national Arts Festival Banner

Saturday, March 2, 2019


(Victor Yampolsky)

Throughout last night’s concert there was a warmth evident between conductor, leader and orchestra, all which led to convincing interpretations. (Review by Andrew-John Bethke)

Schumann’s Fourth Symphony seems to have been an experimental excursion which tested the symphonic form with new compositional possibilities, while steering clear of the shadows of Beethoven’s colossal third and ninth symphonic statements. It is a work full of surprising melodic, harmonic and formal elements which offers an open window into the turbulent and complex soul of its composer.

The question is, how can such a work be interpreted and performed to display its inherent qualities of experimentation and innovation, while also highlighting elements of clarity within the thick texture?

Victor Yampolsky certainly offered last night’s listeners a reading which brought these qualities to the fore. In particular, the finale was full of the Romantic energy and surprise which characterizes the symphony, but which still achieved a sparkling lucidity during the fugetta at the mid-point of the movement.

The unanimity achieved by the orchestra in the finale was remarkable. The tenderness of the second movement was revealed through delicate playing from the group, but especially the cello, oboe and violin soloists who were rightly acknowledged by the conductor at the end of the symphony. Also worthy of mention at this point is the strength of the orchestra’s horn section. Their sensitivity to the context in which the music places them displays their musicianship and controlled technique.

Yampolsky is no stranger to South African audiences, and it is easy to see why he remains popular. It is not only his rounded musicianship which listeners seem to appreciate, but also the visible rapport which he appears to achieve with the orchestral players. Indeed throughout last night’s concert there was a warmth evident between conductor, leader and orchestra, all which led to convincing interpretations. A sparkling example was the rendition of Verdi’s La Forza del Destino overture. I cannot emphasize enough just how remarkable the playing in this overture was. From the opening chords through to the climax one was left gasping with the sheer clarity and energy of the performance. Likewise, the Tannhäuser Overture achieved almost equal precision and force, despite a rather unexpected “triangular” moment (those who were present will know what I am speaking about).

(Cecilia Rangwanasha)

Perhaps it was Cecilia Rangwanasha who helped to set the musical scene for such dazzling orchestral performances of the second half. Her voice soared through the hall with clarity and strength, displaying her controlled vocal technique. She achieved such clear diction in Wagner’s Dich teure halle that every word was discernable at the back of the balcony – and that above the accompaniment of a typical Wagnerian orchestra.

Rangwanasha’s voice has aspects of the flexibility which one associates with a soprano like Sibongile Khumalo. Consider the contrasts she achieved in Verdi’s Pace, pace mio Dio, the fluidity she displayed in Catalani’s Ebben? Ne andrò lontana and the gentleness she attained in Madcagni’s Intermezzo. One hopes to hear her tackle the large works of the Romantic oratorio, mass and requiem canon in due time.

The printed programme last night included an interview with Jonathan Hooper, the orchestra’s principle bass trombone player. In it he says, “The KZN Philharmonic is gold on the doorstep of Durban”. I am inclined to agree. Durbanites can continue to give thanks for access to such live gold. Let us hope we can continue to treasure it to the full.

The final concert in the Summer Season will take place on March 7, 2019, at 19h30 in the Durban City Hall. Booking is at Computicket.

To link direct to the KZN Philharmonic’s website click on the orchestra’s banner advert on the top of the page or visit - Andrew-John Bethke