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Friday, February 24, 2017


(Daniel Boico)

An exceptionally fine evening of music made for a memorable concert. (Review by Michael Green)

An exceptionally fine evening of music was provided by the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra and an outstanding pianist in the third concert of the orchestra’s summer symphony season, in the Playhouse, Durban.

The programme was all Russian, the conductor was the Israeli-American Daniel Boico, a familiar and much admired figure here, and the pianist was the Romanian Daniel Ciobanu.

Ciobanu is 25 years old, and I am among the many who believe that he will soon become a major international star of the keyboard. Earlier in the week he had given a dazzling display for the Friends of Music. With the orchestra he scored a triumph in Sergei Prokofiev’s vivid and very difficult Piano Concerto No. 3.

This work, dating from 1921, is far more accessible than much 20th century music. It has plenty of good tunes and a kind of compulsive energy that excites the listeners.

Ciobanu performed with great panache, confidence and power, and the balance with the orchestra was first-rate. This music is often very loud, but one could always hear the detail. When he finished with a final flourish the audience gave him an excited standing ovation.

In response he played a delightful jazz encore that mystified all. What was it?, they were asking.

I was given the answer after the concert by the pianist himself. It was a piece called Tom and Jerry by the contemporary Japanese woman composer Hiromi Uehara.

The concert opened with the Prince Igor Overture by Alexander Borodin (1833-1887), a medical scientist who was a highly original part-time composer.

The major work of the evening was Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, the Pathetique, first performed in 1893 nine days before the composer’s death after drinking cholera-infected water.

Accident or suicide? Nobody is sure, but the symphony is a wonderfully emotional farewell to the world.

Three years ago Daniel Boico conducted the KZNPO in an excellent performance of this symphony, and that success was repeated this time. Boico is a highly expressive conductor, and his total involvement with the music extracted full value from Tchaikovsky’s brilliant and sometimes heart-rending score. The orchestra’s strong string sections were always heard to good effect and there was a notable contribution from the woodwind players.

After the final dark notes had died away there was a perceptible, respectful silence from the audience before they burst into prolonged applause, bringing a memorable concert to an end. - Michael Green