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KZNPO CONCERT: JUNE 24 (article first published : 2004-06-27)

The final concert of the KZN Philharmonicís winter season on June 24 was a brilliant occasion. In a splendid programme the orchestra were in top form, with two outstanding pianists, and they played to an audience of 1,300. This figure, as the KZNPO's chief executive Bongani Tembe pointed out, is 200 more than the full house capacity of the Johannesburg City Hall.

Mozart and Tchaikovsky were the menu for the evening, and The Magic Flute Overture provided an auspicious start, with assertive and accurate playing by the strings under the guidance of the visiting German conductor Justus Frantz.

Mozart was the king of concerto composers, but not many people would have heard the Concerto for Two Pianos, K. 365, which was the central item on the programme, and which was played by the conductor and his son, Christopher Tainton (whose mother is from Durban and was in the audience).

The concerto is not one of Mozartís great dramatic works but it is delightful throughout, with an exceptional distribution of fine melodies, even by Mozartís own prolific standards. Mozart wrote it in 1779 for performance initially by himself and his sister Nannerl. The piano parts show an astonishingly mature and sophisticated style, but one must of course remember that, at 23, Mozart was already more than half way through his life.

Justus Frantz conducted from the keyboard of one of the two grand pianos that occupied much of the stage, and he and his son showed perfect rapport in their quite virtuoso roles as pianists.

Tchaikovskyís Symphony No. 4 in F minor provided a striking contrast. This is an outstanding, big work, opening with a truly imposing fanfare. Here, as in the entire symphony, the orchestraís eleven brass players excelled; they made a significant contribution to the success of the entire performance. And the strings showed high skills in the pizzicato scherzo, one of the most fascinating of all symphonic movements.

Listening to this grand music I reflected that the best CD, played on the best equipment, is not the same thing as a live performance by an accomplished orchestra. The audience obviously sensed that, too, judging by the ovation which they gave at the end of a memorable concert. - Michael Green




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