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Saturday, October 31, 2009


KZN Philharmonic in good fettle under visiting Japanese conductor Yasuo Shinozaki. (Review by Michael Green)

A late change of programme and of performers did not adversely affect the quality of this concert given by the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra in the Durban City Hall. A traditional kind of programme attracted a reasonably good house, and the audience obviously enjoyed the music provided by the orchestra, in good fettle under its visiting Japanese conductor Yasuo Shinozaki, and by two highly accomplished duo pianists.

The advertised programme stated that pianists Aglika Genova and Liuben Dimitrov, who come from Bulgaria and who played in Durban three years ago, would perform Mendelssohn’s concerto for two pianos in A flat major. This did not happen. No explanation was offered for their non–appearance, but at a late stage Nina Schumann and Luis Magalhaes, another wife and husband partnership, this one based in Stellenbosch, stepped into the breach with a performance of another Mendelssohn two-piano concerto, that in E major. And this they did with great panache and skill, with no sign of short-notice preparation except for the fact that they played from scores, with two page turners.

Both these concertos were written by Mendelssohn when he was about 14 years old; as a composer he was an even more remarkable child prodigy than Mozart. The E major work, written for himself and his sister Fanny (both were brilliant pianists), was revised by him later, but it was not published in his lifetime of an all too brief 38 years. It is a delightful composition, in the classical mould, with three movements running for a total of about 30 minutes.

As one would expect from people who have performed together for a decade, there was complete empathy between the two pianists. Mendelssohn’s concerto is graceful, sometimes robust, and generally free of cloying sentimentality, and the music is deftly laid out for the two pianos. The outer movements produced much brilliant playing, but the heart of the concerto is the beautiful, tender slow movement, with the two pianos alternating in theme and mood before they sing together.

The orchestra was an expert collective partner, with Yasuo Shinozaki showing again that he conducts with great vigour, with an emphatic beat and many expressive gestures.

The concert opened with Wagner’s Tannhauser Overture, with some admirable playing from the brass section in particular, and ended with Brahms’s massive, mature and eloquent Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98. - Michael Green