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KZNPO CONCERT: SEPTEMBER 22, 2005 (article first published : 2005-09-23)

The Norwegians came to the Durban City Hall again for this KZN Philharmonic concert, which started with speeches and national anthems and was a curious amalgam of orchestrated folk music, operatic arias, patriotism and a dash of politics.

The conductor was Kjell Seim, who has won prominence in Norway in opera and ballet. The soloists were Kjell Magnus Sandve (tenor), Ragnhild Heiland Sorensen (soprano) and Ingebjorg Kosmo (mezzo), and a choir of more than a hundred singers participated.

Half the lengthy programme was devoted to familiar operatic arias by Verdi, Rossini, Donizetti, Dvorak, et al. The other half was occupied by Norwegian music: Grieg’s well-known Peer Gynt and the Hardanger Suite No. 1 by Geirr Tveitt, a work hitherto unknown to me and, I suspect, to nearly all the members of the audience.

Geirr Tveitt (1908-1981) was christened Nils but adopted the name Geirr, which means “Spear”, thus nailing his nationalistic colours to the mast at an early age. He lived most of his life near the Hardanger fjord in western Norway and collected and arranged more than a thousand folk tunes.

The suite played at this concert consisted of short, atmospheric pieces covering a wide range of subjects. The conductor, Kjell Seim, gave explanatory comments before most of the pieces, and sang (in Norwegian) some of the folk-based melodies involved, providing an extra dimension of entertainment. The scenes drawn in the music included an opening pastorale, a flute solo, an old church, gossip, a wedding. I found the music attractive and accessible (it has the profound advantage of being terse and to the point), and I hope that we will have an opportunity to hear it again.

Grieg’s Peer Gynt music, written to accompany a play by Ibsen, is familiar, but the excerpts given here included an overture that is not often played, plus the appearance of vocal soloists and choir in several of the numbers.

I thought Ragnhild Sorensen used excessive vibrato in her account of the beautiful Solveig’s Song. The high point was Ingebjorg Kosmo’s brief appearance in the Arabian Dance, where she showed the vocal quality, stage presence and amusing sexuality that have made her a favourite with Durban audiences. - Michael Green




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