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Saturday, May 28, 2016


(Horn player, Jeff Nelsen)

Brilliant performance by the orchestra of a work seldom heard in Durban. (Review by Michael Green)

An outstanding Canadian horn player was the central figure in the latest concert of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra, in the Durban City Hall, but the evening as a whole was dominated by a brilliant performance by the orchestra of a work seldom heard here, Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 4.

The horn player was Jeff Nelsen, who over the past 20 years has built a big reputation in many orchestras, and as a soloist and a teacher. He gave a highly skilful, artistic performance in Richard Strauss’s Horn Concerto No. 2, written in 1943 when the composer was 79 but a remarkably youthful and melodious composition.

The horn is a difficult instrument to play, but one wouldn’t have said so listening to Jeff Nelsen’s vivid, expressive and accurate performance of this attractive, concise concerto. The orchestra, under the direction of Daniel Boico, provided sympathetic and well-balanced partnership.

Schumann’s fourth symphony was written in 1841 and extensively revised by the composer in 1851. Learned musicologists have complained that Schumann is not a first-rate composer for the orchestra, but nobody in the City Hall audience would have agreed with that notion. With the ceaselessly energetic Daniel Boico on the podium the orchestra gave a wonderfully resonant, full-blooded account of this splendid music, and they were rewarded with a prolonged ovation at the end.

The concert opened with The Chairman’s Dance by the contemporary American composer John Adams, the dancer concerned being Chairman Mao Tse-Tung of China.

Adams is a minimalist. Minimalism in music means, among other things, a minimum of melody and harmony, points well illustrated in this 12-minute composition. - Michael Green