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KZNPO CONCERT: SEPTEMBER 15, 2005 (article first published : 2005-09-16)

Once a year the KZN Philharmonic makes its platform available to young performers of exceptional promise and ability, and this time the occasion was the opening concert of the orchestraís Spring Season.

Predictably, programmes of this kind turn out to be a musical assortment rather than a symphony concert. Equally predictably, many regular concert-goers are absent because they prefer the substance of the symphony rather than the smorgasbord of concerto movements and operatic arias on offer. At this opening concert there were many empty seats, in spite of the obvious distribution of a large number of complimentary tickets.

Never mind, the orchestra is without doubt doing the right thing in encouraging young performers and young listeners. The benefits will be in the long term rather than in the immediate box office.

This concert presented 16 instrumentalists and singers in ten items ranging from the early eighteenth century to the late twentieth, a programme that included some interesting novelties. The singing, in arias by Johann Strauss, Donizetti and Verdi, was generally of high quality. Mhlaba Buthelezi, tenor, was particularly impressive in an aria from Donizettiís Lucia di Lammermoor, and the other singers were consistently pleasing, with accurate, well-trained voices: Nozuko Teko and Nomveliso Nocuze (sopranos), Khulekani Khumalo (tenor) and Bulelani Madikizela (baritone).

The two youngest and smallest performers were eleven-year-old William Chin and nine-year-old Michelle Hsu, both violinists, playing a concerto movement by Vivaldi. They have surprising expertise for children so young and, technicalities aside, they showed an excellent grasp of the musical content. Moreover, their platform demeanour is free of the swoops and lunges affected by some young violinists. Understandably, they received prolonged applause.

Three good pianists were on show in concerto movements: Robin Cohen (Rachmaninov), Johan Botes (Grieg) and Brendan Hollins (Prokofiev). In Prokofievís difficult Concerto No. 3 in C major Brendan Hollins displayed a big technique and an admirably composed keyboard manner.

Michael Magner played a trumpet concerto by the Armenian composer Alexander Arutunian and Nicola van Onselin part of a tuba concerto by the English composer Edward Gregson. The tuba is an imposing but rather ungainly instrument; in fact the performer, Nicola, seemed a lot more gainly than her tuba.

A jazz quartet completed the proceedings with a local work, Ode to Princess Magogo/Old Blues, written by Zim Ngqawana. The players were Mongezi Conjwa (piano), Shaun Johannes (bass guitar), Ayanda Sikade (drums) and Leon Scharnick (saxophone), and to my untutored ear they seemed to do a good job.

The conductor presiding over all this was Lykele Temmingh, and he did so with skill, sympathy and good humour. - Michael Green




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