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KZNPO CONCERT: OCTOBER 26 (article first published : 2006-10-29)

A mixture of the very familiar and the very unfamiliar was presented at this concert given by the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra in the Durban City Hall.

There can be few orchestral compositions better known than Griegís two Peer Gynt Suites. And in the vast concerto repertory there can be few works less recognisable than Ralph Vaughan Williamsís Oboe Concerto, written in 1944 and first performed in Liverpool because German rocket bombs were dropping on London at the time.

I think it fair to say that as a composer Vaughan Williams was worthy rather than exciting. The oboe concerto was written for the distinguished English oboist Leon Goossens. It is a three-movement work, quite short, and relaxed in the folksy, pastoral mood that is much loved by English composers. The distinctive, penetrating tone of the oboe is expertly displayed in a sensitive alliance with a string orchestra, and the performance was admirable. Clare Welfare, the KZNPOís principal oboist, showed high skills in the demanding solo part, and the visiting conductor, Chinese-born En Shao, was, as always, a sympathetic partner.

En Shao has long been a favourite with Durban audiences, and this time he was given a rousing reception as he bounced on to the stage for the opening item, Vaughan Williamsís overture The Wasps, written for a production at Cambridge University of a political satire by the Greek dramatist Aristophanes. This ten-minute piece is one of Vaughan Williamsís most attractive works and older people here may remember its eloquent central melody as the theme tune of a long-running radio programme many years ago. The orchestra played the overture with plenty of buzz, so to speak.

After the interval came the Peer Gynt Suites by Grieg, beautiful music that nearly everyone knows, from the pen of a great and original composer who is rather underrated by musical highbrows.

Unfortunately, as far as Durban concertgoers were concerned the charms of Grieg did not outweigh indifference to Vaughan Williams. The City Hall audience was conspicuously sparse. - Michael Green




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