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KZNPO CONCERT FEBRUARY 23 (article first published : 2006-02-24)

A homely-looking grey-haired woman musician from Norway turned out to be a star turn at this KZN Philharmonic Orchestra concert in the Durban City Hall.

The programme was devoted to music from Russia, the only unfamiliar item being Reinhold Gliereís Horn Concerto, first performed in 1952. And it was in this work that Froydis Ree Wekre beguiled the audience with a virtuoso performance on the French horn, a notoriously difficult instrument.

Gliereís concerto is difficult to play but it is easy on the ear. Gliere was not a modern composer in any sense except the chronological. His music is rooted firmly in the nineteenth century, and this work is one of the last of the romantic concertos, rather reminiscent of Tchaikovsky in its sweeping melodies and emotional cadences.

Froydis handled the technical problems with aplomb, and both her performance and the music itself were very much to the taste of the audience. In response to generous applause the soloist gave an encore on an extraordinary instrument from her native Norway, a kind of alpenhorn about three metres long, the playing end some distance from the large funnel-shaped bell resting on the floor. From this the player produced a simple melody of deep timbre, with a profound final note that sounded as if it came from more than one instrument. Delightful.

All this was a great success but I think that the main honours of the evening go to the orchestra itself for a blazing performance of Rimsky-Korsakovís Scheherazade. The conductor, 30-year-old James Lowe from England, has a most animated style on the podium and he drew some exceptional playing from the entire orchestra.

Scheherazade is a wonderful composition. A friend in the audience told me it would be his choice for that famous single CD that one is allowed on the desert island. I wouldnít go a far as that but certainly the colour and grandeur of this music have few parallels in the orchestral repertoire. Special compliments to concert master Hristo Kardjiev for his excellent playing of Scheherazadeís theme, oft repeated on the solo violin, and to the brass players for their resonant contribution.

The concert opened with Borodinís splendid Polovtsian Dances, another lively and vigorous performance, but at times the brass and percussion overpowered the melodic line of the strings. - Michael Green




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