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Friday, November 22, 2019


(Conductor Conrad van Alphen. Photo: Seger van Wijk)

“One of his loveliest creations, it anticipates the luminous nocturnes he would compose later”. (William Charlton-Perkins) (Review by Dr Martin Goldstein)

The final concert of the KZNPO’s Spring Season on November 21, 2019, was a fitting close to a dynamic season marked by an incredible variety of genres, styles and performers. The orchestra played Carnival Overture, op. 92, B169 (1891) by Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904); Piano Concerto No. 2 in f minor, op. 21 (1829) by Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) and Symphony No. 9, Op. 95, B178 in e minor, From the New World (1893) by Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904).

Dvořák’s Carnival Overture was composed during a time when he was on the way to international fame and was finally been able to break out of the slump which had marked much of the first part of his career. The Carnival Overture is one of three concert overtures written around this time (In Nature’s Realm, op. 91, B168; Carnival, op.92, B169 and Othello, op.93, B174). One can definitely hear this new optimism in the composer’s outlook.

The orchestra’s performance of it had an exuberant start characterised by a delicate excitement. The overall mood was marked by a positive forthrightness. The onomatopoeic effects in the individual parts conjured up the sounds of a carnival. The mood and colour were characterised by a dark playfulness. The orchestra maintained an excellent sense of meter and rhythm. The piccolo really stood out for its excellence and the percussionist is to be commended for his great discipline. So, too, are the upper strings for the agility in their playing.

(Megan-Geoffrey Prins)

In the Maestaso of the Chopin, the internationally acclaimed local pianist, Megan-Geoffrey Prins, played in an unrushed and naturally-flowing manner. He was unperturbed by the technical challenge. It was clear that there was a combined effort between the piano and the orchestra to perpetuate the melody. The conductor, Conrad van Alphen, is also a local but has gained considerable international acclaim. In this work, he succeeded in coaxing these melodies out of the orchestra. In the Larghetto, the harmonic simplicity of Chopin could be felt.

Indeed, William Charlton-Perkins sums this up well in his programme notes for this concert “The slow second movement was inspired by Konstancja Gladkowska, a young singer over whom Chopin was infatuated. One of his loveliest creations, it anticipates the luminous nocturnes he would compose later”. The pianist’s playing was characterised by agility coupled with strength. At the same time, he played with gentleness and care and a restrained touch. In the finale, Allegro vivace, the attention to melody was maintained.”

Dvořák’s much-loved New World Symphony was composed during his American period (1892-5). Its composition followed in the wake of his acceptance of the post of artistic director and professor of composition at the National Conservatory of Music in America (in New York) in October of 1892. Part of the motivation for the offer was the composer’s reputation for composing in a nationalistic style. There was the dream in America of creating a national American style of art music. To further his understanding of the American style, he listened to spirituals and plantation songs from the South and transcriptions of Amerindian melodies.

The orchestra’s performance of the Adagio – Allegro molto, was characterised by resoluteness. The stylised melodies were given their sense of individuality. The orchestra discerned the narrative from the thicket of sound and conjured up the excitement of the New World. The Largo features the famous melody for which the work is known. The orchestra appreciated the solemnity of this lovely melody. At the same time, it portrayed the “freshness” of the New World. In the Molto vivace, the orchestra conveyed a “pioneering spirit”. The tempo never suffered as a result of accommodating the distinctive, individual entrances of the melodies. The finale, Allegro con fuoco, began very assertively. It was clear that the orchestra had reserved its full volume for the finale. Overall, there was an incredible attack, energy and forward-drive in the orchestra’s playing. – Dr Martin Goldstein

The next season starts up in 2020 with the Summer Season:

February 13: Conductor Yasuo Shinozaki; Maxime Zecchini (piano)

February 20: Conductor William Eddins. Programme includes Mozart’s Double Concerto for  Flute and Harp with Khanyi Mthethwa (flute) and Gaylen Sales (harp)

February 27: Conductor Yasuo Shinozaki. Jan Jiracek von Arnim (piano)

March 5: Conductor Arjan Tien. Programme includes Beethoven’s Triple Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano with Tai Murray (violin), Aristide du Plessis (cello) and Malcolm Nay (piano)

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