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Saturday, November 6, 2021


For me the concert was a wonderful experience and whatever faults there were could easily be forgiven. I think there is little doubt that the KZNPO sent the audience home with a smile on their faces. (Review by Keith Millar)

Last Thursday evening (November 4, 2021), I was privileged to attend the second (and, sadly, the last) concert of the KZNPO’s Special Spring Season - performed at the Playhouse in Durban.

This was the first time in the region of 19 months, that I was to hear our revered orchestra perform live on the stage. Not for me these online concerts. I prefer to listen to a CD or find something on You Tube. The quality is better and there is a much bigger selection.

So attending a live KZNPO concert evoked a both a feeling of pleasure and a wonderful sense of deja vu.

Just to hear the iconic sounds of an orchestra tuning up when we arrived was enough to get the excitement levels move into overdrive.

The concert was conducted by the popular Israeli-born and well-travelled conductor,, Daniel Boico. He is a dynamic and charismatic presence on stage and the orchestra responds very well to him. This reflects on the performance of the orchestra and on the night they certainly projected wonderful dynamism and charisma.

The first item on the programme was a short piece by modern-day composer Karen LeFrak. It is entitled Gravity and, although originally composed for a string quartet, this version was performed by the full strings section of the orchestra.

I had not heard of Karen LeFrak before, but this work was so atmospheric, vibrant and moving that as soon as I got home, I hunted down more of her music. You Tube again, of course.

She described this work as “The feeling one gets in an early summer morning in New York when the air is velvety and humid, but it is still quiet and calm as the sun begins to rise”. An apt description of her soundscape and one which could probably fit many cities – Durban included. LeFrak is equally well-known as an author and her work, both musical and written, is well worth exploring.

The featured artist at the concert was the Russian-born pianist Georgy Tchaidze. Still in his early 30s, he gave a strong and vibrant performance of Tchaikovsky’s magnificent Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 23 in B-Flat Minor.

It has been said that the opening of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony (played at last week’s concert) is the most famous piece of classical music there is. Well, I would suggest that the opening of this piano concerto is not far off. Accompanied by a heartfelt performance by the orchestra and guided by the sure hand of Daniel Boico, this was a most enjoyable rendition of this great work.

For me, the only downside was that it was performed on the rather clunky Playhouse Bösendorfer piano. Rather sad, when the KZNPO’s splendid Steinway is sitting unused just over the road at the Durban City Hall.

The final work on the programme was Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 6, Op 60 in D Major. This lyrical, colourful, and upbeat work moves along at a pleasant pace. It seems to be constantly cheerful with nothing in it which could be described as melancholic. The orchestra played this work with aplomb. The strings, particularly, sounded lush and vibrant despite their reduced numbers.

It must be noted that the orchestra numbers are down to below 50 with many extra (guest players) brought in to make up numbers. However, the difficult times we have been through may offer an explanation for this and maybe this is concert season can be a starting point for our orchestra to grow back to the glorious ensemble it once was.

The other downside is that this season only featured two concerts. So that is it - until further notice. And who knows when that will be because the KZNPO’s website isn’t always up to date?

Secondly, we are told that the City Hall cannot be used due to problems with the ceiling. One hopes this can be sorted before the orchestra makes another appearance. The Playhouse, acoustically, remains a poor second choice for classical music concerts.

That being said - for me the concert was a wonderful experience and whatever faults there were could easily be forgiven. I think there is little doubt that the KZNPO sent the audience home with a smile on their faces. – Keith Millar.

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