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Saturday, February 13, 2010


Enjoyable opening concert augurs well for the remaining five concerts of the summer season. (Review by Michael Green)

The KZN Philharmonic Orchestra’s first concert of the year in the Durban City Hall provided a varied programme of music by Mozart (the Marriage of Figaro overture), Brahms (the Violin Concerto in D major) and Cesar Franck (the Symphony in D minor).

On the podium, for the first time in Durban, was the distinguished Russian conductor Thomas Sanderling. His distinctly un-Russian name stems from the fact that his father, also a conductor, moved from Nazi Germany to Russia in the nineteen-thirties, and Thomas Sanderling was born in St Petersburg.

He is a restrained kind of conductor, his gestures mainly limited to short arm movements, but he obtained the right results from the orchestra, good balance of tone and some fine playing from the strings and woodwind.

The evening belonged however, without question, to the Durban-born English violin soloist Daniel Hope, age somewhere in his thirties, who has built up a big reputation internationally as a soloist and as a chamber musician. The Brahms concerto is very difficult to play and it is long, about 40 minutes. Interpretatively it is difficult, too; it combines lyrical qualities with structural strengths. Daniel Hope met all these challenges with splendid assurance and high skills. In the cantabile passages he produced an exquisite tone and impeccable phrasing. His pianissimo penetrated to the far reaches of the City Hall, the true test of a performer, in my opinion. And the orchestra responded excellently, as players do when they partner a soloist of this standard.

The performance brought forth prolonged applause at the end. Announcing an encore, Daniel Hope said in a pleasantly refined English accent: “I may not sound like it, but I was born in this town”. The encore was a raga by the Indian composer Ravi Shankar. “Usually it takes about three hours to play”, said Daniel Hope, “but with the composer’s approval, I am going to play a version that takes about three minutes”.

It was a beguiling three minutes, sweeping expressive phrases followed by a lengthy fast passage of great rhythmic brilliance.

The evening as a whole was most enjoyable and it augurs well for the remaining five concerts of the summer season. - Michael Green