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Saturday, June 6, 2015


(Nina Schumann & Luis Magalhaes)

Husband and wife team perform brilliant and attractive work. (Review by Michael Green)

A concerto for two pianos and orchestra was the unusual feature of the latest concert of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra, in the Durban City Hall.

This was the Concerto in D minor by the 20th century French composer Francis Poulenc. It is a brilliant and most attractive work, far removed from the intellectual austerity of much modern music. Poulenc (1899-1963) was, in the words of one critic, “a fizzing, bubbling mass of Gallic energy”. His concerto is full of good tunes and catchy rhythms, and the two pianists have plenty of virtuoso passages to display their skills.

The pianists in this Durban performance were Nina Schumann and Luis Magalhaes, the Stellenbosch-based husband and wife team who met when they were studying in the United States. They have established a significant reputation in the rich field of two-piano music, and in the Poulenc concerto they gave much pleasure to a big City Hall audience.

They presented the spectacular first and third movements with great individual prowess and mutual understanding, but the high point was the slow movement, a really beautiful piece of music in the style of Mozart, the composer whom Poulenc admired above all others.

In response to much applause the pianists played a delightful encore, the Hesitation Tango written in 1951 by the American composer Samuel Barber.

The conductor was the Israeli-American Daniel Boico, a regular and welcome visitor to Durban.

The concert opened with Paul Dukas’s famous The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, as enchanting as ever, and ended with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in E minor, one of the great romantic works of the repertory.

Tchaikovsky’s music is belittled by some critics, perhaps because of its popularity, but there is no denying its power and its ability to tug at the heart strings. As I said in a pre-concert lecture, anybody who really dislikes the slow movement of this symphony must have a tin ear.

The orchestra, about 70-strong, gave a splendid, resonant, emotional performance. Boico’s vigorous, expressive conducting style extracted optimum results from his massive orchestral resources, and the players were rewarded at the end with prolonged applause. - Michael Green

Michael Green will be giving the next pre-concert lecture (June 11). The venue for these lectures before the symphony concerts of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra has been changed. They will now take place in the Durban City Hall (where the concerts take place) and not at the Playhouse, as was the case before. The change has been made to save those attending from having to walk from the Playhouse to the City Hall. The time of the lectures remains unchanged at 18h15.