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KZNPO CONCERT: OCTOBER 11, 2007 (article first published : 2007-10-13)

Schubert’s monumental Symphony No. 9 in C major, “The Great” turned out to be a triumph for orchestra and conductor at this concert given by the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra in the Durban City Hall.

The symphony lasts 55 minutes but there was never a dull moment, and at the end the rather sparse audience rewarded the performers with a prolonged ovation.

The conductor was Victor Yampolsky, who is no stranger to Durban. Born and bred in Russia, he has lived for the past 34 years in the United States. He is a widely experienced conductor of very high quality. With his luxuriant grey hair and faintly exotic features he looks like the popular image of a maestro, but in fact he is far from flamboyant. He has a restrained manner on the podium and obtains maximum effect with economical gestures.

Conducting this long work without a score he extracted some excellent playing from all sections of the orchestra, especially the horns and trombones. The balance between the various instruments was well judged, and the conductor took great care in pointing to the many subtleties in Schubert’s music.

Franz Liszt described Schubert as the most poetic musician who ever lived, and this symphony provides ample evidence of that. Schubert died (in Vienna in 1828) at the age of 31, younger than Mozart was. One can only speculate wistfully on what he might have produced had he lived for another 15 or 20 years.

The soloist of the evening was the South African flautist Dawid Venter in Carl Reinecke’s Flute Concerto in D major, written in 1908 but very much in the nineteenth century German classic tradition. Incidentally it is Reinecke’s Op. 283. He was nothing if not prolific during his long life (he died in 1910 aged 86).

This concerto is a most agreeable work, with colourful orchestration and a brilliant solo part for the flute. Dawid Venter, a tall, slender, rather academic-looking figure, negotiated the difficulties with apparent ease, producing some lovely and lively sounds and always soaring elegantly above the discreet orchestral part. He too received enthusiastic applause for an outstanding performance of a work that is something of a rarity.

The concert opened with another composition that is seldom heard, Schumann’s overture to his only opera, Genoveva. - Michael Green




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