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KZNPO CONCERT: OCTOBER 13, 2005 (article first published : 2005-10-15)

The young Austrian violinist Wolfgang David, who had made a great impression at his Friends of Music recital two days earlier, confirmed at this concert that he is a master of his instrument (which is a Guarneri violin made in Cremona in Northern Italy 274 years ago).

He played the 1945 Violin Concerto by his fellow Austrian Erich Korngold, and earned an ovation at the end. Korngold (1897-1957) spent the last 23 years of his life in Hollywood, where he became a successful writer of film music. This concerto incorporates some themes from his film scores, and the result is a curious amalgam of romantic, “atmospheric” and quasi-modern music.

Reactions to this kind of work tend to be highly subjective and can vary greatly. One member of the audience told me he thought the concerto was lovely; another said it was too “schmalzy” for his taste.

I found it attractive, and it was lifted to a quite exalted level by the superb playing of Wolfgang David. He handled the technical difficulties with apparent ease and produced a full, sweet tone, especially in the slow movement, where the violin is given a long stream of eloquent melody with discreet accompaniment from the orchestra. A memorable performance, but I couldn’t help wishing that we had heard this soloist in one of the great concertos by Beethoven, Mozart, Dvorak, Tchaikowsky, Elgar, Sibelius, et al.

The orchestra, conducted by Robert Maxym (who comes from America but now lives in South Africa), opened the concert with a lively performance of Zoltan Kodaly’s Dances of Galanta, based on Hungarian folk music, and closed with Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 in A minor (the Scottish). This is a fine work, yet another reminder of what a splendid composer Mendelssohn was. The orchestra were in good form, especially in the jaunty scherzo and the elegant slow movement.

In spite of an allocation of complimentary tickets the audience was sparse, partly because of the Jewish holidays. Rather ironic, considering that Korngold and Mendelssohn were both Jewish (though the family of the latter converted to Christianity), and evidence again of the significant support given to the orchestra by Durban’s Jewish community.

The most dramatic moment of the entire concert came right at the end, when the lights of the hall and stage went out during the closing bars of the symphony. Conductor and players carried on gallantly in almost total darkness for a few seconds before the lights came on again, bit by bit, as somebody presumably took corrective measures. - Michael Green




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