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KZNPO CONCERT Ė NOVEMBER 6 (article first published : 2003-11-7)

For many years musical intellectuals rather patronisingly regarded Chopinís two piano concertos, written in 1830 when the composer was 20, as immature lightweight works. Nowadays they are seen for what they are: highly original, valuable compositions with a grace and elegance all their own. And these qualities were deftly disclosed by the Canadian pianist Adam Aleksander when he played the E minor concerto, Op. 11, with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra, under the baton of the distinguished American conductor Leslie Dunner, in the Durban City Hall on November 6.

This is usually listed as the first of Chopinís two concertos, but it is in fact the second. Not that it matters. Its pianistic brilliance found an admirable interpreter in Adam Aleksander, and the beautiful and languorous slow movement, an extended nocturne really, was played as poetically as one could wish. A fine performance which evoked much enthusiasm from the audience.

Incidentally, the early arrivals in the hall were treated to the unusual and enjoyable spectacle of the soloist nonchalantly practising the twiddly bits at the piano on the floor of the hall, before it was raised to platform level by the lift which is now used for this purpose. A pleasantly informal touch.

The main work of the evening was Beethovenís Symphony No. 8 in F major, an urbane and often humorous work which is sometimes described as one of the masterís lighter symphonies but is in fact a strong, mature composition. It is true that there are many playful moments, notably in the second movement, Allegretto scherzando, said to be a ticking parody of the then recently invented metronome. But there is plenty of power in the symphony. For example the development section of the first movement is as taut and tense as anything ever written by Beethoven.

All these concentrated ideas --- the symphony lasts for only about 25 minutes --- were spelled out clearly and with due emphasis in a well-balanced performance by Mr Dunner and the orchestra. - Michael Green




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