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Friday, June 2, 2017


(Liebrecht Vanbeckevoort. Pic Marnix De Paepe)

Liebrecht Vanbeckevoort gives an outstanding account of the Brahms concerto. (Review by Michael Green)

The winter symphony season of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra got off to a splendid start in the Playhouse, Durban, with a programme of widely contrasting masterworks by Brahms and Beethoven.

The Belgian pianist Liebrecht Vanbeckevoort was the soloist in Brahms’s big, formidable Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor. At the age of 32 Vanbeckevoort has established a substantial reputation in Europe, and he gave an outstanding account here of the Brahms concerto.

His playing was technically brilliant, he handled the rapid octaves and runs and difficult trills with immaculate control, but this was more than just a virtuoso performance. Even more impressive, to my ear, was his well-judged phrasing of the concerto’s many lyrical and noble passages.

The orchestra, conducted by Russian-born Naum Rousine, filled its all-important role with skill and power.

All this brought the audience to a pitch of enthusiasm. In response to a prolonged ovation Vanbeckevoort gave a truly poetic interpretation of one of Brahms’s late piano works, the beautiful Intermezzo in A major Op. 118, No. 2.

The second half of the concert was occupied by Beethoven’s Mass in C major, Op. 86, which was written in 1807 for orchestra and singers. This introduced to Durban the Yale Glee Club Choir from the United States, about 100 singers from Yale University. And there were four vocal soloists: Nozuko Teto, soprano; Violina Anguelov, mezzo-soprano; Wayne Mkhize, tenor; and Mthunzi Nobubeka, baritone.

Glee clubs are not gatherings of chuckling, laughing people. In this context the word glee means a song with various parts sung by a group. The form originated in Britain about 250 years ago, and it is popular among American universities.

Beethoven’s mass is not mournful or too solemn. Beethoven himself said: “Gentleness is the basis of the whole work. There is cheerfulness on the whole”.

This lovely music was delivered with great skill and empathy by the singers and the instrumentalists. The Yale choir sang with discipline, accuracy and balance, and the vocal soloists were all good, with the soprano Nozuko Teto outstanding. And conductor Naum Rousine led the 160 performers on the stage with quiet and undemonstrative but highly effective control. - Michael Green

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