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Saturday, May 31, 2014


(Daniel Walshaw, KZNPO artistic administrator)

First City Hall concert to be conducted by the orchestra’s newly-appointed artistic administrator. (Review by Michael Green)

Five lesser-known compositions made up the programme for the latest concert, before a good-sized audience in the Durban City Hall, of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra’s winter season.

This was the first City Hall concert to be conducted by the orchestra’s newly-appointed artistic administrator, Daniel Walshaw, an American, and it also marked 25 years since the first appearance with the orchestra of the distinguished South African pianist Christopher Duigan.

Daniel Walshaw is a young man, recently married to the orchestra’s concert master (leader), the violinist Joanna Frankel, and he was described in the programme notes as “a model 21st century inter-disciplinary musician” – conductor, scholar, composer.  He impressed in this concert with his precise conducting style, strong beat and apparently good empathy with the players.

Christopher Duigan, who is based in the KZN Midlands, is a pianist who has great technical skill and the interpretative insights that come from many years of experience.

The conductor and all the players on stage had to contend with a distressing interruption when one of the orchestra’s women violinists collapsed and fell heavily during the performance of Liszt’s Totendanz for piano and orchestra.  She was carried off, a doctor was called from the audience, and after about ten minutes the conductor announced that she was “OK” (but she was taken to hospital for a check).

Pianist, conductor and orchestra began again, and Christopher Duigan delivered a stunning performance of Liszt’s virtuoso piece, which is based on the mediaeval Dies Irae (Day of Wrath) chant.  His playing was as exciting visually as it was aurally, with thundering octaves, rapid repeated chords, glissandi and quicksilver runs.

As an encore he played Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6 in D flat, another virtuoso piece that runs for about seven minutes.

Earlier, in a very different musical environment, Duigan and the orchestra had given a graceful and elegant account of Mozart’s Concert-Rondo in A major, K. 386.

The concert opened with a seldom heard Mozart work, his noble and dignified Adagio and Fugue, K. 546.

After the interval the orchestra played Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring suite, a lovely evocation of old America, and then came Schubert’s Mass No. 2, D. 167, with about a hundred singers from the Clermont Community Choir and the Durban Symphonic Choir. The vocal soloists were Nozuko Teto (soprano), Wayne Mkhize (tenor) and Mthunzi Nokubeka (baritone), all of them former music students at the University of KZN.

They were all good, but the star performer was undoubtedly Nozuko Teto who, in the dominant soprano role, displayed a first-rate, full-bodied and well-trained voice that should take her far. - Michael Green