Concerto enabled Sabine Baird to show again that she is an unusually gifted performer. (Review by Michael Green)
Nordic Nights was the title given to the fourth concert of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra’s geographically themed spring season, in the Durban City Hall.
With one exception the music played came from Scandinavia, and the programme ranged from the very popular to the more or less unknown.
Under the direction of the visiting Dutch conductor Arjan Tien the orchestra gave spirited accounts of two famous pieces, Jean Sibelius’s melancholy and beautiful Valse Triste and Edvard Grieg’s Wedding Day at Troldhaugen (I’ve been to Troldhaugen in Norway and it’s a great place for a wedding or, in this case, a wedding anniversary). These two compositions have a tireless appeal, and they put the audience in a happy frame of mind.
The unknown quantity for most listeners was Jacques Ibert’s Flute Concerto, played by the orchestra’s principal flautist Sabine Baird. Ibert (1890-1952) is a rather whimsical French composer best known for a delightful piano miniature called The Little White Donkey. His flute concerto is typically witty, brilliantly scored, light-hearted, and in the slow movement, gently melodious and poetic.
It is very difficult to play and Sabine Baird overcame the technical problems with great aplomb. She had impressed in earlier chamber music concerts in Durban, and this concerto enabled her to show again that she is an unusually gifted performer.
After the interval we were given an overwhelming performance of Sibelius’s Symphony No. 1 in E minor, grand, massive music, dynamic conducting from Arjan Tien, and splendid playing from the 70-strong orchestra.
The powerful string sections of the orchestra, about 40 players, were heard to great effect, and the long clarinet solo that introduces the work was expressively played by the orchestra’s principal clarinettist, Junnan Sun.
All this was proof again that in a work of this kind there is really no substitute for a live performance by a big orchestra. - Michael Green
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