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Saturday, May 21, 2016


(Melvyn Tan. Pic Sheila Rock)

Six-concert winter season gets off to a highly successful start. (Review by Michael Green)

The six-concert winter season of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra got off to a highly successful start in the Durban City Hall with a varied programme, high quality performances and an enthusiastic audience.

The dynamic Israeli/American conductor Daniel Boico, a regular and popular visitor to Durban, was on the podium for a concert that ran well over the normal time but was consistently enjoyable.

The opening items were choral, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Durban Symphonic Choir. This choir was supplemented by the Clermont Community Choir, making a total of about 120 singers. They made a tremendous impact in two brief religious masterworks, The Heavens are Telling the Glory of God from Haydn’s oratorio The Creation and Mozart’s Ave verum corpus, Hail the true body.

The power, discipline and expressive balance of the singers were a tribute to their choirmaster, Ros Conrad, and the three soloists in the Haydn work were all very good: Thembi Sithole (soprano), Lindokuhle Ngcobo (tenor) and Andile Dlamini (baritone).

This part of the programme lasted only 10 minutes and left many listeners wishing that the choir had been given more time.

Next came one of the finest of Mozart’s 27 piano concertos, No. 23 in A Major. The soloist was Melvyn Tan, who was born in Singapore 60 years ago, has built a big international reputation, and has played in Durban before.

This wonderfully melodious composition was taken at a brisk speed, and the pianist gave a fluent, graceful, highly skilled performance.

In response to prolonged applause he gave a lengthy and sparkling encore, one of the many sets of variations by the early 19th century Austrian composer Carl Czerny.

The big work of the evening was Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, which was written in 1830, has five movements, runs for nearly an hour, and remains challenging, interesting and modern. The composer called it an “Episode in the Life of an Artist”, and it tells the rather bizarre story of the misfortunes of a young musician who is under the influence of opium (there is some evidence that Berlioz himself was using opium when he wrote it).

This massive work was given the full treatment by the orchestra of about 70 players, with outstanding contributions from all departments.

At the end conductor and orchestra were given a wildly excited ovation from the audience. - Michael Green

(To link direct to the KZN Philharmonic’s website click on the orchestra’s banner advert on the top right hand of the page)