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Friday, February 23, 2018


Tremendous Tchaikovsky (Review by William Charlton-Perkins)

Always a joy on the podium, both visually and aurally, conductor Daniel Boico launched the KZN Philharmonic’s Summer Season in the Playhouse Opera on Thursday (February 22, 2018) with a fine account of Liszt’s Les Preludes. The Hungarian composer’s lush writing for the strings would have benefited from a larger body of players in this section, particularly given the ungrateful acoustics of the venue, but there was no faulting their silken tone in the quiet interludes, and their keenly alert response to the maestro’s every gesture throughout the wide-ranging trajectory of this dramatic piece.

The symphonic poem runs the gamut of high drama, from passages of brash, raw energy and thrillingly exposed, neo-Wagnerian bombast - with the orchestra’s brass and timpani sections on top form – to a hushed, piquant central interlude, punctuated by a pixie-like interjection from the harp, spreading magically through the winds, before the full orchestra was swept up in a groundswell of climactic fanfares. A magnificent curtain-raiser.

I was less captivated by the performance that followed of Saint-Saëns’s G minor Piano Concerto. There is no denying the musicality and virtuosity of the acclaimed young Ukrainian pianist, Anna Dmytrenko. Sadly, what should have proved an electrifying experience was impeded by a misguided management decision.

This saw the soloist’s interpretation of this showpiece undermined by the ‘spent’ tonal palette of the venue’s played-out old Bösendorfer grand - an instrument that has been in service since the formation of the orchestra in the early eighties. Why was this artist not accorded the use of the pristine Model D Steinway, safely stashed away in the City Hall? What we had was certainly valiant. It could have been so much more.

All was forgiven by the electrifying account of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 4 that brought the evening to a close. Rising out of the gloom of the work’s sombre opening movement, we were transported into a quintessential wonderland of Tchaikovsky melodies in the second movement’s Andantino in modo di canzona.

The third movement Scherzo, marked Pizzicato Ostinato, as rendered by Maestro Boico and his players, must surely rank as one of the composer’s most exquisite masterstrokes, while the fireworks of the finale cannot but drive an audience into a frenzy of exhilaration. A knock-out of a performance, from first to last. - William Charlton-Perkins

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