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Friday, June 17, 2016


(Francois du Toit)

This concert featured a triumph of ability, resolve and stamina from a 50 year-old pianist. (Review by Michael Green)

Two South African performers were the highly successful soloists in a Durban City Hall concert given by the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra on the Youth Day public holiday.

They were Francois du Toit, pianist, and Noluvuyiso Mpofu, soprano, both from Cape Town, the first a long-established figure in our music world, the second a relative newcomer who has progressed rapidly to prominence.

Du Toit’s role was remarkable in many ways. He played Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor, a big, difficult work that is one of the finest of all concertos, with great skill and insight, and he did so at very short notice.

The Polish pianist Maciej Grzybowski had been scheduled to play this concerto, but problems arose two days before the concert, and it was necessary to make a change. The orchestra phoned Francois du Toit in Cape Town on the Wednesday morning and asked him to take over.

He had not played the Schumann concerto in public for three years, but he accepted the task and practised the work all day on Wednesday until late in the evening. He flew to Durban the next day and delivered his performance that night. A triumph of ability, resolve and stamina from a pianist who is 50 years old.

At the end he was rewarded with a standing ovation from the audience and a congratulatory hug from the conductor for the evening, Arjan Tien.

Arjan Tien, who comes from the Netherlands, has visited Durban many times over the years and has become a favourite with audiences here. He obviously enjoys his work, and he conveys that sense of enjoyment to the players and the listeners, to great effect.

Noluvuyiso Mpofu, who is 25, is a product of the University of Cape Town’s Opera School and she has appeared in several operas. She has an excellent soprano voice, powerful, accurate and disciplined, and she has a confident and attractive stage manner.

She sang arias by Donizetti and Verdi, songs that displayed her considerable gifts, and the audience showed their appreciation with shouts and whistles.

Under Arjan Tien’s vigorous and sensitive direction the orchestra were in good form in Humperdinck’s Hansel und Gretel prelude, a Donizetti piece, and two celebrated works by Verdi, the La Traviata prelude and the Nabucco overture. - Michael Green