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Thursday, July 17, 2014


(Njabulo Madlala)

(Review from the artSMart team from the National Arts Festival)

 Durban born baritone undoubtedly the star of the concert. (Review by Keith Millar)

Veteran conductor Richard Cock has become a perennial audience favourite at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. He is an excellent entertainer. Be it through his spirited and skilful conducting or the witty and informative information, he always shares with the audiences at his concerts.

The Gala Concert at this year’s festival was no different. Both musically and for sheer good fun, it was out of the top drawer.

There is little doubt that the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra enjoys working with Richard Cock. At this concert they responded well to his wholehearted approach and put in a high-spirited and artistic performance that was totally in keeping with the festive nature of the event.

The National Arts Festival in 2014 celebrated three major anniversaries. 40 years of its own existence, 30 years of the Standard Bank’s sponsorship of the Young Artist Awards and 20 years of democracy in our Country.

In keeping with this theme, the Gala Concert’s programme - other than featuring two Standard Bank Young Artist Award recipients - also alluded to the anniversaries of three historic events.

World War one was remembered by fine renditions of Theo Wendt’s Botha’s Boys and Kenneth J Alford’s Colonel Bogey March. During the latter, Cocks had the audience whistling along with the music rather than singing the well-known words which were apparently the bane of the composer’s existence.

It is now 450 years since the birth of Shakespeare and this was celebrated with the Overture from The Merry Wives of Windsor by Otto Nicolai, Scherzo from A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet – Fantasy Overture.

Composer Christof Gluck was born 300 years ago and this event was celebrated with a fine performance by the orchestra of his Dance of the Blessed from Orfeo and Euridice.

Samson Diamond was awarded the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Music in 2010. He demonstrated his skill and flair as a concert violinist with Luis Bacalov’s Il Postino and Nigel Hess’ Ladies in Lavender.

Without doubt, the star of the concert was the 2014 Standard Bank Young Artist Award: Music recipient, Njabulo Madlala. This Durban born baritone has a world class voice. He does not hold back and pours his heart and soul into every song. He performed a selection of music which included opera favourites such as Rossini’s Largo al factotum, from the Barber of Seville and Massenet’s Vision Fugitive from Hérodiade as well as a musical theatre hit in Schönberg’s Stars from Les Misérables and finished with the dramatic Because as an encore.

Madlala gave a gorgeous performance. This was made more remarkable by the fact that the day before he had to cancel his solo concert because of voice problems. This man will go far on the international stage.

The 2014 Festival Gala Concert was a jubilant event which left the audience well entertained. – Keith Millar