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KZNPO CONCERT: JUNE 23 2005 (article first published : 2005-06-24)

This KZN Philharmonic Orchestra's concert offered a programme of Spanish music by non-Spanish composers, three Frenchmen and a Russian.

The high point was a delightful performance of the Symphonie Espagnole by Edouard Lalo. The “symphony” is in effect a five-movement violin concerto, and the young Russian violinist Sergey Ostrovsky gave a beautifully judged interpretation of this exotic and fascinating music. Displaying a sweet and accurate tone, he played with style, verve and a good deal of fervour and passion, and he was rewarded with prolonged applause from the rather small audience.

He responded with an encore of extreme virtuosity, a composition by Paganini which my spies told me was his Introduction and Variations on a theme from Paisiello’s opera La Molinara. Not the kind of thing you would sing in your bath, but a wonderful display of dexterity on the violin.

The orchestra, conducted with brisk authority by Naum Rousine, opened the proceedings with a bright account of Chabrier’s very well known Espana, and after the interval came an arrangement of Bizet’s Carmen Suite by the contemporary Russian composer Rodion Shchedrin. An overblown programme note, some of which appeared to have come directly from the composer’s agent in Moscow, quoted “the world press” as praising Rodion Shchedrin in extravagant terms and said that this particular Carmen Suite was played somewhere in the world every day.

Maybe. I don’t know how people arrive at these conclusions. Shchedrin is a prolific composer and the Carmen Suite is his best-known work (it has, I think, been recorded by Naxos, whereas the composer’s other recorded works seem to be all under the Russian label Melodiya). The suite is scored for string orchestra and 20 percussion instruments (handled by five players), including drums, chimes, marimba, cowbells, cymbals, sticks.

In the KZNPO performance the percussionists had a lovely time, sometimes drowning the tunes played by the strings, but I thought that the work as a whole was no more than an interesting novelty. - Michael Green




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