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KZNPO WINTER SEASON 2008 (article first published : 2008-05-18)

As always, the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestraís offers a wide-ranging programme for its forthcoming World Symphony Series winter season with international conductors and soloists appearing with top South African classical musicians.

May 22 - Lyrical Passion: Along with being the last important work that Elgar wrote, his Cello Concerto also stands as the cornerstone of the solo cello repertoire. Celebrated cellist Alexander Suleiman performs it, under the baton of popular Dutch conductor Arjan Tien. While the concerto represents his angst and despair at the end of the War, and is an introspective look at mortality, it does contain some light-hearted lyrical melodies and nostalgic themes. The solo cello acts as both narrator and protagonist, introducing and interrupting the course of events by way of linking them. Schumann's powerful overture to Byron's Manfred, which opens the concert, is a masterfully-scored piece which captures magnificently the musical drama of the stage production. The concert closes with what is often thought to be Schumann's best symphony, his engaging Symphony No. 3. The work contains a richness of romantic expression that, while the exact origins of the name are not known, in some ways could reflect the pleasure he found in his life in the Rhineland.

May 29 - Bristling Exuberance: Acclaimed South African pianist Anton Nel makes a welcome return to the Durban stage to perform Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto, a work that the composer played mostly from memory for its ill-prepared premiere performance. It is varied and dynamic - rich in the turbulent emotions for which Beethoven was well-known. Setting the tone for this performance is Beethoven's Prometheus Overture, which opens with an arresting dissonance and is teeming with an energy said to represent Prometheus fleeing from haven after stealing fire from the gods. The title, Winter Dreams, of Tchaikovsky's First Symphony might mislead some into expecting a cold-hearted work, but it bears more of an aura of optimism. The winter represented here is one of warmth, winter carnival and boisterous crowds enjoying the wonders of their snow-covered paradise.

June 12 - Dynamic Balance: Following his highly successful debut with the KNZPO in 2006, Boris Giltburg returns to perform Mozart's Fifteenth Piano Concerto in this concert which is conducted by Lykele Temmingh. Considered by the composer to be a difficult work and one that "makes one sweat", it was, in its time, an inspired showpiece for Mozart's own talent. Today it presents a challenge for the guest pianist, as its refinement of tone and dynamic balance captivate the audience. The Variations on a theme by Haydn marked a turning point for Brahms who, up until then, avoided writing orchestral pieces - the reasons for which are debatable. It was the successful premiere of the work, it is said, which gave him the confidence to complete his first symphony. The Variations clearly demonstrate his ability to handle a melody freely and create something altogether new. Britten's Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grime closes the concert with spectacular flourish.

June 26 - Musical Artistry: A strong favourite with KZNPO audiences, admired African-American conductor Dr Leslie Dunner leads a concert featuring notable South African cellist Anzel Gerber. She performs Schumann's melancholic Cello Concerto, a work premiered after his death in a concert in honour of his 50th birthday, which is a display piece for the soloist. With an affection for the cello and a keen knowledge of its capacity for expression, Schumann created a work that is both lyrical and, in the final movement, quite lively. Nielsen's Second Symphony was inspired by a four-part comical picture of the four temperaments - choleric, phlegmatic, melancholic and sanguine - which he found in a village pub on the Danish island of Zealand. Each of its four movements illuminate one of the temperaments in a way that you need not know which temperament is being shown in order to truly appreciate the artistry of the music.

July 3: Mozart's Genius: Conducted by Victor Yampolsky, this concert features a trio of enthralling works by Mozart. The KZNPO's principal players Sabine Baird and Linor Steinhausen, perform the composer's Concerto for Flute and Harp - a work that combines the two pure-toned and penetrating instruments for an enchanting musical experience. Mozart's Symphony No. 40 has long been considered a manifestation of his most personal voice. At the time of composing it, he was in dire financial straits and the music reflects the gravity of his situation with passion and seriousness, and few smiles. However, it remains a rich and without peer in its clarity and balance.

July 10 - Waves of Sound: With Victor Yampolsky again on the podium, the KZNPO will perform Vaughan Williamsís Symphony No. 5 in which the composer returns to the visionary style of his earlier works to create a symphony that embodied the beautiful evocative passages that were his trademark. Dedicated to Sibelius, the symphony engages the audience - from the magical opening of the soft call of the horns, through a gentle but pervasive tension, to the grand climax of waves of sound generated by the full orchestra. Skilled pianist Christopher Tainton returns to perform Brahms's ambitious Second Piano Concerto which is a mature and emotionally-reserved work that makes skilful use of the orchestra. It was composed directly after the completion of Brahms's Second Symphony, and the elements of his mature symphonic style are heard in this concerto. He even adds a fourth movement, expanding the typical three-movement concerto form to symphonic proportions. It was an immediate success at its premiere.

All KZNPO concerts take place in the Durban City Hall at 19h30, Friends of Music offer pre-concert lectures across the road in the Royal Hall at 18h00. Booking at Computicket for concerts and lectures. More information from Nickey Labuschagne in the KZNPO Offices on 031 369 9438, fax 031 369 9403 or visit www.kznpo.co.za by click on the banner advert on the main Music page.




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