(Report by Michael Green)
The six-concert summer symphony season of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra, in the Playhouse, Durban, opens on February 9 with music from the early 19th and mid-20th centuries.
Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, the Pastoral, is the main item on the programme. Dating from 1808, this portrayal of the beauties of nature is one of Beethoven’s best-loved masterpieces. One of the composer’s favourite recreations was taking country walks, and that experience is depicted vividly in this symphony.
The titles of the five movements are self-explanatory: Awakening of cheerful feelings on arrival in the countryside; Scene by the brook; Merry gathering of country folk; Thunderstorm; Happy and thankful feelings after the storm.
The name Dmitri Shostakovich is a forbidding one for some music-lovers; they associate it with harsh discords, grim themes and a bleak atmosphere. That is true of some of the modern Russian composer’s large output.
But there is also another side to Shostakovich, one that is tuneful, genial, rhythmical, humorous and generally appealing. That side is represented in this concert by his Concerto No. 2 in F major.
It was written in 1957, four years after the death of Joseph Stalin, the Soviet Union leader who was a constant threat to creative artists who might step out of line with official policies.
In the more relaxed post-Stalin atmosphere Shostakovich wrote this second concerto for the 19th birthday of his son Maxim, who gave the first performance of the work.
It is full of catchy tunes and strong, toe-tapping rhythms. The slow movement is gentle and romantic, and the two outer movements have many brilliant virtuoso passages for pianist and orchestra.
The soloist on February 9 will be Joanna MacGregor, the British pianist who has established a big reputation with performances in more than 70 countries. The conductor will be the Canadian-born Kwame Ryan, who has appeared with distinction in North America, Europe and the Far East.
Pre-concert lectures will be given before all the KZNPO concerts. The lecturers discuss informally the music to be played and provide musical illustrations. The purpose is to increase the enjoyment of those attending the concert.
I will be giving the lecture on February 9, in the Alhambra Room at the Playhouse at 18h00. Entry is R10. The lecture will end by 18h45, in time for a drink and a snack before the concert starts at 19h30.
Bookings for the concert and for season tickets are at Computicket or Checkers or the KZNPO, phone 031 369 9438. Or you can buy a ticket on the night at the door. – Michael Green