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

WSS SPRING SEASON 2008 (article first published : 2008-08-29)

September marks the 25th anniversary of the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra and an impressive programme has been lined-up for the pleasure of lovers of classical music. The Season runs for ten weeks from September 11 to November 13. The birthday celebrations extend to Pietermaritzburg with a special concert on October 22 to mirror the concert in the Durban City Hall on October 23, 1983. Subscribers can benefit from up to 25% discount on multiple concert bookings and season updates and information can be found by clicking on the KZNPO banner advert on the main Music page which links to the orchestra’s website.

September 11: Masterful Beethoven featuring conductor and soloist: Justus Frantz. This all-Beethoven programme marks the return of acclaimed artist, Justus Frantz. He takes to the Durban stage in a dual role, as both conductor and soloist for the opening concert of the WSS Spring Season. The Second Piano Concerto was an important display piece for the young Beethoven as he tried to make his mark in Vienna. Although in his own estimation it was "not one of the best", it was nonetheless well received by audiences and its sense of drama was an indication of what was to come from this masterful composer. By contrast, he labelled his Seventh Symphony as his "most excellent symphony" and this was echoed by its success at the premiere performance. Richly melodic and optimistic, its stands as one of his most popular works. The concert opens with Beethoven's grandly proportioned Leonore Overture No. 3. As one of four overtures composed for the opera Fidelio, today it is accepted more as part of concert hall repertory than as a theatre work.

September 18: Virtuosic Masterpiece featuring conductor François-Xavier Roth and soloist Daniel Rowland on the violin. The rich orchestration of Brahms's Violin Concerto marks the debut of violinist Daniel Rowland. Lauded for "glorious playing. ravishing in its finesse", he performs this demanding work under the baton of accomplished conductor François-Xavier Roth. Written for virtuoso violinist Joseph Joachim, who also contributed a great deal to its conception, the Violin Concerto in D major was received with scepticism by some due to the difficulties it presented the soloist. Yet audiences continue to delight in the lyrical melodies of this masterpiece. Bruckner's contrasting Symphony No. 6, with its rhythmic complexities, alternates between fiery composition and more temperate moods, brining the evening to a climactic close.

September 25: French Mastery again features François-Xavier Roth with cellist Tatjana Vassiljeva as the featured soloist. With a formidable reputation as one of the leading cellists of her generation, Tatjana Vassiljeva takes to the City Hall stage to perform Lalo's dramatic Cello Concerto. With its volatile moods and poetic lyricism, this dramatic piece is one of the great works of the repertoire. Opening the concert is Franck's symphonic poem, Le Chasseur Maudit (The accursed huntsman), which paints a vivid picture of a hunt - from the pealing bells as the huntsman prepare followed by the progress of the chase over the moors, to the pious chant warning the Count to draw back and the strong piercing themes of the final curse as he is pursued forever by demons. The second half features what is, arguably, Chausson's masterpiece; his Symphony in B-flat major which reflects his own highly personal and expressive style. Arriving at a time when Parisian audiences were beginning to support and enjoy what would become a French symphonic tradition; the symphony is one of deep contrasts. Moments of dramatic intensity are juxtaposed with serene tranquillity, creating a masterful work.

October 2: Freedom Symphony featuring conductor Leslie B. Dunner, a firm favourite with Durban audiences, and highly acclaimed Indian violinist and composer, Dr Lakshminarayanan Subramaniam who brings his dazzling technique and breadth of musicianship to Durban for this highlight of the Spring Season. Known for popularising South Indian music internationally, Dr Subramaniam’s renown has ensured collaborations with top artists all over the world. Fantasy on Vedic Chants was written for the New York Philharmonic and premiered with Zubin Mehta in 1985, while the Freedom Symphony appeared more recently, having premiered in September 2007 with the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra. Berlioz's colourful Roman Carnival Overture opens the concert and the concert fittingly concludes with Tchaikovsky's Cappricio Italien, which was inspired by a carnival during a trip the composer made to Rome.

