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Friday, October 10, 2014


(Maestro James Ross)

James Ross is a really appealing figure on the podium. (Review by Michael Green)

Mozart the master and some accessible and attractive music from the 20th century made up the programme for the penultimate concert of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra’s spring season in the Durban City Hall.

The central item was the Concerto for Clarinet and String Orchestra, with Harp and Piano, by the American composer Aaron Copland. This was written in 1948 for the jazz clarinet player Benny Goodman

It was played here by the French clarinettist Olivier Patey, who is a member of the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, and the conductor was a visiting American, James Ross.

The concerto has only two movements and they are played without a break, linked by a lengthy cadenza for the soloist. The music is consistently interesting. The slow movement suggests the rural atmosphere and open spaces of much of America (rather like the same composer’s famous Appalachian Spring), and the second movement moves into the world of jazz, with swinging tunes and off-beat rhythms.

All this was delivered by Olivier Patey with great skill and style. The audience much enjoyed it, judging by the applause at the end.

James Ross is a really appealing figure on the podium. He has an animated, expressive, enthusiastic style of conducting, sometimes almost dancing to the music.

Under his direction the orchestra were in fine form in the opening item, Igor Stravinsky’s Divertimento from Le Baiser de la Fée, The Fairy’s Kiss.

In 1928 Stravinsky wrote a ballet with that name, from a story by Hans Christian Andersen. The Divertimento is a four-movement suite of music from the ballet.

It is really a tribute to Tchaikovsky, and has many fragments of that composer’s music. The orchestra captured admirably its effortless charm and grace.

Finally we had a great masterpiece, Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G minor, a concentrated display of restless energy and lyricism. The KZNPO showed the good tonal balance essential in Mozart’s music, in which all the voices of the orchestra are important.

There will be no symphony concert on October 16. The final concert of spring season is on October 23, when the KNPO will present Carl Orff’s wonderfully entertaining choral composition Carmina Burana. I will be giving the pre-concert lecture at the Playhouse at 18h15. - Michael Green