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KZNPO CONCERT: SEPTEMBER 28 (article first published : 2006-10-1)

It is seldom that Durban has an internationally-known composer onstage to acknowledge applause for one of his own compositions, and this probably accounted largely for the warmth of the applause given at this concert to Pierre Charvet.

Charvet is a 38-year-old Frenchman who has established a reputation as a composer who uses computer equipment in many of his works. He is a friend of the orchestra’s visiting conductor, Francois-Xavier Roth, hence the appearance on the programme of Charvet’s Regardez-le (“Look at him”), an advanced piece by any reckoning.

The conductor had some kind of computer at his side and this produced (through loudspeakers) electronic tones and spoken words, in French. The orchestra then began playing, often with great vigour, and it was rather difficult at times to decipher which sounds were from the computer and which were from the players.

As far as I could determine, there were two brief snatches of rudimentary melody but the work as a whole seemed to me to be one of noises rather than themes. Interesting, I suppose, but I can’t see this doing anything for the orchestra’s box-office receipts. The bemused audience gave composer and conductor a pleasant reception, but I think it fair to say that this was politeness rather than enthusiasm.

In more conventional vein, Manuel de Falla’s three-movement Nights in the Gardens of Spain featured the young Japanese pianist Kotaro Fukuma, who had created a great impression two nights earlier at his Friends of Music recital. He really is a brilliant player, with an outstanding keyboard technique matched to an ardent temperament, all this with a minimum of fuss and showmanship.

Falla’s composition, written in 1915, is wonderfully evocative, and its nocturnal beauties were admirably portrayed by the pianist. A pity, though, that at one or two points the piano was overpowered by orchestral sound. The players had been rearranged on the platform for this concert, presumably for the Charvet work. I don’t know whether this had something to do with the balance of sound in the Falla.

As an encore, Kotaro Fukuma played Albeniz’s Triana from the collection of twelve splendid and alarmingly difficult piano pieces which the composer called Iberia. This was a generous encore, a five-minute virtuoso work full of colour and fire, and for me it was the high point of the entire evening.

Finally Bizet’s two Carmen Suites put the audience in an excellent frame of mind, with their familiar, dramatic and romantic melodies, all played by the orchestra with great verve and style. - Michael Green




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