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KZNPO CONCERT: FEBRUARY 21, 2008 (article first published : 2008-02-23)

Two young performers, both in their twenties, took the stage in the Durban City Hall for this concert at which the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra presented works by Rossini, Mozart and Grieg.

The conductor was 23-year-old Joolz Gale, an Englishman, notwithstanding his exotic first name (Joolz as in Joolz Verne?). The soloist was 26-year-old Kotaro Fukuma who sounds, looks and is Japanese, and is also a pianist of the first rank.

Joolz Gale has a kind of irrepressible enthusiasm which was visible from the moment he almost literally bounced onto the stage for the first time. Rossiniís William Tell Overture gave him plenty of scope for flamboyant gestures and the orchestra responded energetically in a performance that would surely have pleased old Gioacchino Rossini himself. The audience liked it very much and the conductor made sure that the orchestra shared the plaudits accorded to him, bidding the players to rise in acknowledgment.

Joolz Gale was much more restrained in the major work of the evening, Mozartís Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K. 488. This is perhaps Mozartís most lyrical piano concerto. Kotaro Fukuma, who created a big impression when he played in Durban some time ago, gave a well-judged performance, with a relaxed keyboard manner, a limpid tone and a technique that made light of the many difficulties of the score.

Pianist and conductor seemed to have an excellent rapport, east meeting west in a cultural bond, and the audience gave them an extended ovation.

As an encore, Kotaro Fukuma played Debussyís Clair de Lune and played it with exquisite finesse and delicacy. I have heard this well-known piece hundreds of times, but I donít think I have ever heard a better performance of it.

Finally the orchestra played Griegís four-movement Symphonic Dances, a rather neglected composition, although in his heyday Sir Thomas Beecham used to put it into his programmes. It is delightful, especially the second movement.

The orchestra will have done the listeners a service if it has engendered a new interest in Griegís lovely music. - Michael Green




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