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Tuesday, July 7, 2015


 (Musa Mgqungwana)
 (Reviews from the artSMart team currently in Grahamstown at the 2015 National Arts Festival)

Interesting programme played with skill, verve and great musical acumen. (Review by Keith Millar)

The Gala Concert at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown is a wonderful festive occasion. Taking place at the well-appointed Guy Butler Theatre at the 1820 Settlers Monument it proved to be another triumph for the excellent KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra.

As has become the norm, this concert was conducted by the popular and suave Richard Cock. True to style, Cock kept the audience informed and amused by sharing details and anecdotes about all the music included in the programme.

The programme offered an eclectic mix of light classical music. Cock explained that the intention was to explore new avenues in music and that some of the selections had seldom, if ever, been played in this country before.

Featured as a soloist at the concert was the Standard Bank Young Artist for Music, Musa Mgqungwana. He is a powerful baritone with a voice of rich clarity and depth.

The first piece he sang was I Am an African which was orchestrated by Peter Klatzow from Thabo Mbeki’s famous speech on that subject. It was a fine powerful performance with perfect phrasing. The music itself, however, is a little too European considering the African theme of the lyrics.

Mgqungwana also sang Vous qui faites l’endormie from Charles Gounod’s Faust, and at the end of the programme, as an encore, provided a rousing version of I’ve Got Plenty of Nothing from Porgy and Bess.

Also featured on the programme as soloists were two KZNPO members. Sorin Osorean playing the horn gave a beautifully clear and structured performance of Alexander Glazunov’s Reverie, while Cellist Boris Kerimov was outstanding with Two Pieces for Cello and Orchestra Op. 20, also by Glazunov.

A special item on the programme was Peter Klatzow’s Tintinyane a Story for Orchestra. This is a charming tale of a young girl with as golden voice, and was narrated by Klatzow himself.

The Orchestra also provided several pieces to the concert. They started off the programme, appropriately, with the Fanfare from La Péri by Paul Dukas.. Then we also heard Espana and Les Patineurs Valse by Waldteufel, La Boda de Luis Alonso by Gimēnez and to round things off, the lovely Karelia Suite by Jean Sibelius.

It was an interesting programme played with skill, verve and great musical acumen. It was thoroughly enjoyed by the full house audience in the Guy Butler Theatre.

My only concern is that most of the music selection was fairly tranquil and mellow. I would have expected more thunder and lightning and fireworks at a festive occasion such as a gala. – Keith Millar

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