Madeline Adkins’s appearance with the KZNPO was a great success. (Review by Michael Green)
The spring season of the KZNPO has a geographical touch, with each of the eight concerts in the Durban City Hall labelled for the home territory of the composers involved.
We started with “Russian Jewels”, and the second concert was called “German Craft”. This title sounds vaguely like a type of beer or a spy novel, but it is fitting. The composers on the programme – Richard Wagner, Max Bruch and Johannes Brahms – are all quintessentially German in their very different ways, and their music gave much pleasure to the audience.
The popular Israeli-American conductor Daniel Boico was in charge again, and the soloist was an American violinist, Madeline Adkins, playing Bruch’s Violin Concerto No 1 in G minor.
Madeline Adkins toured South Africa four years ago, but I don’t think she has played in Durban before. She comes from Texas and is a member of a remarkable family born to musicologist parents. Seven of the eight children are musicians – four violinists, two cellists and a soprano singer – and it seems that six of them are professional performers.
Adkins, who is married and is now somewhere in her 30’s, has been a solo violinist and orchestra player in many parts of the United States. She was until recently concertmaster of the orchestra in Baltimore, not far from Washington. This month she takes up a similar position in the Utah Symphony Orchestra, based in Salt Lake City.
Her appearance with the KZNPO was a great success. Max Bruch (1838-1920) was a prolific composer who is remembered today only by his first violin concerto, by a delightful Scottish Fantasy and by a Kol Nidrei commissioned by the Jewish community in Liverpool (Bruch himself was not Jewish).
His melodious and emotional first concerto is one of the high points of the entire violin repertory, and Madeline Adkins gave a beautifully eloquent performance of it. The surpassingly sweet slow movement was played with a full rich tone that captivated the audience, and the virtuoso outer movements were handled with immaculate technique.
The orchestra, as elsewhere in the concert, responded admirably to Boico’s sympathetic conducting.
The big work of the evening was Brahms’s Symphony No 4, which dates from 1884. This is grand music, solemn and serious but never mournful, and the KZNPO performance depicted splendidly the massive structure of the work.
Another imposing composition, Wagner’s Tannhauser Overture, opened the concert, with some fine playing from the brass instruments in particular.
An unexpected feature of the evening was the appearance of a local radio announcer in the role of cheerleader (“Give them some Durban applause”) and bearer of old news (“There will be an interval of 20 minutes”). Inappropriate and unnecessary, and more suited to the music hall than the concert hall. - Michael Green
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