national Arts Festival Banner

Wednesday, October 21, 2020


(Conductor: Yasuo Shinozaki)

The KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra’s weekly At Home with the KZN Phil focuses on Johannes Brahms.

“Spring is upon us! (along with the rustling Durban winds and persistent climate change.) With you snuggled at home enjoying quality time or you back at the office reconfiguring back to some semblance of normality – we are here for you to keep the music streaming and the blood flowing,” says Bongani Tembe, Chief Executive and Artistic Director of the KZNPO.

“In this week’s issue we stretch into the world of Johannes Brahms in his last symphonic offering. Symphony No 4 in e minor was completed in 1884 in Mürzzuschlag – a small Austrian town today celebrated for its Semmering mountains and recreational skiing. Brahms’ state of mind reflected perfection and command when he composed his final four-movement symphony.

“Under the authority of Japanese conductor Yasuo Shinozaki, who has been affiliated with the KZN Philharmonic for over a decade, we hope you find joy in this energetic rendition of a classic.

“Until the next issue, remember to wear a mask, sanitise and extend your compassion to others during the nationwide lockdown: Tembe adds.

Watch or listen to the concert performed by the KZN Philharmonic on

The movements of the Brahms Symphony No 4, Op. 98 in e minor (1885) are:

I Allegro non troppo

II Andante moderato

III Allegro giocoso

IV Allegro energico e passionate


The following programme notes: © William Charlton-Perkins, 2019

With his Fourth Symphony. Brahms (1833-1897) achieved a work of almost mystical transcendence born of opposing emotions: melancholy and joy, severity and rhapsody, solemnity and exhilaration. Brahms was well aware of his distinct achievement in this work, composed during two summer vacations at the Mürzzuschlag in the Styrian Alps — the first two movements in the summer of 1884, the second two in the summer of 1885. Brahms perfectly captured the bittersweet quality that pervades much of the Fourth Symphony. Although it is cast in the same classical four-movement plan as his earlier symphonies, it is more tightly unified throughout and its movements accordingly proceed with a terrific sense of cumulative power.

The opening movement (Allegro non troppo) is soaring and intense and the second (Andante moderato) by turns agitated and serene. The Allegro giocoso represents the first time Brahms included a real scherzo in a symphony in contrast to the allegretto intermezzos that had served as the third movements of his first three symphonies. And for his finale, Brahms unleashes a gigantic passacaglia, a neo-baroque structure in which an eight-measure progression (derived from the last movement of Bach’s Cantata No. 150) is subjected to 32 variations of widely-varying character.

As soon as he completed the work, Brahms sent copies to several of his trusted friends and was annoyed when several of them expressed reservations with regard to certain sections of the work. Although Brahms stood his ground in the face of these caveats, he found himself anticipating his jealously guarded new offspring’s première with mounting apprehension. Particularly as he was aware of past critical and public opinion that his music was too intellectual, both in treatment and content, Brahms knew that his Fourth Symphony was at least as rigorous as anything he had previously composed. To his joy and amazement, however, the symphony proved an instant success at its première and audience enthusiasm only increased in subsequent performances. While it contains some of the darkest, deepest music in the 19th century, Brahms’s strength of utterance ensured its entrenchment as one of the world’s greatest creations conceived for concert performance.

Yasuo Shinozaki was born in Kyoto in 1968 and studied conducting with Nanao Yamamoto and Taijiro Iimori at Toho Gakuen College. In 1993 he won the highest prize in the Antonio Pedrotti International Conducting Competition. He went on to train with Ilya Musin and Myung-Whun Chung at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana; with Leopold Hager and Yuji Yuasa at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna; and with Seiji Ozawa and Bernard Haitink at the Tanglewood Music Festival Seminar. In 1998 he made his debut in Japan conducting a subscription concert of the Tokyo City Philharmonic Orchestra. He received critical praise for the “strong presence and passion of his conducting” (Ongaku Gendai Magazine). In 2000, he won 2nd Prize in the Second International Sibelius Competition, where the final round was broadcast live on Finnish television.

He received strong endorsement of the Helsinki Philharmonic and later went on to conduct the orchestra in a subscription concert. From 2001, he served as Assistant Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra where he was involved in over 40 performances of very diverse repertoire.

In 2002, he also made his subscription concert debut, replacing a guest conductor at short notice. Following the success of this appearance he was nominated for the Los Angeles Weekly’s music award for “Outstanding Classical Artist”. In 2004, he relocated to London and focused his activity on concerts in Europe, conducting major orchestras in numerous countries including the BBC Philharmonic, Bournemouth Symphony, Frankfurt Radio Symphony, Finnish Radio Symphony, Swedish Radio Symphony, Belgrade Philharmonic and Latvian National Symphony. His performance of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony with the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra received high praise from the audience in Germany.

He has appeared with many renowned soloists such as Andre Watts, Emanuel Ax and Yuri Bashmet. In 2007 he became Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Kymi Sinfonietta in Finland and earned much attention for ambitious projects including the launch of the series “Beethoven and 20th Century Viennese Composers”. He also conducted highly successful concerts in London and St Petersburg and worked tirelessly towards the remarkable development of the orchestra before retiring from his post in July 2014. In 2015, after serving as its Music Advisor, he was announced as Principal Conductor of the Shizuoka Symphony Orchestra, a position he held until March 2018. He has appeared with many other Japanese orchestras the Magdeburg Philharmonic in Germany and regularly conducts the KwaZulu-Natal, Cape Town and Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestras, receiving critical acclaim from the local press. He captivates audiences with a solidly classical sensibility and intensely focused dynamic conducting. (William Charlton-Perkins)

Together with the World Symphony Series, the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra also undertakes a comprehensive education, development and community engagement programme which exposes more than 30,000 urban and township learners to educational music concerts. Without the support of those who share our love for music and commitment to being an essential resource for the people of our country, the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra would be hard-pressed to achieve its mission. We are a registered Public Benefit Organisation (PBO) with SARS.

If you wish to support the KZN Philharmonic, donations will be most welcome:

KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra

FNB: Durban Main Branch

Branch Code: 221426

Current Acc No: 62001363689

(To link direct to the KZN Philharmonic’s website click on the orchestra’s banner advert on the top of the page or visit