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KZNPO CONCERT: MAY 31 2007 (article first published : 2007-06-1)

Music from the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries made an unusual and interesting programme for this concert by the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra in the Durban City Hall.

Glinka’s overture to his opera Russlan and Ludmilla opened the proceedings in breezy fashion and then came an impressive new work by a 53-year-old Dutch composer, Johan de Meij: Casanova, for cello and orchestra.

This is a series of eight scenes depicting episodes in the life of the 18th century lover and adventurer who was always getting into trouble of one kind or another. Written originally for wind instruments, percussion and cello, it was given its world premiere in Holland seven years ago but this performance in Durban was the premiere of the work in full symphonic form, involving the strings.

The cello soloist here, Roeland Duijne, was the man who presented the work at its original hearing in Holland. He himself is from the Netherlands, as indeed is the conductor of the evening, Arjan Tien.

Johan de Meij has become well known internationally for film scores and other works for brass instruments in particular. He is a trombonist (he plays in a Dutch orchestra) and one of his compositions is a trombone concerto which he calls his T-Bone Concerto. The movements are: Rare, Medium and Well Done. Obviously a composer with a sense of humour and a good command of English idiom.

He is an admirer of Puccini’s music, and this is evident in many parts of Casanova. The solo cello is, of course, assigned the role of the hero, or anti-hero, suave, persuasive, seductive. Roeland Duijne played the part with great skill and conviction, much to the enjoyment of the audience.

This is accessible music, not avant-garde, and the unusually large orchestra, 70 players, performed with enthusiasm and gusto, especially the 13 brass players (three of them trombonists) and six percussionists. The latter have several strange instruments prescribed by the composer and made here for the occasion, including a Lion’s Roar and a Thundersheet, and these requirements were carried out with great aplomb.

Soloist and orchestra acknowledged the applause with an encore, a little known and very attractive nocturne by Tchaikovksy.

After the interval came Rachmaninov’s extensive and beautiful Symphony No. 2 in E minor. This lasts for almost an hour, but the time passed very quickly. Arjan Tien’s direction took note of the many subtleties of Rachmaninov’s glowing score, and Ian Holloway’s performance of the long and eloquent clarinet solo in the slow movement was a high point of the entire performance.

Rachmaninov’s sweeping melodies and rich harmonies were greatly appreciated by the audience, who gave the players an ovation at the end, including whistling and cheering. A splendid occasion. –Michael Green




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