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Friday, March 10, 2017


(Conductor Yasuo Shinozaki)

Outstanding performance of a timeless masterpiece. (Review by Michael Green)

The wonderfully familiar and the totally unfamiliar were presented by the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra at the fifth concert of their summer season in the Playhouse, Durban.

At one end of the scale of general knowledge we had Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, a supreme masterwork, and at the other a trombone concerto by the Danish composer Launy Grondahl, a name that would have been unknown to most members of the audience.

The performance of this concerto had a truly international flavour, with a Danish composer, a Japanese conductor, Yasuo Shinozaki, and an Italian soloist, Andrea Balocco. The conductor is a much admired previous visitor to Durban and the soloist is the principal trombone player in the KZNPO.

Launy Grondahl (1886-1960) wrote his trombone concerto in 1924. It is apparently regarded as the main work in the somewhat limited repertoire for this instrument. The trombone, a member of the brass section of an orchestra, can produce a very loud sound but it can also be gentle and mellow, and it is this aspect that Launy Grondahl often emphasises in his 16-minute concerto.

The result, as was revealed in the Durban performance, is a very pleasant, graceful and unusual piece of music. Andrea Balocco played with great skill and with a controlled cantabile tone, especially in the slow movement, the most memorable part of the entire work. The audience obviously enjoyed this new experience.

Yasuo Shinozaki was his usual expressive self on the podium in the opening item of the concert, Grieg’s Holberg Suite for string orchestra, a delightful work by this sometimes underrated Norwegian composer.

But of course the big music of the evening was Beethoven’s seventh symphony, a composition which Richard Wagner once described as the apotheosis of the dance. It is indeed, among other things, a brilliant display of rhythm. Its extraordinary power and beauty drew huge applause at its first performance in Vienna 203 years ago, and posterity has always agreed with that high opinion.

The orchestra played the symphony with exceptional power and precision. Yasuo Shinozaki conducted with enormous energy, and the orchestra and the audience responded, the latter with a prolonged ovation at the end.

This was an outstanding performance of a timeless masterpiece. - Michael Green