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KZNPO CONCERT: FEBRUARY 18 2008 (article first published : 2008-03-5)

This concert offered a varied and unusual programme that gave much pleasure to the Durban City Hall audience. The KZN Philharmonic Orchestra excelled in the old and the new under the baton of the visiting Japanese conductor Yasuo Shinozaki, who now lives in London.

Yasuo Shinozaki appears to be a youngish man, about 30 I would guess, of compact build and great energy. He is a vigorous conductor with a strong beat and a precise direction of the players. And he seems to like quick tempi. At one stage during Haydn’s London Symphony I thought we were watching the fastest baton in the east.

This symphony, Haydn’s last (No. 104), is one of the great works of the symphonic repertory, and Shinozaki’s interpretation was certainly dynamic. But the third movement minuet in particular was too fast for my taste. Some of Haydn’s bold touches were diminished by the fast tempo, for example the woodwind trills and the memorable two-bar pause that occurs three times in the movement.

The concert opened with Mozart’s wonderfully tense and concentrated Don Giovanni Overture, and Yasuo Shinozaki really came into his own with the twentieth century music that occupied the second of the concert. This included the South African premiere of Jan Koetsier’s Concerto for Brass Quintet. Koetsier, who died in 2006 aged almost 95, was a Hollander who spent much of his life in Germany and who wrote a considerable amount of music for brass instruments.

This concerto is a most attractive work, tuneful, rhythmical, brilliantly orchestrated and easily accessible at first hearing. The soloists were the Geneva Brass Quintet, five young Swiss players who are experts with their instruments: two trumpets, horn, trombone and tuba.

Brass instruments are inherently noisy but in this work the composer has achieved a deft balance with the orchestra. The soloists and the conductor had obviously established a good rapport and the result was an outstanding performance. In response to prolonged applause, the five soloists gave an encore in which they arranged themselves in various positions at the back of the City Hall stage and played what seemed to be a humorous composition, Swiss humour, I assume.

Zoltan Kodaly’s Dances of Galanta brought the concert to a brilliant conclusion. This Hungarian composer made a life-long study of his country’s folk music. This work is high-quality gypsy music, and Yasuo Shinozaki and the players revelled in the opportunity to show their paces. - Michael Green




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