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Sunday, March 2, 2014


(Yasuo Shinozaki)

Orchestra, conductor and soloist in splendid form. (Review by Michael Green)

The second concert of the summer season of the KZN Philharmonic, in the Durban City Hall, ranged from the melancholy of Elgar to the majesty of Mozart.

A fair sized audience was present for a programme that opened with the Durban Overture, written in 1988 by the Cape Town composer Allan Stephenson. This is a cheerful, bright work, with hints of nautical themes and Zulu rhythms, and the orchestra, under the direction of the visiting Japanese conductor Yasuo Shinozaki, gave a lively performance.

The excellent South African cellist Anzel Gerber was the soloist in Edward Elgar’s cello concerto in E minor. This was written in 1919, just after the end of the First World War, which had depressed Elgar greatly (from his home in the south of England he could hear the artillery barrages on the other side of the English Channel.)

It is mainly a sad work but it is beautiful and soloist, conductor and orchestra drew maximum effect from its eloquent melodies. Anzel Gerber, a good-looking young blonde, produced a lovely rich tone from her 200-year-old cello, and an appreciative audience gave her prolonged applause at the end. She responded with an outstanding encore, a movement from one of Bach’s suites for unaccompanied cello.

The universality of good music was well illustrated here, I thought. It is a far cry from Edwardian England to modern Japan, but Yasuo Shinozaki conducted as if he had this music in his veins.

He is short in stature but highly energetic on the podium, and his vigorous conducting style was well suited to the two Mozart works: the Il Seraglio overture (the opera tells the story of an escape from a Turkish harem) and the magnificent Symphony No. 39 in E flat. This is one of the composer’s three last symphonies, written in an astonishing burst of creativity in three months in 1788.

The orchestra were in splendid form throughout, from the imposing opening to the sprightly finale. Everybody enjoyed this, especially the stately Minuet, one of the best-known of all Mozart’s compositions. The conductor took it at quite a brisk tempo, but it was none the worse for that. - Michael Green