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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

KZNPO CONCERT: JULY 10 2008 (article first published : 2008-07-11)

A rather smaller audience than usual was in the Durban City Hall for this last concert of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra’s winter season.

They were given a programme of two lengthy works, with Victor Yampolsky from the United States as conductor and Christopher Tainton, a young pianist from Europe, as soloist.

Vaughan Williams and Brahms were the composers played, with Vaughan Williams’s Symphony No. 5 in the first half and Brahms’s Concerto No. 2 in B flat major after the interval. Usually the symphony comes after the concerto and in this case, the symphony was composed sixty years after the concerto. The chronological and stylistic anomaly of their order on the programme caused discussion among some members of the audience, and the consensus was that the concerto was placed second so that people would not go home at the interval!

Ralph Vaughan Williams, who died in 1958 at the age of 92, was a totally English composer, steeped in the historical and folk music of his homeland. The fifth of his nine symphonies was first performed in London in 1943. Vaughan Williams was a twentieth century musician but a traditionalist to the core, quite different from Shostakovich or Prokofiev, let alone Bartok or Stravinsky. The fifth symphony is an evocation of the countryside and a kind of quasi-religious meditation. The music is meandering. It is beautifully scored, with many rich harmonies, but for much of the time it sounds as if you could be in the beginning or the middle or the end. It is easy to understand how Vaughan Williams made a successful late career as a composer of film music.

The orchestra played this rather atmospheric music with great skill and commitment, directed by Victor Yampolsky with sympathy and warmth. An outstanding performance.

In contrast, the Brahms concerto is nothing if not direct, vigorous and purposeful. It is a long work, about 50 minutes, and the piano part is very difficult and taxing, with thundering octaves and rapid scales and thirds and sixths. In spite of his very English name Christopher Tainton is German (he is the son of the conductor Justus Frantz, who will be appearing in the orchestra’s next season).

He is technically a highly accomplished player (you need to be to handle this score) and, with the exception of a lapse in the first movement, he gave an accurate, lively and perceptive account of this great work. The slow movement came off best, with orchestra and pianist creating an autumnal glow and with a notable contribution from the orchestra’s principal cellist, Boris Kerimov.

It was an enjoyable and stimulating performance of a concerto that is not played here very often, and the audience showed their appreciation with prolonged applause.

The orchestra’s next season, its spring season, starts on September 11 and has ten concerts running to November 13. - Michael Green

Click on the KZNPO advert on artSMart main discipline pages and this will take you to the orchestra’s website which gives details of the full symphony season as well as other KZNPO activities.




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