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KZNPO CONCERT: MARCH 16 (article first published : 2006-03-17)

The guitar lovers of Durban are a force to be reckoned with, judging by the large number of unfamiliar faces in the big audience that attended this KZN Philharmonic Orchestra concert in the Durban City Hall. I have little doubt that the drawcards were the Australian guitarist Craig Ogden and the English mandolin player Alison Stephens.

Well, it is all to the good if it brings people to the concerts. And for the listeners the bonus was a glowing account of Dvorak’s New World Symphony which brought a foot-stamping ovation for the Israeli conductor Omri Hadari and the orchestra.

The two soloists are both highly skilled players, as they had demonstrated earlier in the week at their Friends of Music recital. Both used electric amplifiers. Without them they would have been virtually inaudible, and even with them the listeners sometimes had to strain to pick up the notes.

This was obvious in Vivaldi’s Concerto in D major, RV 93. The orchestra was reduced to 11 strings and a harpsichord, but even then Alison Stephens’s mandolin made a very small sound in the very big City Hall. Vivaldi, a contemporary of Bach and Handel, wrote this music for small venues, not for halls seating 1,600 people. Nevertheless the music was consistently interesting, especially the elegant Largo, in which the mandolin was able to blossom forth with the most delicate orchestral accompaniment.

The Concierto de Aranjuez by the twentieth century composer Joaquin Rodrigo is much admired, and rightly so. In the 67 years since it was composed it has become a guitar classic, combining the brilliance of the flamenco dance with a kind of haunting melancholy. The central Adagio is the heart of this concerto, and Mr Ogden gave a wonderfully vivid and impassioned account of the music.

In response to prolonged applause the two soloists gave an attractive and light-hearted encore, a Neapolitan bolero. - Michael Green




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