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Sunday, September 1, 2019


(Bernhard Gueller)

All in all, there was a distinct detachedness to Kharitonov’s playing which evidenced complete mastery of the piano without the need for bodily affectations. (Review by Dr Martin Goldstein)

The second concert of the KZN Philharmonic’s early spring season on August 29, 2019, did not disappoint. The repertoire showcased the works of a range of fairly contrasting Romantic composers. The tone for a slightly avant-garde concert was set with the opening work by Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921), his celebrated Danse Macabre, Op 40 (1874). This was followed by a strident work by Franz Liszt (1811-1886), his Piano Concerto No 1, S. 124 in E-flat Major (1849, revised 1853 and 1856). The concert ended with the wholesome sound of Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) with his Symphony No 2, Op 73 in D Major (1877).

Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre reflects his interest in the genre of the symphonic poem, which in his time was still a novelty. It is one of four symphonic poems which he composed in the 1870s, the others being Le rouet d’Omphale, Phaéton, and La jeunesse d’Hercule. In this genre, he experimented with orchestration and thematic transformation. In these works, he endeavoured to convey specific physical actions such as spinning, riding or dancing, bringing these ideas to life in musical terms.

The KZNPO was clearly committed to conveying this same sense of movement in their performance of the work. Throughout, there was an energetic attack and Saint-Saën’s bewitching theme was bandied about between the parts with a clear sense of thematic coherence. The lead first violinist should be complimented on her ability to coax a silky tone out of the instrument which suited the work. The acclaimed conductor, Bernhard Gueller chose a good tempo for the performance. He encouraged the orchestra to maintain a sense of forward-drive without being too intense.

It seems that the concept of the symphonic poem features prominently in this concert for indeed, the Liszt too relies on this genre for its organisational principle. The essence of the work is that of thematic transformation – perhaps not unlike the transformation Liszt would have gone through as a composer during the 20 or so years that elapsed from when he first conceived of some of the work's themes until he was finally happy with the entire work.

(Daniel Kharitonov)

The KZNPO’s rendition of this work featured the internationally renowned pianist Daniel Kharitonov. He has astounding technical proficiency for such a young pianist and this was evidenced throughout all of his performances. In the Liszt, Kharitonv displayed excellent octave work. His effortless playing merged seamlessly with the orchestra. He actually played three encore works which revealed a more lyrical side to his playing. All in all, there was a distinct detachedness to Kharitonov’s playing which evidenced complete mastery of the piano without the need for bodily affectations.

In contradistinction to the dark and brooding mood of his first symphony, Brahms’ second symphony radiates warmth and optimism. This is, however, offset by an underlying melancholy. Indeed, it is the dynamic flux between optimism and melancholy which is the driving force for this work and the source of much of its deep beauty.

In the opening movement, the orchestra conjured up the rustic sentiment which is so typical of Brahms. Gueller worked with each group of instruments, giving the impression that he was carefully nurturing each section of the orchestra throughout. Clearly, both he and the orchestra were working towards the same goal in this work, which culminated in magnificent, typically voluptuous Brahmsian chords at the end. – Dr Martin Goldstein

(The next concert of the KZNPO’s Early Spring Season takes place on September 5 followed by the National Youth Concerto Festival on September 12. Both concerts take place in the Durban City Hall at 19h30. To link direct to the KZNO’s website click on the orchestra’s banner advert on the top of the page or visit