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Friday, June 3, 2016


(Clayton Penrose-Whitmore)

Big sound came to the Durban City Hall. (Review by Michael Green)

The big sound came to the Durban City Hall in the most recent concert of the winter season of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra.

The orchestra, normal full complement about 70 players, were augmented by the inclusion of members of the Bochabela String Orchestra from Bloemfontein and members of the KZN Youth Wind Band. For the main item on the programme, the Concerto for Orchestra by the 20th century Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski, there were about a hundred players on the stage.

The concert opened with Dmitri Shostakovich’s Festive Overture, a joyful six-minute piece. It was written in three days in 1954, and as Joseph Stalin had died the previous year the composer was no doubt in festive mood. Stalin had for many years been an intermittent persecutor of Shostakovich.

The orchestra, under the direction of their resident conductor Lykele Temmingh, gave a compelling performance of this bright music.

The soloist of the evening was a 22-year–old American violinist named Clayton Penrose-Whitmore. He played the Violin Concerto No. 2 by another Polish composer, Henryk Wieniawski (1835-1880).

Wieniawski was a celebrated violin virtuoso. He wrote about 30 compositions, of which this is the best known. Predictably enough, it is technically challenging and pleasantly melodious.

Penrose-Whitmore displayed a formidable technique in the virtuoso passages and a full, rich tone in the lovely slow movement. He has a good stage demeanour, indicating a maturity beyond his years. He should go far.

The Lutoslawski Concerto for Orchestra, completed in 1954, is, as its name suggests, a large-scale work that gives various instruments a chance to shine individually but also presents the entire orchestra as a virtuoso medium. The style is very much 20th century modern, and there are many clearly discernible references to folk music.

Our enlarged orchestra gave a resounding performance of this brilliant, at times almost overpowering, orchestral showpiece. - Michael Green