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Friday, March 26, 2021


(François du Toit)

Du Toit’s greatest asset was the crispness of his touch and his shimmering tone. (Review by Dr Martin Goldstein)

The fourth and final concert of the KZNPO Virtual Summer Season 2021, which took place on March 25, 2021, revealed a new depth of emotion in the orchestra. While the programme featured works with strongly contrasting sentiments, and this may have been a factor, it seems that the circumstances which the orchestra has endured in recent times have imbued them with a new appreciation for performing, no matter the format. They performed Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16 (1868) by Edward Grieg (1843-1907) and Symphony No. 8 in G major, Op. 88 (1889) by Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904).

Grieg’s Piano Concerto is one of the most popular works in this genre. Despite his nationality, the work is not overtly Norwegian and one can actually feel the influence of Liszt. One of the notable features of this work is the give and take between the orchestra and the piano with the piano replaying each of the main themes stated by the orchestra.

(Conductor Brandon Phillips)

In the orchestra’s performance of the Allegro molto moderato, the pianist, locally and internationally acclaimed François du Toit, was assertive in his playing. The crispness of his touch was notable. The cellos created a feeling of affection and, indeed, there was notable warmth in the orchestra’s playing throughout. The conductor, Brandon Phillips, who, among many other accolades, is also the resident conductor of the CPO (Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra), relished the beauty of the sound produced. In the piano’s cadenza, there was an intense sentiment with Du Toit producing a grand sound. There was much strength in his playing with secure octaves. In the Adagio, there was hymn-like devotion in the orchestra in the opening. The French horn solo was a special moment. The pianist approached his entrances with care. In the Allegro moderato molto e marcato – Quasi presto – Andante maestoso, there was a merry start. The solo flautist played with much feeling in this movement and throughout the concert. The pianist’s body language showed that he was fully engrossed. Again, Du Toit’s greatest asset was the crispness of his touch and his shimmering tone.

Dvořák had humble origins, being the son of the village butcher at Nelahozeves in Bohemia. Thus, Bohemian folksongs and dances formed the basis of his cultural heritage and their influence is felt throughout his music. However, his Eighth Symphony is one of the best examples of his ability to integrate the Czech folk idiom with Classical form and counterpoint. In the orchestra’s performance of the Allegro con brio, there was a mellow opening with the conductor coaxing the sound out of the orchestra. For Phillips, each note was an experience approached with the same anticipation and optimism.

There was a new earnestness in the orchestra’s playing. Perhaps because it was the final concert of the season, the orchestra seemed to relish the opportunity to perform even more, after such a long absence, albeit in a pre-recorded format. The interaction between the piano and flute was one of the nicest features of this movement. The upper strings played with abandon towards the end, sharing the orchestra’s sense of optimism in their playing. In the Adagio, there was noble playing in the opening. The relaxed tempo allowed the call and response theme groups to make more sense than in orchestras which play at a faster tempo in this movement. Indeed, there was a pleasant quaintness in the playing. Also, the slower choice of tempo allowed for a particular nobility in sentiment and a unique dance-like lilt not felt in other orchestras’ interpretations.

(Ralitza Macheva)

Principal Second Violin, Ralitza Macheva’s solo was beautifully executed with great earnestness in her body language. One sensed that she felt the music. In the Allegretto grazioso – Molto vivace, there was a dance-like lightness in the opening. The music swayed. In the Allegro ma non troppo, the playing buoyed up. The conductor knew how to extract a rhythmic drive from the motifs. 

An energetic conductor who got the orchestra to deliver a punch. – Dr Martin Goldstein

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