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KZNPO CONCERT: MAY 27 (article first published : 2004-05-29)

In a sense, the KZN Philharmonic provided all the soloists in this concert’s adventurous and challenging programme. The Concerto for Orchestra by the modern Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski, gives various individuals in the orchestra the opportunity to show their skills, and the same can be said of the Variaciones Concertantes by the modern Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera.

These are two major works in the twentieth century idiom, and they were probably unfamiliar to most of the audience. The Ginastera is, I think, the more easily assimilable, with its strong rhythms and striking sound effects, for example the long passage for solo cello and harp at the outset.

In these “concert variations”, the composer gives important solo roles to a wide variety of instruments – cello, harp, double bass, viola, bassoon, horn, flute --- and the players rose splendidly to the occasion.

A highly successful performance with great credit going to the visiting American conductor Leslie Dunner, who spent long hours working with the orchestra to attain this standard in a difficult work.

The Lutoslawski Concerto is another brilliantly-scored composition. The most attractive part, in my opinion, was the classical style passacaglia which opens the third and final movement, the double basses playing a long repeated pizzicato passage which is eventually taken over - and indeed, overwhelmed - by the entire orchestra.

In more traditional mode, the orchestra played Liszt’s admirable Orpheus symphonic poem and Leonard Bernstein’s wonderfully boisterous Slava overture. The Bernstein was commissioned by the celebrated cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, who was known to his friends as Slava. I think the audience found this the high point of the evening, and those of us who had attended the vastly entertaining lecture by the conductor before the concert enjoyed following his instruction to shout “Slava” at the end.

A most enterprising concert, but there were many empty seats in the City Hall. It is right to introduce Durban audiences to unfamiliar works but perhaps the programme planners should mix these with some crowd-pleasers. Box-office bait, you might say. - 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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