaugural Len van Zyl Conductor’s Competition in 2010, Phillips started his music career in the New Apostolic Church where he learned various instruments and also choral training.

He studied bassoon and viola at UCT, receiving his diploma for orchestral studies and B Mus Honours in solo bassoon in 2005.

Asked what his earliest musical memory was, Phillips, who principal bassoon of the CPO, said: “My dad forcing me to go to recorder classes at our church.

“I was 11 years old and very into my video games and sport. My two elder brothers were attending recorder classes and one Saturday my dad bought me a recorder and forced me to go with them.

“He passed on 10 years ago, but I can’t thank him enough for guiding me in the right direction.”

Phillips is now sharing his experience with young musicians around the country. He works as an adjudicator and conductor for various competitions including the ATKV, Artscape National Youth, Unisa Winds and the Schock Singing competitions; and has worked with, amongst others, the Miagi Youth Orchestra Festival and Sasol National Youth Festival.

“I believe that we have to take the music to our youth and also give those young musicians we have a platform to perform and coach,” he says. “We perform at schools, have community concerts and have youth orchestras both in Durban and Cape Town.”

Symphony in the City is presented by the KZN Philharmonic, Christopher Duigan’s Music Revival and Parklane SuperSpar; and supported by the Msunduzi Municipality, The Witness, CPW Printers and ABI.

Tickets are R190 (R170 pensioners, R120 scholars) and R250 for premier seats. To book go to www.ticketpro.co.za.  Tickets are also available via Ticketpro representatives at Edgars Direct at the Liberty Midlands Mall and CNA at the Hilton Quarry and at the door on the night.

Every guest will receive a complementary souvenir programme; the hall is beautifully presented with lighting by Big Beat; and complimentary drinks and eats are served at interval.

There is secure, patrolled, parking in City Hall, Bessie Head Library and Tatham Art Gallery precincts.


  • As a result of the Len Van Zyl competition, Brandon Phillips studied conducting in the United States at the Northwestern University in Chicago under maestro Victor Yampolsky in 2010.
  • While in the US, he was a conducting intern with the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra.
  • In 2014, he conducted the Miagi Orchestra in Berlin and Amsterdam to critical acclaim.
  • He recently conducted the CPO in the ballet A Spartacus of Africa and Coppelia (for Cape Town City
  • Ballet) and also Elijah by Mendelssohn for the New Apostolic Church.
  • Phillips was appointed resident conductor of the CPO in 2015.

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