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Saturday, February 28, 2015


(Leonard Elschenbroich)

Outstanding cello player and a brilliant performance for second summer season concert. (Review by Michael Green)

An outstanding cello player and a brilliant performance of a Beethoven symphony were the main features of the second concert of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra’s summer season in the Durban City Hall.

A varied programme ranged from a great classic to a rarely performed work from the 20th century. The rarity was Dmitri Kabalevsky’s Cello Concerto No 2, which dates from 1964, and its inclusion was no doubt the reason for there being more empty seats than usual in the hall.

Kabalevsky (1904-1987) was a Russian composer who more or less obeyed the rules in the Soviet Union and who thus escaped the hardships imposed on many other Russian composers.

His compositional style is fairly conventional, so his music is reasonably accessible to those hearing it for the first time. And on this occasion it was exceptionally well played by Leonard Elschenbroich, a 30-year-old German cellist who has won a big reputation in Europe and America and who was making his South African debut with the KZNPO.

He gave a virtuoso display, playing with passion and commitment in a work full of unusual effects, from its pizzicato opening to the use of cadenzas to link its three movements.

The orchestra, conducted by the visiting Israeli-American Daniel Boico, was a sympathetic partner in this performance, and the audience showed their appreciation with prolonged applause.

Beethoven’s Symphony No 7 in A major, written in 1812, is one of the greatest of all orchestral works, an immensely powerful, driving composition that is a kind of monument to rhythm. Wagner called it the apotheosis of the dance, and apparently he once tried to dance to the music (it’s hard to imagine the composer of Tristan and Isolde tripping, in Milton’s words, the light fantastic toe).

Daniel Boico conducted the symphony with enormous energy, and the orchestra responded with a big, resonant, exuberant performance. It was a truly exciting experience, and the audience gave the players and the conductor huge applause at the end.

The concert opened with Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin (The Tomb of Couperin), a graceful and elegant tribute to the composer Francois Couperin (1668-1733). In 1917, Ravel wrote this suite for the piano, and he later himself orchestrated four of the six items. They are delightful in either form. – Michael Green