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Saturday, June 18, 2011



KZNPO in splendid form in final concert of its Winter Season. (Review by Michael Green)

For the last concert of the winter symphony season the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra offered, in the Durban City Hall, a distinct novelty: saxophone music played by a young visitor from the United States.

There is of course nothing novel about the saxophone itself. It was invented about 1840 by a Belgian instrument maker named Adolphe Saxe and it has played a dominant part in American jazz for the past century. But its appearance on the classical stage is still unusual, although various composers, including Debussy, Bizet, Glazunov, Richard Strauss and Mahler, have used it in the orchestra and as a solo instrument.

In the City Hall, a 26-year-old first generation Indian American saxophonist named Ashu proved a great success when he played two pieces with the orchestra. Ashu was born in California, the son of an engineer. He now lives in Chicago and has played the saxophone in many parts of the United States and Europe. His real name is Ashu Kejariwal. For stage purposes he uses the simple Ashu.

The programme was changed at a late stage. A three-movement work for saxophone and orchestra by the contemporary American composer John Williams had to be omitted, for some unexplained reason, and Ashu performed two not very long pieces by Astor Piazzolla, the Argentine master of the tango. The first was called Tanti Anni Prima, apparently an Ave Maria. It had a lovely long melodic line and was more solemn than most of Piazzolla’s music.

The second piece, Libertango, really gripped the soloist, the orchestra and the audience. Ashu plays with great technical skill and irresistible verve. He has a delightfully flamboyant and uninhibited stage presence. At times in the tango he looked as if he might break into a dance.

At the end there were whoops of joy and foot stamping from the delighted audience. Prolonged applause did not bring forth any encore, to the obvious disappointment of all in the City Hall. A remarkable interlude, and all too short.

The orchestra, under the baton of its resident conductor, Lyk Temmingh, was augmented for part of the programme by nearly 20 players of the Bochabela Strings from Bloemfontein, and the volume and depth of sound were impressive.

Leonard Bernstein’s noisy and vivid Candide Overture opened the concert, giving emphasis once again to the truth that recordings are really no substitute for live performances.

Then came two very well-known and very different works: Samuel Barber’s stately Adagio for Strings and Paul Dukas’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, the latter (written in 1897) a masterpiece that always reminds me of Mickey Mouse trying desperately to keep things under control in Walt Disney’s film Fantasia.

The orchestra players were in splendid form throughout, and they brought the concert and the winter season to a close with a performance of Gustav’s Holst’s The Planets, a suite that interprets brilliantly the mythological influences of the planetary system. - Michael Green