national Arts Festival Banner

Friday, February 10, 2017


(Kwamé Ryan)

Splendid start to the KZNPO summer symphony season. (Review by Michael Green)

Music spanning a century and a half provided a splendid start to the summer symphony season of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra, in the Playhouse, Durban.

The composers were Dmitri Shostakovich, represented by his Piano Concerto No. 2, written in 1957, and Ludwig van Beethoven, with his Symphony No. 6, the Pastoral, dating from 1808.

The Shostakovich concerto was played by the English pianist Joanna MacGregor, who last appeared in Durban in 1998. She gave a brilliant performance of a tuneful, rhythmical, percussive work, easy on the ear, the composer in relaxed mood.

Joanna MacGregor is a flamboyant type of pianist, from tip to toe, and she brought the large audience to a pitch of excitement, with applause, shouts and cheers at the end. She responded with an encore, a virtuoso version of the Libertango by the Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla, and this too was received with great enthusiasm.

The conductor of the evening was a newcomer to Durban, a very interesting and accomplished man named Kwamé Ryan. Born in Canada, he grew up on the Caribbean island of Trinidad, had his musical education in England, and has over the past 20 years conducted many top-class orchestras in Europe and America.

He is a delightfully persuasive figure on the podium, directing the orchestra with skill and accuracy while not afraid to show his own enjoyment of the music.

The programme opened with Beethoven’s imposing Prometheus Overture, and after the interval we had the beautiful five-movement Pastoral Symphony, Beethoven’s tour of the countryside he loved so much.

The orchestra were in top form here, with fine contributions all round, from the powerful string sections to the flutes, oboes and clarinets with their bird calls in the second movement. - Michael Green