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Friday, June 10, 2011


Jonathan Oshry

Jonathan Oshry, Thomas Sanderling and the KZNPO give splendid performance of Mozart concerto. (Review by Michael Green)

A programme of masterworks by great composers, plus a piano soloist with local roots, persuaded a sizeable crowd to brave the cold weather and go to the Durban City Hall for this concert by the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra.

The composers were Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert and Brahms. The conductor was Thomas Sanderling, who is well-known here to the orchestra and to audiences. And the soloist was Jonathan Oshry, who was described in the orchestra’s brochure as a Durban native, an accurate term (he was born here 36 years ago) but one that might have brought a little smile to the faces of some older readers.

Jonathan has lived for many years in Britain, where he finished his musical education and where he has developed business interests (involving computer technology) running parallel to his performing career. He is an outstanding pianist, combining high technical expertise with good taste, good judgment and a calm keyboard demeanour.

On this occasion his skills were amply displayed in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, K. 467. Mozart was the prince of concerto writers: 30 piano concertos, plus others for violin, horn, bassoon, oboe, flute, clarinet, and most of them of top quality. The K.467 concerto is one of the best and one of the best known. It is sometimes called the Elvira Madigan concerto because its exquisite slow movement was used in the 1967 Swedish film Elvira Madigan. The two outer movements are also memorably melodious.

Jonathan Oshry, Thomas Sanderling and the orchestra gave a splendid performance of this lovely music: poetic, exuberant, poised. This was the first time that Oshry had played this concerto in public, and he scored a notable success. The listeners were swept along by Mozart’s magic, and at the end they gave the players prolonged and excited applause.

For an encore, the pianist played Domenico Scarlatti’s Sonata in D major, K. 491, a typically fast and brilliant piece by this remarkable 18th century composer.

The concert opened with Beethoven’s Egmont Overture, a fine work that reflects Beethoven’s fiercely democratic instincts; he wrote the overture for a play by Goethe about a Flemish nobleman who resisted Spanish oppression. The music is powerful and compelling. The orchestra’s resonant and precise playing indicated meticulous preparation by the conductor at rehearsals, and this attention to detail was evident throughout the concert.

Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony (very good playing by the cello section here) and Brahms’s Variations on a Theme by Haydn (plenty of opportunities for the woodwind players) completed a satisfying and most enjoyable concert. - Michael Green