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Sunday, September 15, 2013


(Joanna Frankel)

Joanna Frankel’s experience and high skills were apparent throughout Beethoven’s majestic concerto.  (Review by Michael Green)

The music of Ludwig van Beethoven attracted a big audience to the Durban City Hall for the second concert of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra’s spring season, this after a small attendance at the first concert, which offered 20th century music. After two centuries, the greatest composer of them all still has unequalled drawing power.

The works played were Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D major, written in 1806, and his Symphony No. 2, which dates from 1802. The orchestra was again conducted by the Bulgarian-born Rossen Milanov and the soloist was Joanna Frankel, who comes from the United States and is leader of the orchestra, concertmaster, to give her formal title.

The concert opened with the symphony, with Rossen Milanov again showing that, in his smiling, amiable and unceremonious way, he is able to draw excellent results from the orchestra. The players were arranged in new positions in the stage, with the cellos and basses moving from the extreme right to the centre. I don’t know whether this is a permanent arrangement but there was certainly good balance between the various instruments in this bold, brilliant and eloquent symphony.

Joanna Frankel has been leader of the KZNPO since the beginning of this year. She has an impressive record internationally in concertos and recitals, and her experience and high skills were apparent throughout her performance of Beethoven’s majestic concerto. This is a challenging work in every respect, technically, interpretatively and physically. With two lengthy cadenzas apparently written by Joanna Frankel herself, it ran for 50 minutes. And the music is so well known that even slight defects in performance are noticeable to an audience.

The soloist met the challenge triumphantly, with lovely, full intonation in the glorious melodies that permeate the work. In particular, the many high notes were delivered with exquisite clarity. And the orchestra was an admirable partner.

This exceptional performance by Joanna Frankel produced a prolonged storm of applause at the end. A pity that, assisted by a member of the orchestra, she gave a totally inappropriate encore, ten minutes of clowning more suited to the music hall than the concert hall. - Michael Green