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KZNPO CONCERT: MAY 17 2007 (article first published : 2007-05-20)

It seems that a determined effort has been made to present popular programmes for the winter season of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra. Over the next few weeks we will be given plenty of Beethoven, some Tchaikovsky, Brahms and Rachmaninov, and an evening of Gershwin and Bernstein that is in no sense a symphony concert.

The season opened with an all-Sibelius programme under the baton of Arjan Tien, the Hollander who has been a guest conductor with the orchestra over the past ten years.

I thought the programme was most attractive, and I was surprised that the attendance in the Durban City Hall was rather sparse. The audience will no doubt increase in size as the season progresses.

Sibeliusís most famous work, Finlandia, was followed by his Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47, with an outstanding performance by Sergey Ostrovsky, a violinist who has played here before and who has a cosmopolitan background involving Russia, Israel, Holland and Switzerland.

He has a fine technique, which is necessary in this difficult concerto, and he produced a sweetly penetrating tone, especially in the beautiful slow movement, in which the solo violin shines through the dark colours of the orchestra.

Arjan Tien was an admirable partner, guiding the orchestra through the complexities of Sibeliusís score and achieving excellent balance with the soloist.

The audience gave the performers a generous ovation at the end, and Sergey Ostrovsky acknowledged this with an encore, Paganiniís Caprice No. 5, a glittering shower of staccato notes.

Sibeliusís Symphony No. 3 in C major, Op. 52 is one of the lesser-known of his seven symphonies. Dating from 1907, it is a fine work, concise, direct, expressive and powerful. The orchestra were in splendid form, responding to Arjan Tienís careful direction and control, and again there was enthusiastic applause at the end.

In the brief pause between the second and third movements the conductor turned round to shoot a reproving stare at a noisy cougher somewhere near the front of the audience. My sympathies are with the conductor. We need all the people who support the orchestra, but a handful of them seem to be lacking in basic concert manners. - Michael Green




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