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KZNPO CONCERT: MARCH 11 (article first published : 2004-03-14)

The twentieth century American composer Samuel Barber is best known, one is tempted to write “only known”, for his Adagio for Strings, an elegant and expressive piece which derives from an early string quartet, and this was duly included by the KZN Philharmonic in a programme of works by Barber and Hector Berlioz in their latest World Symphony Season series.

“A bit funereal”, somebody sitting near to me observed of the Barber. Maybe, but there should be space for funeral music, too. I think it is a beautiful work and it sounds much better from a full body of strings, 40 players in the case of the KZNPO, than it does in its original spare and austere format of chamber music.

I doubt whether Barber’s Violin Concerto, written in 1938, has been played before in Durban. At this concert it was performed by a young Irishman, Darragh Morgan. He strode on to the stage as if he were on his way to a braai, open-neck shirt, brown trousers, brown shoes but he soon showed that he is a violinist of the first rank. The concerto is lyrical and approachable, with plenty of broad melodies, especially in the slow movement. Barber, who died in 1981, was a modern romantic with little of the harsh and abrasive musical character of some of his contemporaries.

A thoroughly enjoyable performance which brought forth an ovation from an enthusiastic audience.

The Symphonie Fantastique of Berlioz was the main item of the evening, a five-movement work which runs for nearly an hour. It is aptly named, for it is fantastic both in concept and technique, the orchestral story of the love and death of a romantic hero. Berlioz was a brilliant, innovative orchestrator and the KZNPO assembled more than 70 musicians for this performance.

The Chinese conductor En Shao, who has become one of Durban’s favourites, was in splendid form throughout. With his energetic yet elegant style he seems to extract the best from the players, and the result was a memorable performance of Berlioz’s masterpiece. - Michael Green

Click on the KZNPO advert which appears on artSMart pages and this will take you to the orchestra’s website which gives details of the full symphony season as well as other KZNPO activities.




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