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KZNPO CONCERT: JULY 3 2008 (article first published : 2008-07-8)

The magic name of Mozart drew a large audience to the Durban City Hall for this concert by the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra, with a lengthy queue waiting in the foyer for the discounted same-night tickets.

It was an all-Mozart programme. The conductor was the admirable Victor Yampolsky, well-known in Durban. Born and trained in Russia but living in the United States for the past 35 years, he is a genial and impressive personality, with an immense depth of musical knowledge and the communication skills to convey this to the musicians under his command and to the audience. The outcome was a concert of consistent distinction.

It opened with Mozartís Divertimento in D major, K. 136, written in 1772 when the composer was 16 years old. Divertimento is Italian for amusement, and Mozart wrote about 20 suites with this title, many of them scored for strings alone. This three-movement D major work is a good example, and 35 string players from the orchestra gave a lively account of it. No stress, just light entertainment of the highest class.

For this concert the conductor rearranged the customary positions of the players on the stage, with the result that we in the audience had new front views of some faces which we usually see only in profile.

Mozart wrote about 50 concertos for a wide variety of instruments. The Concerto for Flute and Harp in C major, K.299, is not particularly well-known but it is a thing of great beauty and elegance. Two of the orchestraís own members, Sabine Baird (flute) and Linor Steinhausen (harp), were the soloists in this performance, and they showed high technical skills and a compelling interpretation of the music.

The flute is an instrument of slender sound, but Sabine Baird produced a lovely full tone in her part, which is the dominant one here. Then two soloists were at their best in the ethereal slow movement and in the several lengthy passages in which they are unaccompanied by the orchestra. And Victor Yampolsky handled Mozartís discreet orchestration with delicacy and insight.

Finally, we had one of the greatest of symphonies, Mozartís Symphony No. 40 in G minor. Victor Yampolsky conducted without a score and gave loving attention to every nuance and detail of this work, and the orchestra responded splendidly.

At maximum strength the orchestra has about 70 players. For this symphony there were 45 of them on the platform, 37 strings and eight wind instruments - Mozartís music does not demand a very large orchestra - and the sound was full, rich and satisfying.

Listening to this wonderful music I reflected, not for the first time, that CDs and the rest are not really the equivalent of a live performance like this. The ultimate reason for supporting our orchestra. - Michael Green




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