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Friday, September 9, 2011


(Conductor Victor Yampolsky)

The KZN Philharmonic Orchestra launches its 2011 World Symphony Series Spring Season in the Durban City Hall on September 15 with a programme appropriately entitled A Concert of Firsts.

The popular US-based conductor Victor Yampolsky opens the season, with the world premiere of John Simon’s Fanfares for Tristan, followed by Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1 and the same composer’s Symphony No 1 in G minor ‘Winter Dreams.

South African-born composer John Simon, now resident in the United Kingdom, joins the distinguished band of poets, writers, painters, composers and film makers, who have given creative expression to the tragic love story of Tristan and Isolde.

Having been inspired by Wagner’s bench-mark operatic paean to the ancient myth of Tristan and Isolde, Simon describes his own Fantasy-Portrait as a “musical tribute to the warrior-hero, Tristan of Bretagne, in which elements from different versions of the story are freely interwoven. A strong African sense of rhythm pervades the music suggesting that my version of the story may actually be set quite far from Brittany…The piece could be seen as reminiscences passing through a dying mind.”

With its personal ties to John Simon, who for a while was a staff member of the KZN Philharmonic, the Orchestra is proud to premiere this important new composition as the curtain-raiser to its Spring Season.

The versatile young American pianist Bobby Mitchell then takes the spotlight for the virtuoso challenges of Tchaikovsky’s great B-flat-minor Piano Concerto No. 1. Since its stormy 1875 premiere, this has proudly held its place among the best-loved warhorses of the world’s concert repertoire.

A work of immense dramatic contrasts, with the barnstorming episodes in its expansive first movement and the dazzling exuberance of its rondo finale offset by the tender lyricism of its second movement, this demanding work defies over-exposure. And who better to bring it to life once again than the formidably gifted artist on the evening’s guest roster?

Noted for his broadly eclectic repertoire, which stretches back from the Baroque era to the music of today, Bobby Mitchell has been the recipient of numerous awards in the United States and Europe and continues to be recognized for his artistry and innovative programming.

After interval, Maestro Yampolsky returns to the podium for a welcome account of Tchaikovsky’s first symphony. Written in 1866, the fiercely self-critical composer continued to champion its reputation long after the work’s difficult gestation period and its troubled early performances had come and gone. The work forecasts the composer’s later excursions into the symphonic oeuvre – a notable instance being the lyrical second movement, which anticipates the composer’s later, more well-known Pathétique Symphony.

To subscribe at discounted rates to the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra’s Spring Season, which runs every Thursday evening until November 3, call 031 369 9400, or email Booking for individual concerts is through Computicket 0861 915 8000 or book online at

Full programme details on the KZNPO’s website – either click on the advert at the top of this page or go to

artSMart carries reviews of the KZNPO concerts a day or two after the performance)