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KZNPO CONCERT: JUNE 28 (article first published : 2007-07-1)

Two major works and one trifle were presented at this final concert of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra’s winter season.

The programme opened with the Donna Diana Overture by Emil Nikolaus von Reznicek (1860-1945), which is the only composition by which this prolific Austrian composer is remembered today. It is attractive, catchy, energetic music, a confection really, and the orchestra, under the baton of the visiting German conductor Bernhard Gueller, gave a lively and successful account of it.

Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major is one of the greatest of all piano concertos and is a formidable technical and interpretative challenge for the soloist. On this occasion the soloist was Durban’s Andrew Warburton, and he showed his technical prowess to good effect in spite of playing from a score with a page turner, a process slightly distracting to the audience.

The first movement was a high speed performance, glittering and brilliant. I prefer a rather more deliberate approach --- the music is full of subtle nuances -- but I suppose this is a matter of taste. The dialogue between piano and orchestra in the Andante, one of Beethoven’s most remarkable conceptions, was executed with great skill and judgment by soloist and orchestra, and the final Rondo brought forth a virtuoso display from the pianist, who was rewarded with enthusiastic applause.

Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 in F minor is one of those compositions that sound very much better live in the concert hall than they do on any CD or television programme. It is a long, brilliantly orchestrated, dramatic work, and the KZNPO gave an outstanding performance, from the opening fanfare on the brass instruments to the final triumphant blaze of sound.

The brass players - horns, trumpets, trombones, tuba - have plenty to do in this symphony, and they rose splendidly to the occasion. The strings, apart from their many sweeping melodies, were first-rate in their long pizzicato passages in the scherzo, assisted no doubt by Bernhard Gueller’s meticulous conducting.

Altogether a lovely performance to end the season, and an effective answer to some pretentious people who disparage Tchaikovsky’s music. Notwithstanding the melancholia, he is indeed a composer of the first rank.

The orchestra’s next concert season runs from September 13 to November 15. - Michael Green




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