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Saturday, June 10, 2017


(Philippe Graffin)

A brilliant performance by Philippe Graffin of the “Symphonie Espagnole” (Review by Michael Green)

Big, resonant music from the 19th and 20th centuries was the fare for the second concert of the winter season of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra, in the Durban Playhouse.

The orchestra, at full strength with about 70 players, were in fine form under the baton of the Israeli-American conductor Daniel Boico, a regular and popular visitor here. He has the gift of conveying his enthusiasm and insight to the orchestra and to the audience, with highly successful results.

The soloist of the evening was the French violinist Philippe Graffin, who has built a distinguished career in Europe. He gave a brilliant performance of the Symphonie Espagnole by his countryman Edouard Lalo. Written in 1874, this is Lalo’s only really famous work, and it is in effect a five-movement violin concerto, not a symphony. Based on Spanish and Cuban melodies and rhythms, it has an irresistible appeal, and Philippe Graffin exploited to the full its habanera themes.

In response to prolonged applause he played a very unusual 10-minute encore, Ferdinand the Bull by the English composer Alan Ridout, with a spoken narrative read by Daniel Boico. The story of Ferdinand, who preferred flowers to bullfights, was much to the taste of the audience.

The programme opened with a vigorous account of the Overture Solennelle, Solemn Overture, by the late romantic Russian composer Alexander Glazunov (1865-1928). This work was originally called Festival Overture, and it is certainly more festive than solemn, with bright orchestration and lyrical melodies.

The big work of the evening was Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No 10 in E minor. It was composed in 1953 after the death of Joseph Stalin in March of that year, and there has been some controversy about the meaning and background of the symphony. There seems little doubt, however, that it reflects the repressive atmosphere of the Stalinist era and that the violent and brutal second movement is a portrait in music of the dictator himself.

Under Daniel Boico’s ceaselessly concentrated leadership the orchestra gave a splendid performance of this massive work. The concert as a whole was one more testimony to what an outstanding cultural asset we have in our orchestra. - Michael Green