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Sunday, June 16, 2019


(Conductor Yasuo Shinozaki)

Orchestra delivers winter warmth. (Review by A-J Bethke)

The 3rd concert of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra’s World Symphony Season conducted by Yasuo Shinozaki took place on June 13, 2019.

Mozart’s Overture to Idomeneo (K. 366) was an interesting choice to open the concert, most particularly because of its subdued ending which is designed to lead directly into Act One. The piece exudes charm, vitality, characteristic woodwind writing and the numerous instances of so-called Mannheim Rocket (rapid upward scale passages made popular by the Mannheim Orchestra in the 18th century). The orchestra gave a spirited performance of the work, but the clear textures and lightness of touch this music requires were often clouded by a more Romantic style of playing.

Sodi Braide’s poise and controlled, but expressive, technique were well matched to Mozart’s Piano Concert no. 23 (K 488). His intimate style of performance captivated the audience from the beginning, inviting them into a rarefied world of cultivated opulence. Braide’s attention to interpretive detail meant that the Classical architecture of the piece came to the fore – a style characterized by balance and tasteful exuberance.

(Sodi Braide)

Particularly noteworthy was the cantabile sound he coaxed out of the piano which matched the lilting phrase-ends. This was not a performance characterized by keyboard fireworks, but rather by refinement, balance and nobility. 

Braide’s choice of encore (a piano arrangement of Bach’s Jesu, joy of man’s desiring) seemed to embody his desire to create sublime music rather than just bravura. While the soloist was exceptional, there were times that the orchestra sounded slightly too overbearing. The horns also seemed to intrude on the texture several times too often.

Tchaikovsky’s 1st Symphony, op. 13, was a good choice for a chilly winter’s evening. There are moments in all the movements where the music seems to conjure up images of sunlight sparkling through icicles. Consider the opening of the first movement. One can almost sense the day dreaming which is elicited by clear winter skies while icy winds nip at your ears. The programme notes suggested that the work is fairly dark in character (certainly in comparison with the ‘Polish’ Symphony), and yet Shinozaki brought a warmth to the work which endeared it to the audience. Despite being Tchaikovsky’s first attempt at a symphonic work, it displays many of the tell-tale signs of his unique orchestral voice: regular octave passages for the strings, numerous pizzicato passages, and thrilling build ups.

Shinozaki is clearly a master at bringing late Romantic works to life by allowing them to imbibe an energy and warmth. The orchestra responded well to his leadership and gave a thrilling rendering of the work as a whole. The Adagio was particularly sublime, drawing a collective gasp of appreciation from the audience upon its conclusion. The strength of the finale almost propelled everyone to their feet at the end! A breathtaking reading. - A-J Bethke

The fourth and final concert of the season takes place next week, Thursday June 20, 2019, at 19h30 in the Durban City Hall. To link direct to the KZN Philharmonic’s website click on the orchestra’s banner advert on the top of the page or visit