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KZNPO CONCERT: MAY 24 2007 (article first published : 2007-05-29)

This was a lovely concert: two masterworks by Mozart and Beethoven with performances to match the quality of the music. The Durban City Hall audience responded with enthusiastic applause for the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra, the conductor, Arjan Tien from the Netherlands, and the piano soloist, Dror Biran from Israel.

After the briefest of opening items, Mozartís four-minute Marriage of Figaro Overture, we were given an outstanding interpretation of what is possibly the finest of Mozartís 27 piano concertos, No. 24 in C minor. Dror Biran has an impressive CV, and it is easy to see and hear why. He has an impeccable keyboard technique and he is a thoughtful, serious pianist.

This is a concerto of many moods and emotions, and the pianist explored its subtleties with loving care. In the calm and lyrical passages -- the slow movement, for example, --he produced a gentle yet penetrating tone, and one sensed from their rapt silence that the audience were highly appreciative of his total absorption in the music.

The orchestraís players, equal partners in this concerto, were in good form throughout, with sympathetic understanding between conductor and soloist.

As an encore, Dror Biran played a quiet and introspective piece from one of Bachís Partitas, a brave choice considering that audiences are used to encores that are more spectacular and more superficial.

Beethovenís Symphony No. 6 in F major, the Pastoral, is a glorious work which was much to the taste of the orchestra and the audience. Arjan Tien extracted maximum value from it. He is a tall, spare figure, 39 years old, and he has been a guest conductor here for ten years. He has a steady, expressive beat and he has good rapport with the players, judging by the responsive smiles from some of them. He is not a flamboyant, leaping conductor, but he has plenty of controlled energy.

This symphony is a continuous flow of melody, most of it with a gentle, leisurely pulse. The orchestra produced consistently good, balanced playing, with excellent contributions from the woodwind (who play an important part); and the dramatic, menacing start of the storm, the fourth movement, was handled with great skill.

The symphony ended in a blaze of golden colour, and prolonged applause completed a triumph for conductor and orchestra. - Michael Green




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