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KZNPO CONCERT: NOVEMBER 4, 2004 (article first published : 2004-11-5)

Mendelssohn’s Concerto in E minor has been a great concert favourite for more than 150 years, and with good reason. The composer excelled himself in this lyrical and brilliant work, first performed in 1845, and audiences have responded favourably ever since.

In this concert in the Durban City Hall the concerto found an ideal interpreter in a 25-year-old French violinist named Julien Chauvin (if the name seems familiar it is probably because the word chauvinism comes from another Chauvin, Nicolas, who was an excessively patriotic veteran of the Napoleonic wars).

Julien Chauvin displayed an immaculate technique and a lovely warm, full tone, especially in the slow movement, where Mendelssohn’s music is surpassing sweet without ever becoming gooey.

The KZN Philharmonic, under the baton of Robert Maxym (who was born and educated in the United States but now lives in South Africa), gave full value to the skilfully scored orchestral role.

One of Mendelssohn’s lesser known works, the Ruy Blas Overture, written for a performance of a play by Victor Hugo, opened the programme, and Cesar Franck’s Symphony in D minor occupied the second half.

Sartorial note: the conductor appeared wearing a semi-transparent embroidered white shirt worn (fashionably) outside the trousers. The soloist had no collar or tie but he was clad entirely in black, from tip to toe, looking rather as if he was about to embark on some mystical rite (which, I suppose, he was - in the musical sense). Interesting and innovative, but I confess to an old-fashioned preference for white tie and tails. - Michael Green

(Next week’s concert in the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra’s World Symphony Season series features works that they will be performing with the London Symphony Orchestra in London at The Barbican on October 16. See previous story on these pages.)




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