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Sunday, July 13, 2014


A very enjoyable concert of delightful music, brilliantly performed. (Review by Keith Millar)

The KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra is widely regarded as Africa’s premier orchestra. It employs 70 fulltime professional musicians who come from more than 20 countries.

It is from the ranks of these talented artists that the ensemble which performed the annual Chamber Concerts at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown was drawn. These concerts are a wonderful opportunity to expose festival audiences to lesser-known gems from the classical repertoire.

The works chosen for this year’s concerts were Johan Nepomuk Hummel’s Piano Septet No. 1 in D Minor Op. 74, and Francis Poulenc’s Sextet (for Piano and Windquintet), OP 10. Joining the ensemble for both works was piano maestro Albie van Schalkwyk.

Hummel was considered to be one of the foremost piano virtuosos of his time. He was also highly regarded as a composer. His Piano Septet No. 1 was composed in 1816 and achieved immediate popularity. Until the early 1900’s, it was regularly heard on concert stages around the world.

It is an uncomplicated and well-balanced work which was played with verve and colour by the ensemble. Sabine Baird playing the flute and Alice Thompson on the French horn featured during this performance while van Schalkwyk was magnificent on the piano.

French composer Francis Poulenc’s Sextet is a more modern work having being composed in 1932. Poulenc was regarded as a musical clown and this vital and rhythmic work is full of French wit and charm. Once again van Schalkwyk was superb.

The Rhodes Chapel, where the concerts took place, has an acoustic which is complementary to classical music. This added the seasoning to a very enjoyable concert of delightful music, brilliantly performed. – Keith Millar