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KZNPO CONCERT: MARCH 30 (article first published : 2006-04-2)

The final concert of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra’s summer season held on March 30 offered two familiar works and one brilliantly executed rarity.

Under the baton of Naum Rousine, the orchestra gave lively performances of Weber’s Euryanthe Overture and Mendelssohn’s shimmering and joyous Italian Symphony, the latter much to the taste of the Durban City hall audience though to some listeners it may seem a little over-exposed these days.

The rarity was Mendelssohn’s Concerto for Two Pianos in E major, written in 1823 when the composer was only 14 years old. Mendelssohn was a prodigy nearly comparable to Mozart, and indeed there are some Mozartian strains in the first movement of this concerto. It is an astonishingly mature work, posed and spacious. As Bobbie Mills pointed out in a pre-concert lecture, it does not have the clutter of busy notes that mars some of the composer’s works.

Felix Mendelssohn wrote the concerto for private performance by himself and his sister Fanny, another gifted pianist. The manuscript lay forgotten in musical archives until 1961, when it was unearthed and published.

With two grand pianos occupying much of the City Hall stage, the concerto was played with outstanding skills by Aglika Genova and Liuben Dimitrov, the Bulgarian duo pianists who two days earlier had created a great impression at their Friends of Music recital. Their empathy and virtuosity were apparent from start to finish.

One of the pianos was the orchestra’s new Steinway, the other an older Steinway. To my ears the new piano had a richer tone than the old one, especially in the lower register. This was particularly noticeable in the slow movement, in which one instrument follows the other in long solo passages.

It seemed to me that Mendelssohn gave one pianist a more brilliant and prominent part than the other, and in this performance the spotlight fell mainly on Aglika Genova, the lady of the partnership, playing the older Steinway. It is interesting to speculate about which parts Felix and Fanny played nearly 200 years ago. My guess is that Fanny took the part played by Aglika Genova in Durban. Felix Mendelssohn was a notably generous man and he wouldn’t have minded giving his sister the more spectacular role.

In response to a foot-stamping ovation the pianists gave three delightful encores: the Brazileira from Milhaud’s Scaramouche suite, the first of Gershwin’s Three Preludes and Summertime, from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. - Michael Green




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