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Friday, November 2, 2012


Frank Cramer conducts KZNPO's last minute change of programme. (Review by Michael Green)

A mysterious last-minute change of programme caused much puzzlement and speculation at the final concert of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra’s spring season in the Durban City Hall.

The programme was to have consisted mainly of Carl Orff’s hour-long choral work Carmina Burana. Two days before the event, the orchestra sent out an e-mail saying that this would be replaced by Dvorak’s New World Symphony. Not everybody is on the orchestra’s e-mailing list, and many customers arrived at the City Hall expecting to hear Carmina Burana.

In a speech from the stage about other matters the orchestra’s chief executive, Bongani Tembe, said briefly that the programme had been changed because of “the indisposition of the scheduled conductor”. This was Tibor Boganyi, a Hungarian who had conducted the two previous concerts to much acclaim.

However, Carmina Burana was to have involved two distinguished vocal soloists and a choir of about 100 singers. The work has been performed many times in South Africa and it is hard to believe that no other conductor could be found to take over the baton at short notice because of Tibor Boganyi’s “indisposition”.

Ah well, with the German conductor Frank Cramer on the podium the revised programme was a great success. Cramer has an imposing international CV which suggests that he is probably about 50 years old, but he looks younger. He is a fairly restrained conductor, not given to extravagant gestures, but his steady beat and economical movements drew a fine response from the players in three orchestral showpieces.

The concert opened with Ottorino Respighi’s attractively atmospheric Fountains of Rome, written in 1816. Then came Ravel’s celebrated Bolero. Not everybody loves its hypnotic repetition, but it is one of the most remarkable pieces in the concert repertory. The orchestra¸ at its full complement of 70 players, gave a brilliant performance, to the delight of the audience.

Finally Dvorak’s From the New World, one of the great masterworks, was delivered with the enthusiasm and affection it deserves. A glowing interpretation was acknowledged in a prolonged ovation at the end. - Michael Green