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KZNPO CONCERT: MARCH 27, 2008 (article first published : 2008-03-28)

A widely varied programme drew a fair-sized audience to the Durban City Hall for this last concert of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra’s summer season.

One of the drawcards was no doubt the appearance of a gifted young musician from Durban, the 14-year-old violinist Jacqueline Wedderburn-Maxwell. And indeed her performance with a much more senior violinist, Pieter Schoeman, of Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in D minor was the high point of the evening.

This beautiful work was written three centuries ago and, like most of Bach’s music, it is timeless in the sense that it sounds as well to modern ears as it did to the courtiers of Cothen in Germany in 1720.

For this performance the orchestra was reduced to chamber size, 24 players, but the acoustics of the City Hall are good and the sound was adequate. The two violinists played with admirable discipline and balance and seemed to be greatly helped by the sympathetic approach of the visiting British conductor Owain Arwel Hughes.

It would be invidious to compare the abilities of the soloists. Suffice it to say that Jacqueline Wedderburn-Maxwell was not overshadowed by Pieter Schoeman, who is South African and is a first-rate performer - he is now concertmaster of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Of course the latter is a mature and sensitive musician and would seek equality with his musical partner, not dominance.

Pieter Schoeman was also the soloist in Dvorak’s Romance in F minor, which is something of a rarity in the concert hall. It is a reconstruction of part of a quartet which Dvorak withdrew from publication and, predictably enough, it is lovely, graceful, gentle, tuneful. Soloist and orchestra played with tender loving care, and the result was a performance which gave much pleasure.

The well-known “Hornpipe” from Handel’s Water Music opened the programme and the second half was occupied by Rachmaninov’s big and imposing Symphony No 3 in A major. This work was not a success at its first performance in 1936 before an audience used to the lush romanticism of Rachmaninov’s earlier symphonies and concertos, and since then it has been somewhat neglected, unjustly. It is rather a philosophical symphony, full of introspective ideas and brilliantly orchestrated. Conductor and orchestra gave a splendid performance of it.

The orchestra’s winter season of six symphony concerts starts on May 22. - Michael Green




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