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Saturday, February 27, 2016


(Olga Kern)

Virtuoso piano performance by a beautiful blonde. (Review by Michael Green)

A virtuoso piano performance by a beautiful blonde created scenes of great enthusiasm in the Durban City Hall at the second concert of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra’s summer season.

Olga Kern comes from Russia and now lives in the United States. In recent years she has built an international reputation as a pianist. She has appeared in Durban before, demonstrating her extraordinary abilities. This time she played Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 1 in F sharp minor, with the visiting German conductor Wolfram Christ on the podium.

This concerto was written in 1891, when the composer was only 18 years old. He revised it extensively 26 years later, and in its final form it is not a juvenile work but a brilliant piece with the sweeping melodies and spectacular pianism that have made Rachmaninoff’s concertos No. 2 and No. 3 concert favourites all over the world for the past hundred years.

Olga Kern, a tall, slender young woman, gave a performance of non-stop virtuosity, with thundering octaves and rapid runs. Many listeners were amazed that so slight and feminine a physique could produce playing of such power. And it was not all power. She showed a lovely limpid tone in the expressive slow movement.

The result of all this was a standing ovation from an excited audience. In response to the prolonged applause she gave two Rachmaninoff encores, the second his arrangement of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumble Bee, played at breathtaking speed.

The other big work on the programme was Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 7 in D minor. This is a very fine work by the Czech master, dramatic, solemn, lyrical and, in the end, triumphant. The orchestra were in splendid form, with top-quality playing all round, and with much credit going to Wolfram Christ, the conductor.

The concert opened with Rachmaninoff’s symphonic poem The Rock, written when the composer was 20. It is serious and rather sad, but vividly orchestrated. - Michael Green

For more information on the KZN Philharmonic, click on the orchestra’s advert at the top of this page to link to their website