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Saturday, September 26, 2015


(Conductor Arjan Tien)

An evening of varied, rich and colourful entertainment. (Review by Michael Green)

The KZN Philharmonic Orchestra celebrated Heritage Day with a multicultural concert in the Durban City Hall, with music from Africa, Asia and Europe.

A choir of a hundred voices, solo singers, an exotic soloist from India and of course our 70-strong orchestra provided an evening of varied, rich and colourful entertainment.

Taxi and bus problems probably prevented some supporters of the choir from attending the concert, and the programme itself may have deterred some others. Whatever the reasons, the audience was smaller than usual, a pity because the programme was interesting and the performances were of high quality.

Arjan Tien, the Dutch conductor who has been a regular and popular visitor to Durban for nearly 20 years, was on the podium. He and the orchestra got things off to a bright start with a robust performance of Danzon (a Cuban dance style) No. 2 by the 65-year-old Mexican composer Arturo Marquez.

This is a joyful piece, brilliantly scored and full of Latin rhythms, and it was obviously much enjoyed by the players and the listeners.

A very different scene was presented in the next item, a Concerto for Tabla by Dinuk Wijeratne, who was born in Sri Lanka in 1978 and now lives in Canada.

The tabla is a pair of small Indian drums, played with the fingers and palms of the hands, and in this concerto the soloist was a celebrated Indian exponent of the instrument, Sandeep Das. The orchestra’s part in this work (which was written in 2010) is in the modern western style; the drums of course contribute no harmony and just a vestige of melody. Their role is rhythm, and Sandeep Das demonstrated a fascinating hand speed and variety of touch in his playing.

The three-movement concerto ran for about 25 minutes, it had many exciting and interesting passages (including a spoken part by the performer), and it was well received by the audience.

The orchestra moved to more familiar ground with Mozart’s Symphony No. 25 in G minor. This is one of only two of Mozart’s 41 symphonies that are in a minor key;  the other, also in G minor, is the celebrated No. 40. Because No. 40 is so famous, No 25 is sometimes called the “Little Symphony in G minor”. 

This is a misnomer. The work is forceful, rhythmical, strongly accented, dramatic and subtle. It was given a fine, sparkling performance by Arjan Tien and the orchestra.

South African vocal music completed the programme. The Clermont Community Choir and the Durban Serenade Choir joined forces in works by Phelelani Mnomiya and Sibusio Njeza and showed impressive power, balance and discipline in this melodious, consistently appealing music.

The soloists, all of whom had splendid and well-trained voices, were Wayne Mkhize (tenor); Siphokazi Maphumulo (soprano); Smanga Cebekulu (tenor), and Melusi Kubheka (baritone). - Michael Green