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Saturday, June 15, 2013


(Sarah Chang)

Rare quality from one of the world’s top violinists. (Review by Michael Green)

The American violinist Sarah Chang generated great enthusiasm in the Durban City Hall audience when she was the soloist with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra in Jean Sibelius’s Violin Concerto in D minor.

As her surname suggests, she is one of the many gifted international violinists who have oriental roots. She was born in Philadelphia 32 years ago but her parents, both musicians, were immigrants from South Korea, and Sarah Chang is proud of her Korean ancestry.

Koreans themselves should be, and no doubt are, proud of her. Since making her debut with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra as a child prodigy she has established herself as one of the world’s top violinists. And her Durban performance left her listeners in no doubt about her rare quality.

The Sibelius concerto is a challenging work technically and interpretatively. It was composed in 1903 and was rather neglected until Jascha Heifetz put it on the map with a famous recording in the 1930’s. It is now the most performed and recorded 20th century violin concerto, and understandably so; it is a work of striking originality.

Sarah Chang gave a totally compelling performance of this remarkable music, and she was expertly partnered by the orchestra and its conductor for the evening, the 50-year-old American Theodore Kuchar. He is a dynamic podium personality who has spent much of his time in recent years as conductor of the national orchestra of the Ukraine, and he has made about a hundred CD recordings for Naxos.

From the shimmering opening of the concerto to the frenzied finale, Sarah Chang produced a brilliant display of violin virtuosity, with a lovely pure tone matched by pin-point accuracy in the rapid passages. At the end she was given a well-deserved ovation by the large audience.

The orchestra opened the programme with Wagner’s Rienzi overture and completed the evening with a vivid and exciting account of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, as orchestrated by Ravel (it was written originally for the piano).

At the end even the conductor joined in the applause for the orchestra. A triumphant ending to a highly successful concert. - Michael Green