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KZNPO CONCERT --OCTOBER 2 (article first published : 2003-10-4)

A 19th century German programme of Brahms and Schumann was offered by the KZNPO Philharmonic for their second concert of the Durban spring season, and guest conductor En Shao, who comes originally from China, once again showed that he has exceptional rapport with the orchestra.

The evening began with Brahmsís Academic Festival Overture, written about 125 years ago to acknowledge a doctorate conferred on him by a German university. It is a lovely, cheerful piece, with the most robust and brilliant version of Gaudeamus Igitur that you are likely to hear anywhere.

Brahmsís Piano Concerto in D minor is a relatively youthful work but there are plenty of people (I am one of them) who like its raw, elemental power just as much as the more mature strains of the second piano concerto, written 23 years later. The pianist, Francois du Toit of Cape Town, stood in at a late hour for the scheduled German soloist, who is ill, and he did a very creditable job and earned warm applause for it. This is a very difficult solo part, bristling with fast double octaves, sixths and thirds, and Francois du Toit demonstrated that he has a formidable technique. But there is something wrong with the City Hall piano, which sounded distinctly tinny in the upper register. Attention needed here.

Robert Schumann is not generally regarded as a symphonist, but he wrote four very good symphonies, and the second of them, in C major, was given an eloquent performance at this concert.

Things were running a bit late - the Brahms concerto is a very long work - but it is a pity that quite a number of people decided to go home at the interval. They missed a persuasive account of a work that is tinged with sadness - in 1846, the time of its composition, Schumann was already beginning to show signs of the mental illness which destroyed him ten years later - but has many merits, including an energetic scherzo and a beautifully melodious slow movement. En Shao took the orchestra through the work without reference to a score. - Michael Green




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