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KZNPO CONCERT: FEBRUARY 17 (article first published : 2005-02-18)

A programme planner called this concert Sweeping Grandeur, which is a fair enough description of the music of two 19th century composers, the Austrian Anton Bruckner and the German Max Bruch, but it did not have quite the same audience appeal as Russian Romanticism (equals Rachmaninov) the previous week; attendance in the Durban City Hall was somewhat lower for Bruckner/Bruch.

There was a good house nevertheless, and they were rewarded with some outstanding playing by the KZN Philharmonic and a brilliant solo violinist. The youthful Sarah Oates had made a big impression two nights earlier at her recital for the Friends of Music, and this was fully endorsed in her performance of Max Bruch’s well-known Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor.

Bruch, who died in 1920 at the age of 82, was not one of the great composers but this concerto has survived triumphantly because of its great melodic appeal. The slow movement is the heart of the work and it has a surpassing sweetness that can be resisted only by a very cold customer.

Listening to Sarah Oates spin out Bruch’s stream of beautiful melody I had a feeling of overpowering sentiment, a sense of an age that is past and will not return, a tear in the corner of the eye. This was violin playing of the highest quality, and the artist received an ovation at the end.

The music of Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) is not played much these days, but his Symphony No 4 in E flat major, dubbed the Romantic, has retained a worthy place in the concert hall. It is a monumental work running for more than an hour. In a pre-concert lecture the conductor, Omri Hadari, described it as a symphony of drastic changes, with dramatic and sometimes startling alternations between passages that are fortissimo and pianissimo, very loud and very soft.

Omri Hadari, who comes from Israel and is well known here, is a great admirer of Bruckner’s music, and he conducted this long work without reference to a score, a considerable feat of memory.

The performance was a great success for conductor and orchestra. The brass instruments, especially the horns, have a busy time in this work, and they emerged with great credit, especially the leader of the horns, Katie Pryce. The strings, too, were in splendid form.

This is the kind of big music that can only be fully appreciated in a live performance, as opposed to a CD or radio or TV. And the audience sensed this, judging by their enthusiastic applause. - Michael Green




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