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Friday, October 23, 2015


(Daniel Raiskin)

Triumphant conclusion to KZN Philharmonic spring season. (Review by Michael Green)

Big sounds of music filled the Durban City Hall as Carl Orff’s choral work Carmina Burana brought the spring season of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra to a triumphant conclusion.

This extraordinary composition, written in 1936, is based on mediaeval poems found in a Bavarian monastery two hundred years ago. It calls for a large orchestra and a large choir, and it has been performed in Durban many times, partly because it provides the opportunity of involving wider communities than the orchestra’s usual performers and audiences.

That commendable social purpose is matched by the splendour of the music. Repeated performances have not dimmed the tremendous power and appeal of Carmina Burana, and this latest presentation brought forth at the end a standing ovation from a big and excited audience.

About 70 instrumentalists and more than 150 singers gave and derived great enjoyment from Orff’s remarkable music, which is a sort of reproduction of the fundamental tones of centuries ago.

Much of the credit for this success must go to the conductor, Daniel Raiskin, a Russian who is now based in Germany and who has established a big reputation in Europe and Asia. He is an imposing figure on the podium, and he seems to conduct with great commitment and concern for detail.

The three vocal soloists were all outstanding, with technical skills that met the difficulties of their parts. Beverley Chiat, the Cape Town coloratura soprano, has sung in Carmina Burana many times, and she again displayed a beautiful, accurate and strong voice. Njabulo Madlala, baritone, born in Durban, trained in London, is an experienced and expressive singer. Nicholas Nicholaidis, tenor from Johannesburg, is another Carmina veteran, and he handled his falsetto verses with high skills.

The choir came from members of the Clermont Community Choir, Durban Symphonic Choir, SA Singers and Durban Serenade, plus a group of about 40 children from the Ekuthuleni Primary School Choir.

They were all obviously well trained and well disciplined, and in full voice they produced an impressive volume of sound.

The orchestra’s players were in fine form, and their performance seemed to inspire the singers.

The concert opened with Richard Strauss’s 1889 composition Tod und Verklarung, Death and Transfiguration, which is about a dying man’s thoughts, memories and eventual expiry. It is a good example of Strauss’s rich orchestration, and it is not as grim as the title suggests. - Michael Green