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Friday, October 26, 2012


(Pieter Schoeman)

Violinist of the first rank performs in concerto dedicated to him by Roelof Temmingh. (Review by Michael Green)

The penultimate concert of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra’s spring season was significant for two reasons:  the presentation of a new violin concerto by a South African composer who died in Durban recently, and an absolutely outstanding performance of one of the great symphonies.

Roelof Temmingh was born in the Netherlands and came to South Africa in 1958. He died in Durban last May, aged 65. He was a prolific composer in the modern style. His earlier work was avant-garde but his later music was more accessible. About two years ago, he completed his violin concerto, dedicated to his friend Pieter Schoeman, a South African violinist who is now leader of the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Pieter Schoeman was the soloist with the KZNPO in the Durban City Hall, and the conductor was Lykele Temmingh, resident conductor of the KZNPO and brother of the composer.

The concerto has two movements and runs for about 30 minutes. The first movement opens rather mysteriously and fairly soon some rhythmical dissonant chords from the brass instruments introduce a long, eloquent recitative for the solo violin.

The trombones, trumpets and horns feature strongly in the first movement, which is generally rather dark and solemn. The second movement is more lively. The solo violin has a virtuoso role, and it was very well played by Pieter Schoeman, who is obviously a violinist of the first rank. Lykele Temmingh conducted with the insight and sympathy one would expect.

Audience reaction ranged, as far as I could determine, from respectful interest to puzzled hostility. But it was, at least, a very interesting experience, and there were the strong local connections.

Music of a very different kind made up the rest of the programme, which was under the baton of the visiting Hungarian conductor Tibor Boganyi. Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Overture opened the concert, and after the interval we had a resounding performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, the Pathétique.

Boganyi’s expressive and vigorous conducting drew forth some glorious sounds from the orchestra in this beautiful and emotional music. When the symphony had come to its quiet and sad close, the audience sat in rapt silence for some moments before bursting into enthusiastic applause.

A performance like this emphasises that recorded music is no real substitute for a good orchestra in a concert hall. It also reminds us that we have a really valuable asset in the KZNPO and that we should give it all the support we can. - Michael Green