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Friday, September 27, 2013


(Pallavi Mahidhara)

Music by Mozart and Dvorak, and the appearance of a glamorous top-rank pianist, drew another big audience to the Durban City Hall for the fourth concert of the spring season of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra.

Pallavi Mahidhara was born in the United States of Indian parents and holds dual Indian-American citizenship. She is only 26 but she is already a widely experienced pianist. She played with the KZNPO 18 months ago and made a great impression with a virtuoso performance of Prokofiev’s third concerto. This time she moved to the very different musical environment of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Mozart wrote 27 piano concertos and she played one of the greatest of them all, No. 20 in D minor, written in 1785. This powerful and at times almost sinister work calls for strong technical skills from the performer plus a highly developed interpretative insight. Pallavi overcame all the problems and gave a totally compelling performance.

The orchestra’s role is of course as important as the soloist’s, and the conductor, Thomas Sanderling, drew forth some lovely playing from the orchestra. His restrained style of conducting seemed particularly well suited to the subtleties of Mozart, and the results were first-rate.

In response to prolonged applause the pianist played an encore, Liszt’s extremely difficult La Campanella (the little bell), a concert etude based on a tune by Paganini. It is an exercise involving rapid leaps for the right hand, and it was as exciting to see as it was to hear.

After the interval the orchestra moved on a hundred years, to the Symphony No. 7 in D minor by the Czech composer Antonin Dvorak, a work completed in 1885. Dvorak, like Beethoven wrote nine symphonies, and they contain much lovely music, melodious, lyrical, and with the exotic flavour of Bohemian folk music.

The seventh symphony is dramatic, majestic, energetic, poignant, with many memorable melodies.  The orchestration is outstanding, with effective parts for all the instruments, and the ending is stunning, a master stroke of affirmative action (in the musical sense).

Thomas Sanderling and the orchestra gave a brilliant account of the many moods and nuances of this grand symphony, and they were rewarded with a tremendous ovation from the audience.

The concert opened with another Dvorak work, his joyful Carnival overture, played by the orchestra with vigour and zest. - Michael Green