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KZNPO CONCERT: JUNE 14, 2007 (article first published : 2007-06-16)

Four of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestraís players took the stage as soloists in this Durban City Hall concert, which offered an absorbing programme of wide contrasts.

The conductor was once again the visiting American Leslie B. Dunner, and he showed the range of his interpretative talents in works by Gluck, Haydn and Brahms.

Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787) is a somewhat underrated and underplayed composer these days. His Iphigenie en Aulide Overture is typical of his restrained and elegant art. This opera is about a lurid Greek tragedy involving love, betrayal, war, murder, incest and human sacrifice. Gluckís overture has a kind of controlled passion, and this atmosphere was admirably conveyed by the orchestra under Leslie Dunnerís careful direction.

Dr Dunner is as gifted a speaker as he is a conductor. In a vastly entertaining pre-concert lecture he disclosed that the second item on the programme, Haydnís Sinfonia Concertante for violin, cello, oboe and bassoon, was totally unknown territory for the orchestra until a day or two before the performance. It is indeed a rarely played work, and rare too in its conception. The combination of string and wind instruments as soloists is very unusual.

The sinfonia runs for about 25 minutes, has three movements and shows Haydn at his most inventive and ingenious, with technically difficult parts for the soloists. These parts were taken by Violeta Osorhean (violin), Boris Kerimov (cello), Clare Welfare (oboe) and Vessela Minkova (bassoon). Incidentally, these players illustrate the cosmopolitan nature of the orchestra; they are from, respectively, Romania, Russia, England and Bulgaria.

All four played with distinction in the Haydn sinfonia. The solo parts are closely integrated with the orchestral texture, but the violin is given a particularly prominent role, with short solo cadenzas leading into themes for the orchestra. I found the entire experience interesting and enjoyable, and so did the audience, judging by the applause.

Leslie Dunner said before the concert that it was some years since he had conducted Brahmsís Symphony No. 1 in C minor, and that he had given the matter careful thought in seeking fresh ideas. He and the orchestra gave a lovely performance of this large and formidable work.

The beautiful horn passage (followed by the woodwind) which introduces the main theme of the final movement, the theme which echoes Beethovenís ninth symphony, was played with great skill and assurance, and the conductorís vigorous leadership brought the symphony to a resplendent close. - Michael Green




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