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Saturday, October 29, 2011


(Peter Bruns)

Triumph for orchestra and conductor marks one of the most successful performances of the entire season. (Review by Michael Green)

This penultimate concert of the spring season of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra presented two composers whose popularity has waxed and waned a little over the years but who were represented on this occasion by two works that have won lasting esteem.

Edward Elgar of England and Jean Sibelius of Finland were both late romantic, early twentieth century composers. Elgar was slightly the older man, 1857-1934 compared with Sibelius’s 1865-1957.

The works played at this concert were late Elgar, the Cello Concerto, written in 1919, and early Sibelius, the symphony No. 1, written in 1898. They are very different, but both are fine works, and the Durban City Hall audience greatly enjoyed hearing them.

The visiting German cellist Peter Bruns was the soloist in the Elgar concerto, a composition that reflects the composer’s sadness and disillusionment after the First World War. It is melancholy but it has some lovely soulful passages for the cello, especially in the slow movement.

Peter Bruns, who had impressed at his Friends of Music recital two days earlier, gave a performance of great intensity, extracting a beautiful tone from his 300-year-old cello. He was rewarded with prolonged applause and acknowledged it with an encore, a Sarabande from one of Bach’s suites for unaccompanied cello.

Elgar’s concerto is, to me anyway, so mournful as to be almost oppressive, and the force and vigour of Sibelius’s first symphony came as a cheering contrast. It was conducted by Arjan Tien with a skill and enthusiasm that inspired the orchestra to great heights. The opening clarinet solo was expertly played by Ian Holloway, and the orchestra as a whole obviously revelled in Sibelius’s sweeping melodies and brilliant orchestration, with significant roles for the woodwind and the brass.

Altogether this was one of the most successful performances of the entire season, a triumph for the orchestra and the conductor. - Michael Green