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Friday, September 14, 2012


(Tai Murray. Pic: © Marco Borggreve)

Brilliant performance by American violinist. (Review by Michael Green)

Wet weather and Dmitri Shostakovich produced a sparse audience for the first concert, in the Durban City Hall, of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra’s spring season.

Those who attended were treated to a brilliant performance by a 30-year-old American violinist who has not been here before. Tai Murray was born in Chicago, and over the past ten years she has built an ever-increasing reputation in the United States and Europe.

Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor gave her ample opportunity to display her skills here in Durban. This composition was written about 70 years ago, but it is still uncompromisingly “modern” to most ears. The composer had a mainly bad time under Joseph Stalin and this concerto was not performed until 1955, after the dictator’s death.

It is a long four-movement work, opening with a solemn Nocturne which is followed by a Scherzo (described by its first interpreter, David Oistrakh, as “demonic”), a Passacaglia full of difficult double-stopping, and a fast finale.

The music may not have been to everyone’s taste, but there was no doubting the power and skill of Tai Murray’s playing. She handled the technical problems with aplomb and showed a beautiful cantabile tone in the calm, reflective passages. The prolonged applause at the end was well deserved.

The orchestra was an admirable partner in all this. The conductor was Arjan Tien from the Netherlands, who has visited Durban regularly for the past 14 years, and whose military bearing and well-defined beat have become well known to audiences here. Under his guidance the orchestra were in good form throughout the evening.

The concert opened with Shostakovich’s exuberant and cheerful Festive Overture and ended with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 in F minor, both successful and enjoyable performances.

The start of the concerto was delayed for a few minutes by the conductor because of the noise of a helicopter or helicopters over the City Hall. Always something new out of Africa. - Michael Green