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KZNPO CONCERT: JUNE 2 (article first published : 2005-06-3)

After two hundred years Beethoven remains the biggest single drawcard in classical music, and there was a substantial audience in the Durban City Hall to hear the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra in a programme that ranged from the familiar to the totally unfamiliar.

The opening item, Musik zu einem Ritterballet, Music for a Knightís Ballet, is really no more than a curiosity. It was written by Beethoven when he was 20 years old and passed off as the work of his influential friend Count Ferdinand von Waldstein, he to whom the famous sonata was dedicated 14 years later. The Ritter ballet, which was Beethovenís first orchestral composition, consists of eight short pieces which are pleasant but unmemorable. Hunting Song, German Dance, Romance are some of the titles. It is one of the very few works of Beethoven that seems never to have been recorded, and one can understand why. At least the Durban audience had the satisfaction of knowing that they had had a rare experience.

The orchestra, under the direction of the popular visiting Chinese conductor En Shao, was on much more familiar ground with Beethovenís Symphony No. 4 in B flat major, an undisputed masterpiece.

The Israeli pianist Dror Biran was the soloist in Beethovenís Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major. This is actually the first of the masterís five piano concertos and it hardly measures up to the other four. But this is an assessment relative to Beethovenís towering stature. It is in many ways a lovely work that would be regarded as a great achievement from almost any other composer.

Dror Biran is an unusual figure on the concert platform. Premature baldness makes him look rather older than his 28 years, and while playing he often has a half-smile on his face. But he is without question an outstanding executant at the keyboard. Crystal-clear articulation in the rapid passages, neatly judged accents and an acute sense of tonal colour and shading were the features of his performance. The Adagio is really the best movement of this concerto, and it brought forth some wonderfully expressive playing from soloist and orchestra.

In response to prolonged applause Mr Biran gave an encore, a restrained and exquisite performance of Bachís Sheep May Safely Graze. - Michael Green

Click on the KZNPO advert which appears on artSMart pages and this will take you to the orchestraís website which gives details of the full symphony season as well as other KZNPO activities.




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