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Friday, July 1, 2016


(Christopher Duigan. Pic by Val Adamson)

St Agnes Church gives a different, almost personal, dimension to the audience’s experience of the performance. (Review by Keith Millar)

The picturesque stone chapel at the St Agnes Church in Kloof was the venue last Thursday night, for a rousing concert which featured the music by two of the greatest composers of all time.

Performing Beethoven and Mozart before a sold-out audience was the magnificent KZN Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Daniel Walshaw and with soloists, Christopher Duigan (piano) and Junnan Sun (clarinet) as soloists.

The orchestra on this occasion was reduced in size to 40 players in order to fit them into the limited space of the venue. However, this is similar in size to the orchestras of Beethoven’s time - so this is entirely appropriate when performing his music.

The venue is very intimate with audience and orchestra sitting very close to each other as opposed to being fairly remote as is the case in most concert halls. This gives a different, almost personal, dimension to the audience’s experience of the performance. They can see and hear everything the musicians do at close quarters.

The acoustic of the venue also adds to the experience with its pleasing, warm and well-blended quality.

The concert started with Daniel Walshaw, who is also the Artistic Administrator of the KZNPO, conducting the orchestra in an exuberant rendering of Ludwig van Beethoven’s buoyant and colourful Symphony No.2 in D major, Op.36.

The KZNPO is an orchestra that performs at a consistently high level, and they certainly did not disappoint with their execution of this lyrical work under the energetic and animated leadership of Walshaw.

Completing the first half of the programme was a performance by clarinetist Junnan Sun of the Adagio movement from Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A major, K. 622. This well-loved and achingly beautiful piece of music was popularised in the movie Out of Africa. Sun, who is the Principal Clarinetist for the KZNPO and has a burgeoning reputation as a musician, played this piece with great sensitivity and serenity. A memorable performance.

Christopher Duigan, who is regarded as one of the country’s leading concert pianists was the soloist for the final work on the programme, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.3 in C minor Op. 37. Duigan’s organisation, Music Revival, is also the co-producer along with the KZNPO of this concert and is the force behind the monthly concerts which are held at the St Agnes Church in Kloof.

Duigan, who is a Steinway artist, has been appearing on a regular basis with orchestras in South Africa and abroad for many years. He is a confident, skilled and complete performer. Attributes which he brought to bear in a masterful performance of this piano concerto.

The Third Piano Concerto is a vigorous work full of shimmering colour and energy. It is not easy to play as Beethoven wrote it to show off his own capabilities as a pianist and to challenge the capabilities of the instrument of the day. Duigan was equal to the task of interpreting this work and gave a virtuoso performance.

The superb KZNPO provided skillful and sympathetic support in accompanying both the solo performers.

Music revival Concerts are held at St Agnes Church in Kloof on the last Thursday evening of each month. They are presented with the trademark Duigan laid-back, intimate and informative style. However, rest assured that the music is always out of the top drawer – making these events something not to be missed. – Keith Millar