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Friday, March 27, 2015


(Dmitry Yablonsky)

KZN Philharmonic in top form in final concert of the summer season. (Review by Michael Green)

Beethoven’s Triple Concerto for piano, violin and cello is a rarity, the first and only major work of its kind.

It was composed in 1803 and 1804, and Beethoven himself wrote to his publisher “I am sending you something that is really new”. The 200 years since then have produced only about 30 triple concertos, all of them by minor composers and none of them of any great significance.

The performance of the concerto in the Durban City Hall, in the last concert of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra’s summer season, was also something of a rarity in that the pianist and the cellist were mother and son. They were Oxana Yablonskaya, who was born in Russia 76 years ago and has lived in America for nearly 40 years, and her son Dmitry Yablonsky (52) born in Russia, American since 1977.

The third member of the trio was the 47-year-old Israeli violinist Janna Gandelman.

All three soloists are obviously top-class performers, with Dmitry Yablonsky producing a golden tone from his cello and his mother, Oxana, showing remarkable virtuoso dexterity for a pianist of her age.

A further unusual feature of the evening was the fact that Dmitry, who is a distinguished conductor as well as a cellist, was apparently listed to be in charge for the Beethoven but instead sat looking at the audience without a backward glance at the orchestra.

The conducting, such as it was, was done by the orchestra’s concert master (leader of the violins) Joanna Frankel, who waved her hands occasionally when she was able to, leading some cynics in the audience to wonder whether the orchestra could not dispose of conductors altogether.

Anyway, the performance of this splendid concerto was highly successful and was warmly applauded by the audience

The rest of the programme was conducted by Dmitry Yablonsky in the normal manner, from the podium, and it consisted of two brilliant and very different works from the early 20th century.

Sergei Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony was written in 1917. It was composed in the style of Haydn or Mozart but the voice is Prokofiev’s. It is melodious, good-humoured, witty, elegant, and the orchestra were in top form.

Yablonsky is a restrained type of conductor but he drew outstanding playing from the orchestra, here and in the work that followed, Stravinsky’s The Firebird suite (1945 version) based on the ballet written in 1910.

This wonderfully atmospheric, mysterious, noisy music provided a vivid ending to the orchestra’s summer season. - Michael Green