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Saturday, October 19, 2013


(Alexandra Dariescu)

Impeccable technique and virtuoso performance from Alexandra Dariescu. (Review by Michael Green)

Two outstanding Number Fours, Beethoven’s fourth piano concerto and Mahler’s fourth symphony, drew a big audience to the Durban City Hall for the penultimate concert of the spring season of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra.

The soloist in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto in G major, Op. 58, was 27-year-old Alexandra Dariescu, a rapidly rising star on the musical horizon. Born in Romania and educated largely in England, she has in the past three or four years established herself as an unusually gifted pianist with a wide repertory, and she gave a virtuoso performance here in Durban of this most subtle of all concertos.

She has an impeccable technique and her tonal gradation was first-rate, especially in the middle movement, one of the most original pieces of music ever written.

The orchestra, under the direction of the visiting conductor Arjan Tien, was in good form, with bright string tone in the dialogue with the piano.

The performance was exciting, rather than contemplative. Alexandra Dariescu played at high speed, as many modern pianists do, and the audience was highly enthusiastic. Would Beethoven have played at this tempo when he gave the first performance two hundred years ago?  here are no recordings of course, but I somehow doubt it. That’s progress, I suppose.

After the interval the orchestra gave us Gustav Mahler’s hour-long Symphony No. 4 in G major. This work is replete with lovely melodies, and the orchestra made the most of them, with fine playing from strings, brass and woodwind.

The final movement is a long soprano song about a child’s vision of heaven, and the singer here was Zandile Mzazi, a young South African who has done very well here and in Europe and the United States. She was excellent, with pure intonation, sensitive phrasing and a dignified, unfussy stage presence. When, at the end, she eventually took a bow the audience gave her prolonged and deserved applause. - Michael Green