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Sunday, July 12, 2015


(Joana Frankel)

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

KZN Philharmonic symphony concert takes National Arts Festival by storm. (Review by Keith Millar)

It was a satisfying feeling last night to be a KZN boy, and to bask in some reflected glory, as “our” orchestra took the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown by storm as they produced a performance which will live long in the memory.

This is the fifth consecutive year that the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra has graced the festival. During that time, they have made a huge contribution to the development and growth of the classical music component of the event.

The Symphony Concert this year started with a composition by Cape Town based South African Composer Hedrick Hofmeyer. Originally written for solo piano the Preludio e Umsindo was updated for full orchestra in 2007.

While symphonic in structure, this work is heavily influenced by traditional African music.The orchestra produced a very pleasing performance of this composition and it proved to be a rousing start to the evening.

The highlight of the concert was without doubt the Violin Concerto in D Major, Op 35 by Piotrilyich Tchaikovsky. This beautiful composition is one of the most important works for the violin in the history of Romantic music. It is also regarded as one of the most technically difficult works to perform.

This, however, was no problem for soloist Joana Frankel as she showed prodigious technical ability and consummate musicality as she performed this wonderful work with flawless and breathtaking skill and beauty. It was absolutely sublime.

The orchestra produced an inspired performance under the baton of Bernhard Gueller in support of this virtuoso performance.

It was an intense and emotional experience for the audience.One can only say that the KZNPO is blessed to have an artist of quality of Joanna Frankel as its concertmaster.

The final work on the programme was Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No 8, in G major, Op. 88. It is a cheerful and lyrical composition and is characterised by its variable moods, with some very dramatic moments. The orchestra was in fine form for this work and delivered a brilliant performance.

Conductor Bernhard Gueller has excellent rapport with the orchestra. They respond well to his guidance and the result is a musical experience to be savoured.

The Guy Butler Theatre at the Settlers Monument in Grahamstown was filled to capacity for this concert. The enthusiastic audience spontaneously broke into applause at every opportunity. While this can be disruptive for the performers at times, I think they deserved every display of appreciation and support they received.

This Symphony Concert again confirmed the KZNPO as the premier orchestra on the African continent’ and I am sure that this performance will stand as the number one event of the festival in 2015. KZN can be truly proud of their orchestra. – Keith Millar

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