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Friday, September 11, 2015


(Hrachya Avanesyan)

Memorable performances in programme of boisterous and dramatic music. (Review by Michael Green)

Two stars shone brightly in the third concert of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra’s spring season in the Durban City Hall. One was the Armenian violinist Hrachya Avanesyan; the other was the Israeli-American conductor Daniel Boico.

Avanesyan, who is 29 and now lives in Belgium, is a newcomer to Durban. He made a great impression in a relatively little known work, the Violin Concerto by the Danish composer Carl Nielsen (1865-1931). Written in 1911, this composition is not aggressively modern; it has recognisable melodies, a rather diffuse structure, and a brilliant role for the soloist.

Avanesyan, who plays a 300-year-old Stradivarius violin, surmounted the technical difficulties with high skill and produced a pure, sweet tone in the many lyrical passages. The orchestra was an admirable partner in a highly successful performance.

Following an ovation from the audience Avanesyan played a delightful encore, Paganini’s Carnival of Venice, a virtuoso arrangement of a folk song, with a pizzicato accompaniment from the orchestra’s strings.

Daniel Boico is a regular visitor to Durban and a favourite with concertgoers here. On this occasion he excelled in a programme of boisterous and dramatic music.

The concert opened with Liszt’s famous Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, possibly the most famous piano piece ever written and presented here in an orchestral arrangement by a German musician, Karl Muller-Berghaus. Boico conducted this with great verve and obvious enjoyment, and the orchestra responded in like fashion.

Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 in F minor is a big, powerful work, and the players and the conductor revelled in its brilliant orchestration. It has its quiet moments, notably the remarkable pizzicato third movement, plucked strings only, with a little intervention from the woodwind, but the dominant mood is one of drama and tension.

The KZNPO gave a memorable performance, from the ominous opening brass fanfare to the final volcanic conclusion, and their playing was much appreciated by the audience – and the conductor. - Michael Green