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CLASSICAL NOTES (article first published : 2007-06-3)

Doing lunch with Arjan Tien and his compatriot, the cellist Roeland Duijne, last week, I found it hard to credit that a whole decade has passed since the young Dutch conductor first strode onto the Durban City Hall stage and knocked the socks off the KZNPOís seasoned subscription audience.

Those early appearances in Durban were Tienís first in this country, indeed among the first anywhere in his new-found life on the podium. Return engagements followed, of course, both here and in other South African centres, and this has been the pattern pretty well wherever he has appeared.

Today Tien has made considerable headway building a career for himself in his chosen field of music-making, both on the concert stage, and in the opera house, to the point of his being at the helm of what is in effect is his own hand-picked chamber orchestra.

Intriguingly for South Africans, this Netherlands-based group of 30-something players is officially dubbed The Magogo Chamber Orchestra. The name evolved following recording sessions with South African diva, Síbongile Kumalo, which included several songs by our own Royal Zulu composer, Princess Magogo.

Suggested by a number of the players as a title for their newly founded group, the name stuck. It has proved appropriately eclectic for an orchestra who perform across musicís widest spectrum, embracing all periods of the classical repertoire as well as popular music. Astutely, Tien and his Magogo players seek to break fresh ground, reaching new audiences from todayís hi-tech youth. To this end they often add the visual impact of multi-media performance dimensions to their concert packages.

The concert at the City Hall on May 31 marks Tienís third this season. Much anticipated was the premiere of a new piece of cello and orchestra entitled Casanova, by Johan de Meij, a leading light in European composition circles. The composer has described this piece, scored for Cello and Orchestra, as a portrait of the historic figure, Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798). Legendary to some, notorious to others, this illustrious character is represented by the cello. The workís eight musical scenes focus on episodes from Casanova's adventurous life: his arrest, his captivity and his escape from the ill-famed Piombi prison in Venice.

De Meijís romantic style pays tribute to the Italian composer Giacomo Puccini, whose soaring melodic gift did much to turn his own operas into pot-boilers. So expect sumptuous sounds from Casanova this evening, not least in the aural guise of Magogoís principal cellist Duijne, whose musical pedigree includes training with icons such as Maurice Gendron and Janos Starker, followed by high profile engagements across the globe.

The eveningís programme also includes Glinkaís Russlan and Ludmilla Overture and Rachmaninovís Symphony No 2.

Next week, we welcome back Leslie B Dunner for the first of three symphony concerts, with an all-Beethoven programme including the first of the three Leonore Overtures and both the composerís illustrious Fifths (German pianist Florian Uhlig is on the cards for the barnstorming challenges of The Emperor).

Another concert featuring maestro Dunner on the podium is the KZNPOís annual Starlight Pop Opera bash this Sunday at the Durban Country Club, presented by First National Bank. Gates open at 14h30, so take along those picnic hampers in good time for the concert, which starts at 17h30. A stellar soloist roster features internationally acclaimed Lebo M, jazz diva Gloria Bosman, Durban-born composer/singer Kreesan, velvet-voiced Tim Moloi and last, but not least, though donít expect an overdose of opera, two accomplished opera singers; Cape Town-based soprano Marion Roberts and our Germany-based tenor Musa Nkuna. In the event of rain, the concert will take place at 18h00 on June 4.

Finally, a note to catch the KZNPO in Sinfonia mode on June 10, for Haydnís Nelson Mass performed with the Durban Chamber Choir at St Thomas Anglican Church, Musgrave Road. Conducted by Naum Rousine, this performance will feature soloists Ziningi Hlomuka (soprano), Sibongile Magwaza (alto), Mhlaba Buthelezi (tenor) and Richard Salmon (bass). It starts at 11h15 and lasts an hour.




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