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Friday, February 17, 2017


(Francesca Dego)

A triumph for young Italian violinist. (Review by Michael Green)

The South African premiere of a violin concerto written 75 years ago by Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari proved to be a triumph for the young Italian violinist Francesca Dego when she played with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra in the Playhouse, Durban.

Wolf-Ferrari sounds like a sports car, but he was an Italian composer, born in Venice in 1876 and died there in 1948. He was plain Ermanno Wolf (his father was a German painter) until the age of 21, when he added the maiden name of his mother, Emilia Ferrari, and became Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari.

He was a writer of light operas and chamber music until he produced his only concerto. First performed in Munich in 1944, it has been inexplicably neglected until quite recently.

This concerto is by any reckoning an imposing and beautiful work, traditional in style rather than modern, imaginative, romantic, lyrical.

Francesca Dego is, at the age of 28, becoming one of the world’s leading violinists, and it is easy understand why. In this concerto she showed a crystal-clear tone, commanding attention from the opening notes, plus eloquent phrasing and a piercing sweetness in the high passages.

The audience greatly enjoyed this performance, and in response to prolonged applause the violinist played an encore, one of Paganini’s extraordinarily difficult and brilliant Caprices for solo violin.

Under the direction of Kwamé Ryan the orchestra was again in fine form, in the concerto and the rest of the programme. Kwamé Ryan is a Trinidadian who has become an internationally known conductor.

He is a compact bundle of energy and expressiveness, and he seems to be able to communicate his own enthusiasm to the orchestra players. Certainly he obtained excellent results in the main work of the evening, Antonin Dvorak’s splendid Symphony No 8 in G major, which dates from 1889.

Dvorak’s beautiful melodies and vivid orchestration were displayed to maximum effect in this performance by the KZNPO. A total success for conductor and players.

he concert opened with Mikhail Glinka’s lively and tuneful overture to his opera Ruslan and Ludmilla. - Michael Green