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Saturday, March 12, 2016


(Farida Bacharova)
Programme of the very familiar and the totally unfamiliar. (Review by Michael Green)

The very familiar and the totally unfamiliar made up the programme for the fourth concert of the summer season of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra, in the Durban City Hall.

The first category was represented by Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, a great favourite for nearly 200 years. In the second category was the Symphony No. 2 by the American composer Charles Ives. It seems likely that nobody in the audience had ever heard a live performance of this composition.

The soloist in the Mendelssohn was Farida Bacharova, a Russian violinist who has lived in Cape Town for the past 21 years and is well-known there as a player and as a professor of music.

She displayed a full, sweet tone and high technical skills in Mendelssohn’s challenging score, and there was obviously a strong rapport between herself and the conductor, James Ross, a visiting American who has appeared in Durban before. The high point, as ever, was the surpassingly sweet slow movement of the concerto.

The compositions of Charles Ives (1974-1954) range from the traditional to the avant-garde. His second symphony is an entirely accessible work, rather romantic in mood, skilfully orchestrated, with many references to American folk music.

The orchestra players were in fine form, James Ross guiding them with insight and enthusiasm.

The audience responded with prolonged applause. Nevertheless, the fact is that there were many more empty seats than usual in the hall. There is no doubt that the choice of programme affects the size of the audience.

The concert opened with a resounding performance of Beethoven’s Fidelio Overture. The programme note said three times that Beethoven “struggled” with various forms of composition, and added that he “was constantly reinventing the wheel”.  An odd assessment of the greatest composer of them all. - Michael Green