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Friday, September 23, 2011


(Maximiliano Martin)

Two star performers gave special lustre to this second concert of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra’s spring season in the Durban City Hall. (Review by Michael Green)

They were the conductor, Daniel Boico, and the evening’s soloist, the Spanish clarinettist Maximiliano Martin. Boico was born in Israel 41 years ago but has spent most of his life conducting in Western Europe, Russia and the Americas. This was his first appearance with the KZNPO, and he made a perceptible impact in a wide-ranging programme of music by Manuel de Falla, Weber and Brahms.

He is a dynamic and vigorous conductor, and he seemed to have established an excellent rapport with the orchestra. The first result was an exciting performance of the second concert suite from Falla’s Three-Cornered Hat ballet, culminating in a brilliant account of the final Jota, Spanish music taken to its ultimate level.

Maximiliano Martin then came on stage to fascinate the audience with the dexterity of his playing of Weber’s Clarinet Concerto in F minor. This was written two centuries ago, in 1811. It is not profound music but it is delightful, a virtuoso work with plenty of twiddly bits, fast triplets, runs, leaps, and some lovely melodies.

Martin, who was born on the island of Tenerife, has been the principal clarinettist of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra for the past nine years and has played as a soloist in many parts of the world. In the Weber, he displayed a beautiful true tone and a technique that handled all the difficulties with great nimbleness. Among the high points of the concerto are the very unusual chorale for horns and solo clarinet in the slow movement and the breathtaking exuberance of the final movement. The audience were roused to a pitch of enthusiasm and gave prolonged applause.

The second half of the programme was occupied by a rarity: Brahms’s Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor, written for piano and three strings in 1861 when the composer was 28, and arranged for full orchestra by the most revolutionary composer of the twentieth century, Arnold Schoenberg.

Schoenberg made the transcription in 1937. He altered the instruments but not the notes, so the work is an accurate version of Brahms’s score, but with very different sounds. It is, for a start, much louder; 70 players make more noise than four, and Schoenberg makes ample use of the brass instruments. The result is undeniably impressive, more opulent and lush than the original quartet, and the orchestra gave a fine account of it. What would Brahms have thought of this? I’m not sure, but he would certainly have been surprised.

Dietary note. In conversation with Maximiliano Martin before the concert it emerged that he eats a banana or two before each performance. He says the potassium gives him extra energy. He should feel at home in Durban. A real banana boy. - Michael Green