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Saturday, October 25, 2008


(Pic: Leslie Dunner)

KZN Philharmonic Orchestra celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary in grand fashion. (Review by Michael Green)

The KZN Philharmonic Orchestra celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary in grand fashion with a grand performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No, 9 in D minor, the Choral, one of music’s monumental masterpieces.

It is an occasion like this that makes one realise fully how fortunate we are in having a big and permanent orchestra.

You can listen to a hundred recordings of the Choral but they will not sound quite the same as a live performance of high quality.

And this was certainly a presentation of high quality, the orchestra in excellent form under the guiding baton of Leslie Dunner, a choir (three choirs, actually) of about 120 singers, and four soloists, all South Africans, who sang with confidence and accuracy.

The programme opened with Bach’s suitably festive Suite No. 3 in D major, the most famous of its five numbers being the Air on a G string. Stylish music played with panache and elegance, and it was a perfect foil to the massive Beethoven symphony which followed.

The Choral symphony, which runs for about 70 minutes, is an overpowering work, in its ideas and in the composer’s execution of those ideas. There is nothing else quite like it and the thunderous applause as the end showed the large audience’s appreciation of that fact.

Leslie Dunner, who is of course a visiting conductor from the United States, maintained the tension of the music throughout its four movements. The baritone Fikile Mvinjelwa established his authority with the first bold phrases which, in Beethoven’s own words, introduce the Ode to Joy, Schiller’s poem on which the choral fourth movement is based; and the other three soloists - Musa Nkuna (tenor), Hanli Stapela (soprano) and Violina Anguelov (mezzo) - all sang with excellent control and full-bodied vocal quality.

The choir singers came from the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir, the Clermont Community Choir and the Durban Chamber Choir, and they were first-rate: well-trained, disciplined and obviously enjoying the opportunity to make splendid music at this level.

To round off an exciting concert the members of the audience were offered sparkling wine and chocolates before they left. Altogether, a night to remember. - Michael Green