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KZNPO CONCERT: MAY 22 2008 (article first published : 2008-05-26; last edited : [an error occurred while processing this directive])

The winter season of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra opened with this resoundingly successful concert in the Durban City Hall, with the young German cellist Alexander Suleiman the star of the evening.

Alexander Suleiman has acquired a substantial international reputation in recent years, particularly as a presenter of modern music, and his quality and authority were apparent from the declamatory opening phrase of Elgarís Cello Concerto in E minor.

This is a difficult work to play, technically and interpretatively. It is melancholy but not gloomy; virtuoso but not flamboyant; serious but not depressing.

All the problems were overcome in commanding fashion by Alexander Suleiman. He is, I would guess, in his thirties, tall, well-built, a picture of concentration as he extracted some lovely mellow sounds from his cello. His playing of the heart-rending Adagio was as fine a performance as we have heard in years, and the audience responded at the end with prolonged applause. The cellist acknowledged this with two encores, unaccompanied pieces by Bach.

The orchestra was conducted by one of its own members Naum Rousine, standing in at fairly short notice for the Dutch conductor Arjan Tien, who was delayed in Europe. He did a very good job in the Elgar and the two Schumann compositions which completed the programme.

The audience was rather sparse. Perhaps people were put off by the relative unfamiliarity of the programme. Schumann is a wonderful composer and his Symphony No 3 in E flat, the Rhenish, is full of good tunes and colourful orchestration. George Szell, the Hungarian-born maestro who was one of the great conductors of the twentieth century, said he saw no reason why Schumannís four symphonies should not be as popular as Tchaikovskyís. The City Hall audience might well agree with that. They obviously derived great enjoyment from this performance. The playing was first-rate throughout, and the five horn players in particularly rose splendidly to the occasion in the important role assigned to them by the composer.

Schumannís Manfred Overture, also not very familiar but top-class music, opened the programme. Written as a prelude to Byronís verse play Manfred, it is vivid and dramatic, and the orchestra performed it with great skill and conviction. - Michael Green

For more information on the KZNPO, click on the banner advertisement on any of the main pages and it will take you to the orchestra's website.




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