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Friday, November 3, 2017


(Rafal Zambrzycki-Payne)

A thing of beauty… (William Charlton-Perkins reviews the second Late Spring Season concert of the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2017 Word Symphony Series in the Durban City Hall on November 2, 2017.)

A thing of beauty is a joy forever. Keats’ iconic opening line from his poem, Endymion, came to mind and recurred like a mantra as we basked in the measured loveliness of Mozart’s A Major Violin Concerto K219. A crowd-pulling draw card of a work? Perhaps not. But like balm in troubled times – the work itself belies the stifled circumstances which the teen-aged Mozart endured during its creation – this rococo gem sparkles and glows.

Especially when rendered with the style and respect afforded it by master musician Rafal Zambrzycki-Payne, whose full, rich tones, exquisite phrasing and impeccable embellishment were warmly enhanced by his partnership with conductor Justus Frantz and the KZN Philharmonic during the second concert of its Late Spring Season on Thursday.

This World Symphony Series event in the Durban City Hall kicked off with an appropriately fleet-footed, if slightly big boned account of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro Overture. While maestro Frantz’s ‘old school’ approach to this mercurial piece was clearly at one with the generous proportions of his orchestra, it certainly paid dividends in the second half of the programme. He delivered a memorable account of Franz Schubert’s magnum opus, the Symphony No 9 D 944 in C Major, which conclusively upheld its status as one of the cornerstones of today’s symphonic repertoire.

Listening to the conductor firing up his players with an impassioned reading of this great work, whose overriding affirmation of humanity transcends the tragic circumstances of Schubert’s life, my harking back to Keats, whose contemporaneous lifespan mirrored the composer’s, seemed doubly apposite.

Stand out moments included the plangent interplay between oboe and clarinet in the wonderfully melodious second movement Adagio, settling into a magical lull before being rudely interrupted by the strings’ and timpani’s rigorous interjections; the ebb and flow of the puckish third movement’s Scherzo, rising repeatedly to great swells of energy; and the headlong gallop of the finale, running its course with a sense of unremitting inevitability from first to last.

Not for a second did one feel that Maestro Frantz’s reading, repeats and all, had overstayed its welcome.

Bravo. – William Charlton-Perkins

(To link direct to the KZN Philharmonic’s website click on the orchestra’s banner advert on the top right hand of the page)