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Sunday, June 23, 2019


(Conductor Robert Moody)

Choi never allowed the music to dictate to her but rather had full autonomy over it. (Review by Dr. Martin Goldstein)

The final concert of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra’s Winter Season series took place on June 20, 2019, and featured three works by two contrasting composers. The first was one of the most widely known works by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741), Le quattro stagioni (The Four Seasons), Op. 8 (1720-1723). This was followed by two works by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-1847), the former better known than the latter. The first was his Overture to the Hebrides in b minor, Op. 26, Fingal’s Cave (1829/1833). The second was his Symphony No. 5 in D Major, Op. 107, “Reformation” (1830).

In recent times, Vivaldi has become one of the most widely performed composers. And yet, it is hard to believe that until the 1950s, his music was not widely known. His Four Seasons was composed around the height of his career in the 1720s and was a major contribution to the development of the concerto. The conductor, Robert Moody, selected positive but realistic tempi from the outset for Vivaldi’s much loved work, maintaining a convivial atmosphere. The Baroque size ensemble displayed some elegant playing and the balance was fine and delicate. 

 (Soloist Ye-Eun Choi)

The soloist, Ye-Eun Choi, was virtuosic in the extreme without displaying any strain on the tight trills, running scales, hazardous string- crossing, double-stopping and arpeggio work, all the while maintaining a convincing legato. Choi never allowed the music to dictate to her but rather had full autonomy over it.

Mendelssohn’s Overture to the Hebrides reflects the impressions made on him by a tour, at a fairly young age, through the Western Highlands in 1829. Legend has it that the opening motif came to him when he entered Fingal’s Cave. Moody never allowed the orchestra to lose their feeling of excitement throughout the work and one could feel the “storm brewing”. The KZNPO displayed a surprising freshness in their playing in a work which has become much hackneyed in recent time.

Mendelssohn’s “Reformation”, though not frequently performed, is better known in our times than it was in the composer’s day. It is infused throughout with idiomatically significant motifs and cadences, not the least of which is the Dresden Amen, which has elicited much excitement in recent times in terms of the discovery of its prevalence in works by other composers. The irony is that it was originally associated very strongly with the Catholic liturgy, the antithesis of the Protestant Reformation.

However, herein lies Mendelssohn’s genius, for in this work he manages to reconcile one stylistic tradition with another, pitting homophonic hymn tunes against a complex contrapuntal texture which might be said to represent the antithesis of Protestant simplicity. And yet, the fugato in the final movement is very much in the tradition of that other great Lutheran composer, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750).

The orchestra brought to life the inherent tension between the opposing styles and the fugato was masterfully executed. Overall, the KZNPO’s rendition of the work was plaintive in a pious sense with beautiful, clear playing which convincingly espoused the Lutheran ideal of wholesome simplicity. – Dr Martin Goldstein


The KZNPO’s Spring Season of the World Symphony Series will commence on August 22, 2019, as follows:

August 22: Conductor Daniel Raiskin and soloist Susanne Hou (violin). Works by Fauré, Bruch and Dvořák.
August 29: Conductor Debora Waldman and soloist Daniel Kharitonov (piano). Works by Saint-Saëns, Liszt and Brahms
September 5: Conductor Daniel Boico. Soloist Gary Hoffman (cello). Works by Rimsky-Korsakov, Fauré and Tchaikovsky
September 12: National Youth Concerto Festival. Conductor Lykele Temmingh with various young South African soloists. Works by Paule, Weber, Mozart, Kovács, Vivaldi and Prokofiev. Save 15% on regular ticket prices by subscripting to the season. Contact the KZN Philharmonic offices on 031 369 9438. Booking is at Computicket.

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