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Thursday, June 26, 2014


A connoisseur’s programme of chamber music. (Review by Michael Green)

The KZN Philharmonic Orchestra confers many benefits on this part of the world, apart from the symphony concerts in the Durban City Hall. The orchestra introduces many disadvantaged communities to good music, it gives light entertainment of various kinds, it supplies many top-class teachers, and it provides first-rate soloists and ensemble players in many non-orchestral forms of music.

The latest concert of the Friends of Music, at the Durban Jewish Centre, was a good example of this last point, with six players from the orchestra performing in a connoisseur’s programme of chamber music.

It was also evidence of the cultural debt that South Africa owes to the northern hemisphere. The players were originally from five different countries: the United States (Joanna Frankel, violin), Britain (David Snaith, viola), Russia (Boris Kerimov, cello), Romania (Violeta Osorhean, violin, and Sorin Osorhean, horn) and Bulgaria (Tzanko Tzankov, horn).

A large audience were rewarded with consistently fine playing in three works. First we had Mozart’s String Quartet in B flat, K.458, nicknamed “The Hunt” because of its not very obvious reference to a hunting call. Dating from 1784, it is the 17th of Mozart’s 23 quartets, and it is lively, lyrical, eloquent and tuneful, with an intense and beautiful slow movement.

The four string players, led by Joanna Frankel, who is concert master of the KZNPO, performed with the close understanding that one would expect from instrumentalists who have been orchestral colleagues for a long time.

The two horn players joined the strings for a performance of Beethoven’s Sextet on E flat major, something of a rarity in the concert hall. It is a delightful three-movement work, a kind of concerto for two horns with a mini string orchestra. It calls for virtuoso playing in the horn parts, and Sorin Osorhean and Tzanko Tzankov emerged triumphantly from a difficult technical challenge.

The strings completed the programme with Mendelssohn’s Quartet No 2 in A minor, Op. 13, a fusion of traditional classical form and the new romantic mood of the early nineteenth century. It is a polished, engaging composition, and the players did full justice to its varied qualities.

The Prelude Performer of the evening, supported by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, was Monde Ngwane, a cellist and Grade 11 schoolboy. He played pieces by Handel, Tchaikovsky and Scott Joplin, quite an assortment of composers. He was accompanied at the piano by Nigel Fish, a former principal cellist of the KZN Philharmonic. - Michael Green