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KZNPO CONCERT – FEBRUARY 7 (article first published : 2008-02-10)

German romanticism and French impressionism made a satisfying programme in the Durban City Hall for the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra’s opening concert of 2008, the orchestra’s twenty-fifth year.

On the podium was the distinguished French conductor Roberto Benzi, looking remarkably youthful, considering that he is credited with more than 50 years of conducting orchestras in many parts of the world. He is both meticulous and energetic, and the first swelling string phrases of Weber’s Der Freischutz Overture indicated that we would have an evening of fine playing. And so it was, with the orchestra in splendid form in the Weber and later in Debussy’s languorous L’apres-midi d’un faune and Albert Roussel’s Bacchus et Ariane Suite No 2, a musical evocation of Greek mythology.

But the evening belonged without question to the Chinese violinist Bin Huang, a slender, elegant figure, a slip of a girl, as the Victorians used to say, and an artist of the first rank. She played Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, and it did not take long for the audience to recognise that they were listening to a major performer. Calm and controlled, she produced a rich, sweet tone in Bruch’s exquisite Adagio and followed with some brilliant fast double-stopping in the final Allegro.

This is music of a world very different from today’s world, but I suspect that even among young listeners (and there were about 400 of them in the audience) its emotional impact must be profound. As I listened, a phrase from Coleridge’s Kubla Khan came to my mind: “For he on honey-dew hath fed, and drunk the milk of paradise”.

At the end Bin Huang was rewarded with an ovation, prolonged applause and shouts of bravo. She was born in China, studied music in the United States and is now an established personality on the international circuit.

She is also further evidence (there are many other examples) of the power of music to bridge wide geographical, cultural, historical and linguistic divisions. - Michael Green




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