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Friday, September 12, 2014


(David Salleras)

Saxophone virtuoso delights audience at unusual concert. (Review by Michael Green)

Music by the Argentine king of the tango Astor Piazzollo (1921-1992), with a saxophonist as soloist, was the core of an unusual programme for the third concert of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra’s spring season in the Durban City Hall.

The saxophone, invented by Adolphe Saxe in 1846, has become associated with jazz and popular music rather than the classical tradition, but it can be an exciting and expressive instrument in any musical environment.

A young Spaniard, David Salleras, was the performer at this concert, and he showed himself to be a true virtuoso, to the delight of the audience. Piazzollo’s music is attractive and original. Salleras and the orchestra, with some help from Christopher Duigan at the piano, played a work called Tango Suite consisting of three pieces that are quite well known: Libertango, Oblivion and Adios Nonino. The arrangements for saxophone were made by David Salleras himself.

Salleras is an extroverted type of performer, and he received prolonged applause from the audience, which seemed to include a number of sax enthusiasts, sax maniacs you might say.

The concert opened with Maurice Ravel’s Alborado del Gracioso, Morning Song of the Jester, originally a brilliant piano piece and orchestrated by the composer in 1918.

Written in a Spanish style, it is beautiful and exotic. The orchestra, under the direction of one of our most popular guest conductors, Arjan Tien from the Netherlands, seemed to enjoy it as much as the audience did.

The third item on the programme was the Symphony in C major by the French composer Paul Dukas (1865-1935), who is celebrated for one remarkable orchestral work, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. This symphony (which was played by the KZNPO two years ago) is a colourful and attractive three-movement work.

Dating from 1896, it is characterised by highly effective orchestration, strong rhythms and elegant melodies (and in the third movement, some distinct similarities to Cesar Franck’s Symphony in D minor, which was written eight years earlier). All this was delivered with great vigour and eloquence by the orchestra.

An unusual concert came to an unusual ending with an invitation from the orchestra to the audience to “bring your dancing shoes” and dance the tango, to a repeat of the Piazzolla music. Alas, most members of the KZNPO’s audience gave away their dancing shoes long ago. There were very few takers for the tango. - Michael Green