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Sunday, September 23, 2012


Visiting German cellist earns huge ovation with Dvorak Concerto (Review by Michael Green)

Wolfgang Emanuel Schmidt, a visiting German cellist, earned a huge ovation when he played Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B minor with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra in the Durban City Hall.

He is a big man, youngish, about 35 to 40 I would guess, and he played with a skill and intensity that captivated his audience. Dvorak’s concerto is a peak of the cello repertoire. It was written in 1894-95, while the Czech composer was living temporarily in the United States, and it has a nostalgic quality that reflects Dvorak’s deep-rooted love of Bohemian music and a degree of homesickness.

The result was some of the most beautiful music ever written for a cello, and Wolfgang Schmidt extracted full value from the glowing score. He played with an intensity matched by a lovely golden tone, especially in the many lyrical passages.

The orchestra, conducted by Arjan Tien from the Netherlands, made a full, well-judged contribution, and the outcome was a memorable performance that was acclaimed with high enthusiasm at the end.

Wolfgang Schmidt is obviously an engaging personality. Announcing an encore, he said: “I have four kids at home and I miss them very much”, and he played a delightful little march from Prokofiev’s <em>Music for Children</em>.

The concert opened with the first of Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances, played with great animation; Arjan Tien seems to get the best out of our orchestra. And after the interval came one of Brahms’s less familiar works, the Serenade No 1 D major, written in 1857 when the composer was 24.

It was appropriate to have Brahms and Dvorak on the same programme. Brahms, the older of the two by eight years, was a friend and admirer of Dvorak, and an important promoter of his music. - Michael Green