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Friday, March 6, 2020


(Aristide du Plessis)

Du Plessis never forgot to be melodious despite the emphatic nature of the orchestral accompaniment. Notable was his willingness to work with Murray. (Review by Dr. Martin Goldstein)

The final concert of the KZNPO Summer Season, 2020, which took place on March 5, served as a continuation of the Beethoven celebration in the previous concert. Once again, to mark 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth, much of the programme was devoted to his works.

The acclaimed Dutch conductor, Arjan Tien, has established quite a following in South Africa and his return was greeted with enthusiasm. The orchestra played two works by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), firstly the Leonore Overture No 1, Op 138 in C Major (1805); and then his Triple Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano, Op 56 in C Major (1803-1804). The concert ended with Symphony No 1 in C Major (1855) by Georges Bizet (1838-1875). The key of this final work matched that of the preceding two works by Beethoven and its character was a natural continuation of their sentiments.

(Arjan Tien)

In January of 1804, Beethoven had begun to set J –N. Bouilly’s libretto, LĂ©onore, ou L’amour conjugal, as an opera which Beethoven wanted to call Leonore but which was later titled Fidelio. The plot involves the rescue of a political prisoner from a Spanish Bastille, orchestrated by his wife disguised as a man. It is believed that the plot was based on a real incident during the French Revolution. Beethoven must have identified with the plot on a personal level for, oppressed and isolated by his unfair deafness, he could identify with the unjustly imprisoned Florestan who seemed to have no hope of being rescued.

There were three versions of the Leonore Overtures. The second one was the one used for the premiere of Fidelio.  An overture, thought to have been written for a planned production of the opera in Prague, was never performed in public and only discovered after Beethoven’s death. It is now known as ‘Leonore n. 1’. The overtures assert C major as the opera’s tonal centre. Both C major and C minor were keys reserved by Beethoven for acts of struggle and heroism, as was seen in his Coriolan Overture last week, which Beethoven composed around the same time.

In the orchestra’s performance of it, the opening Andante con moto had an airy feel. Later, in the Allegro con brio, the playing became tight and crisp. Notable was Tien’s ability to induce plasticity in the orchestra’s responsiveness. The orchestra exuded a dynamic freshness which created much excitement.

(Tai Murray)

Beethoven’s Triple Concerto was born out of a period which saw a focus on the afore-mentioned idea of heroism. Other “heroic” works from this period include the ‘Eroica’ Symphony, the Waldstein Sonata (op 53), the ‘Appassionata’ Sonata (op 57) and the three string quartets of op 59, dedicated to Count Rasumovsky.

In the orchestra’s performance of the Allegro, acclaimed local cellist Aristide Du Plessis produced a magnificent vibrato with a beautiful tone and excellent intonation. The celebrated violinist, Tai Murray, displayed impressive agility in the tricky string-crossing passages. Highly accomplished local pianist, Malcolm Nay, was focused on contributing to the overall quality of sound. He was not assuming or flashy and produced a nice legato touch. Du Plessis shaped the melody beautifully. Murray produced good strong chords and merged well with Du Plessis. The orchestra was in sync with the sentiment of the soloists. Murray never lost her fire and maintained a good clarity of sound. Nay played with lovely mellowness and jolliness. There was great excitement in the orchestra and an excellent tempo was maintained. In the Largo, Nay revealed his true character, creating a suitable atmosphere. Murray displayed great agility in the scale passages. Du Plessis had perfect autonomy over the timing. Tien demonstrated his dignified style as a conductor. In the Rondo alla Polacca, the soloists displayed jovial ebullience. Du Plessis never forgot to be melodious despite the emphatic nature of the orchestral accompaniment. Notable was his willingness to work with Murray.

(Malcolm Nay)

Bizet’s First Symphony may well have been modelled on Gounod’s First Symphony, on which he was working as an arranger in the same year of his First Symphony’s composition in 1855. It draws on other earlier models too, such as Mozart. At the same time, it is also imbued with the sort of lyricism and energy which would appear in his later operas.

In the orchestra’s performance of the Allegro vivo, there was great vitality. The Acting Concert Master, Petya Koleva, set the tone for a vibrant attack in the rest of the orchestra. In the Adagio, the oboe shone with a sublime melody. In the fugato section, the orchestra maintained restraint and did not allow it to become frenzied. In the Allegro Vivace, there was a jovial hunting tune in triple meter. The great drive in the orchestra was matched against melodies which conjured up the feel of a playground fair. In the Finale. Allegro Vivace, Tien once again displayed his sympathetic touch as a conductor. Throughout the movement and the concert as a whole, there was a newfound conviction amongst the orchestra as manifested in their vitality and sense of discipline. – Dr. Martin Goldstein

The orchestra’s Winter Season 2020 will see concerts on May 28, June 4, June 11 and June 18. Call 031 369 9438 to subscribe, secure your tickets and save. Concerts take place in the Durban City Hall at 19h30. Normal booking is at Computicket.

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