national Arts Festival Banner

Friday, May 20, 2011


(Roman Simovic)

Masterly performance from Roman Simovic. (Review by Michael Green)

The winter season of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra opened at an unusual but not unfamiliar venue, the Playhouse, this because the Durban City Hall had been used for the previous day’s election.

It was not unfamiliar because for a long time in the past the orchestra played regularly at the Playhouse, and there was a slightly nostalgic feeling about this occasion, which was described as a gala concert.

A small audience turned up for a programme of music by two Russian composers, Mikhail Glinka and Sergei Prokofiev, and the inimitable Franz Liszt. The Playhouse auditorium was less than half full; maybe one-third of the seats were occupied. This was a pity, because the concert was first-rate.

Roman Simovic, concertmaster (leader) of the London Symphony Orchestra, was the soloist in the main work, Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No.2 in G minor, and the conductor was Omri Hadari from Israel, making his twenty-third visit to Durban.

Written in 1935, the concerto is a graceful and accessible work, not too aggressively “modern”, with touches of Russia and even Spain in the melodies and scoring. The slow movement is outstanding, opening with a long line of melody for the solo violin with pizzicato accompaniment from the orchestra’s strings.

Roman Simovic gave a masterly performance. He is a tall, well-built 29–year-old who comes from Montenegro (just north of Greece), where the weather is warm, like Durban’s, he said in a pre-concert interview. In addition to his work with the London Symphony Orchestra, he is making a big reputation as a soloist and a chamber player, and it is easy to see and hear why. This was, apparently, the first time he had played this Prokofiev concerto in public, and he achieved a technical and interpretative triumph which was rewarded with prolonged applause from an audience roused to a pitch of enthusiasm.

Omri Hadari and the orchestra shared in the success, and they went on to play three of Liszt’s big orchestral pieces, the Mephisto Waltz, Orpheus and Mazeppa, works that are not often performed in South Africa. Omri Hadari is a well-respected figure here. He has a vigorous and expressive conducting style, and a warm personality that communicates well with the players and the listeners.

The orchestra responded admirably, with excellent playing from the strings in Orpheus and from the trombones and other brass instruments in Mazeppa. - Michael Green