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KZNPO CONCERT: NOVEMBER 8, 2007 (article first published : 2007-11-9)

Composers from eastern Europe, three Russians and a Czech, made up the programme for this Durban City Hall concert by the KZN Philharmonic, an event that turned out to be a great success for two soloists from that part of the world.

The players were the cellist Jan Palenicek and his wife, the pianist Jitka Cechova, who are from Prague (where they have temporarily left two young children for their concert tour of South Africa). Earlier in the week they had created a great impression at their recital for the Friends of Music and in their appearances with the orchestra, they confirmed that they are artists of the first rank.

The credit must be shared, of course, with the visiting conductor, Leslie Dunner, an old favourite in Durban, and the orchestra players themselves.

A large audience gave the performers an ovation, prolonged applause and foot-stamping, and I think it is gratifying that our concert-goers recognise quality and are not afraid to show their appreciation.

The concert opened with Shostakovich’s brilliant Festive Overture, written in two days in 1954 to meet the cultural demands of the Soviet regime.

Then came Dvorak’s Piano Concerto in G minor, not a well-known work but one that contains much lovely music. Jitka Cechova, the pianist, is tall and remarkably good-looking. She has an impressive keyboard technique (necessary in this work because many parts of it are difficult and awkward for the player). And she gave a perceptive interpretation of this poetic and romantic music, especially in the slow movement, which has passages that sound almost like a Chopin nocturne.

Jan Palenicek was the cello soloist in Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations. This is a fine work. As I remarked in a pre-concert lecture, it is one of Tchaikovsky’s compositions that dispel the false idea that his music is one long sob story. The word “rococo” refers of course to the rococo period of the eighteenth century, which was characterised by elaborate architecture, furniture, music, art. Tchaikovsky wrote his rococo theme himself and the variations are a skilful and elegant evocation of that period.

Jan Palenicek is a powerful and eloquent cellist. He dominated the performance of this delightful composition which indeed is what Tchaikovsky intended, with a golden cello tone shining through the light orchestral texture. Leslie Dunner’s conducting was totally sympathetic, and the result was a memorable performance.

An outstanding concert ended with Stravinsky’s homage to Tchaikovsky, The Fairy’s Kiss: Divertimento, arranged by the composer from the ballet of that name, in which Stravinsky quotes themes and fragments of themes from his great predecessor. - Michael Green




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