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Friday, October 9, 2015


(Vitaly Pisarenko)

Enthralling, triumphant performance of music written 210 years ago. (Review by Michael Green)

Music by Tchaikovsky and Beethoven drew the biggest audience of the season to the Durban City Hall for the penultimate concert of the eight-concert spring season of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra.

In an atmosphere of excitement and expectation the conductor and players responded with brilliant performances. Here was ample proof, if proof were needed, that the right programme can still attract large numbers of paying customers.

The distinguished German conductor Justus Frantz, no stranger here, was on the podium, and the soloist was the Ukrainian-born pianist Vitaly Pisarenko.

They made an interesting contrast in appearance, Frantz a white-haired 71-year-old, Pisarenko a slim, boyish 28-year-old. But the age difference disappeared as they and the orchestra delivered an exceptional account of Tchaikovsky’s piano concerto in B flat minor, one of the most famous works in the entire repertory.

Pisarenko is a pianist of astonishing ability. He displayed an extraordinary technique in the concerto’s great virtuoso passages, thunderous octaves, rapid runs, and he produced a lovely rounded tone in the lyrical, poetic themes; Tchaikovsky is nothing if not tuneful.

Frantz conducted with great vigour and authority, and the orchestra’s players were in splendid form.

They were all rewarded at the end with a standing ovation from the audience, and the pianist gave an encore, an arrangement by the Russian composer Alexander Siloti of a Prelude in B minor by Bach.

The concert opened with a lively and strong presentation of Mozart’s Symphony No. 32, which runs for only about 10 minutes and has no breaks.

After the interval came one of the supreme works, Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony (No. 3 in E flat major). Here Justus Frantz was a dynamic figure, drawing powerful and precise playing from the orchestra.

It was an enthralling, triumphant performance of music that was written 210 years ago and is still amazingly modern in many ways. The audience gave prolonged applause at the end, and this was followed by a rarity: an encore by the orchestra, in this case Brahms’s Hungarian Dance No. 5. - Michael Green