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KZNPO CONCERT: SEPTEMBER 11, 2008 (article first published : 2008-09-15)

A programme of Beethoven and Mozart attracted a fair-sized audience to the Durban City Hall for this first concert of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestraís spring season, which runs to November 13.

There was also the relative novelty of a piano concerto with the soloist doubling as conductor, the player in this instance being Justus Frantz, an occasional visitor here from Germany.

He has a long and distinguished record as pianist and conductor, and his performance here was highly professional in every respect. He played Mozartís Piano Concerto No 25 in C major, not one of the composerís best-known works but a brilliant and complex composition that makes strenuous demands on the pianist.

Mr Frantzís performance was technically excellent. I am never quite at ease with conducting from the keyboard. I know that it has an historical tradition and that many modern performers do it --- my recording at home of this particular concerto features the renowned Murray Perahia as soloist and conductor --- but I find the whole business faintly unnerving and distracting. At some points Mr Frantz was playing the piano with his right hand and conducting with his left, and in passages where the orchestra played alone he had no respite, being busy in the conducting role.

Still, he handled the situation with apparent ease. He is a robust and vigorous kind of player, and the result was a performance that carried the audience along on a wave of buoyancy.

In response to warm applause the pianist played Chopinís well-known Fantaisie-Impromptu in C sharp minor.

The Beethoven component in the programme consisted of the Leonore Overture No. 3 and the Symphony No 7 in A major, both great works, both crowd-pleasers, both played with insight and emotion.

A very good start to the new season. - Michael Green




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