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KZNPO CONCERT: MARCH 10 (article first published : 2005-03-11)

The KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra’s concert last night (March 10) was an important occasion: the world premiere of a big and impressive work by a local composer. And it was a wonderfully successful and heart-warming event.

Qinisela Sibisi was born in KwaMashu 42 years ago. He studied music at the University of Zululand and since then has been much involved in conducting and writing music for choirs. After many years these activities have culminated in the composition of his Zulu Mass in B flat, performed at this concert by the KZN Philharmonic, a 50–strong choir and four soloists.

The Mass follows traditional lines - Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus and so forth - but it is sung entirely in Zulu. The opening phrases of the Kyrie establish the pattern of the music. It is tuneful, lyrical and expertly scored for voices and orchestra (in writing it the composer had some help from people in the orchestra).

There are Zulu rhythms and some of the melodies are probably rooted in Zulu folk music, but the work is neither aggressively modern nor determinedly ethnic. The composer has obviously been influenced by the classical heritage of the past, and at some moments in the Mass one might well think you were listening to some little-known vocal music by Haydn or Mozart. This is a compliment, not a criticism. I found the entire work, which runs for nearly an hour, thoroughly enjoyable and admirable and the Durban City Hall audience seemed to share that opinion; they gave performers and composer a standing ovation.

The composer, who is physically handicapped and uses crutches, said in a modest little speech that for him this was “a dream come true”. It is indeed a great achievement.

The orchestra, conducted by Adrian Sunshine from Britain, gave full value to this eloquent music, as did the choir and the four soloists: Zenneth Cibane (soprano), Thulile Hadebe (mezzo), Bongani Vilakazi (tenor) and Mhlonishwa Dlamini (baritone), all first-rate.

It was a pity that somebody produced lighting effects that were entirely inappropriate and distracting.

The concert opened with a gem from the fluent eighteenth century pen of Antonio Vivaldi, his Concerto Grosso for Two Violins in A minor, Op.3 No.8. The soloists were two orchestra members who both come from Bulgaria, Hristo Kardjiev and Petya Koleva. They played beautifully, as did the small chamber orchestra, especially in the slow movement, a dialogue worthy of the great Bach himself.

After the interval Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony, No 5 in D major completed a particularly rewarding evening. - Michael Green

For more information on the activities of the KZNPO, click on the banner advert on any of the main pages and this provides a link to the orchestra's website.




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