October 9: Rhythmic Liberty features Leslie B. Dunner back on the podium with remarkable young soloist Chun Wang performing Chopin's intimate Piano Concerto No 1. With the orchestra's role clearly second to that of the soloist, this concerto provides the pianist the opportunity to freely explore the full expressive range of the piano with rhythmic liberty. Its uncomplicated beauty has made it a favourite as a feature on the soundtrack of several popular films, including The Truman Show, Stairway to Heaven and Splash. One of the finest of Mozart's compositions, the Symphony No 39 is a gratifying blend of joyful enthusiasm and solemn introspection, delicate smiles and hearty laughter - all carefully balanced throughout the changing melodies of the work. The first of Mozart's final set of three symphonies, all dating from the summer of 1788, this symphony is it is not played as often as the two that followed, but this makes it all the more a surprise and delight when listened to. This all-Mozart programme is completed with his Idomeneo: Overture.

October 16: Stars of Tomorrow - National Youth Concerto Festival. A sought-after vehicle for young musicians wanting to make their mark, the National Youth Concerto Festival sets a high standard of performance. Resident conductor Lykele Temmingh travels to venues around South Africa to audition young hopefuls and selects the best to perform on stage with the KZN Philharmonic. The cream of young South African artists are put through their paces with a programme that offers a feast of classical fare. Join the KZNPO in celebrating the talents of South Africa’s youth in a concert that is often a springboard for broadening their horizons and a launching pad for careers. Soloists include Donne de Kok (violin); Edward Phiri (baritone); Philip Scholtz (clarinet); Kwakhanyana Mavuka (tenor); Musawenkosi Ngqungwana (bass baritone); Michael Duffett (violin); Aristide du Plessis (cello); Dylan Tabisher (marimba); In Cha Hsu (violin), and Jacques Malan (cello).

October 23: Birthday Celebrations. Conductor Leslie B. Dunner is back on the podium for the 25th Anniversary celebrations which reach a highpoint on this, the anniversary date of the KZNPO’s inaugural concert in the Pietermaritzburg City Hall in 1983. Beethoven's Ninth Symphony "Choral" has marked many auspicious occasions over the years, including various openings of the Olympic Games and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Enlisted for its universal and hopeful message, it is a powerful and deeply engaging masterpiece that has been fittingly selected for tonight's celebrations. Incorporating Friederich Schiller's Ode To Joy, it is a work of grand scope and is performed by a host of superb South African talent. Confirmed performers to date are mezzo-soprano Violina Anguelov and baritone Fikile Mvinjelwa. The concert will also feature the Drakensberg Boys' Choir, Durban Chamber Choir and Clermont Community Choir.

October 30: Vivid Contrasts. Vibrant clarinettist Joanne Rosario returns to Durban to perform under the baton of the KZNPO's skilful resident conductor Naum Rousine. Smetana's The Moldau, with its picturesque images of the ever-changing course of the river, begins this evening's concert on a vivid note. Forests and meadows, moonlight and blue skies, are portrayed in this symphonic poem from Má Vlast (My fatherland). In contrast, Weber's Clarinet Concerto No. 1 is a profoundly serious and strikingly expressive work. With his melodic gift and pioneering flair for dramatic orchestration, Weber has crafted a work with a deep understanding of the capabilities of the instrument - and affords the soloist the opportunity to express this. One of the most innovative of composers, Scriabin developed a highly lyrical and idiosyncratic tonal language. Driven by a poetic, philosophical and aesthetic vision that bordered on the mystical, he is one of the primary figures of Russian symbolism in music. His Second Symphony is buoyed by its rhythms and bursts of songs, from the opening andante to the rewarding closing notes.

November 6: Rich Romanticism. Welcomed onto the podium for the first time in Durban will be notable conductor Ian Brown who will appear alongside soloists. Peter Bruns (cello), Kai Vogler (violin) and Ben Schoeman (piano). Brahms's Double Concerto, the last one he wrote, is given its fullest expression through the rich voice of Romanticism. Written for Joseph Joachim and Robert Hausmann, Brahms successfully tackles the challenges of combining the intimate voice of the cello and the more penetrating tones of the violin for his last concerto; by treating the two as a single "complex instrument", his strategy created opportunities for each to shine individually. The result: a harmonious interplay. The Romantic era, along with the delicate precision of the Baroque concerto grosso, also provides the rich harmonies for Beethoven's Triple Concerto. Exploiting each instrument's distinct personality, he has written a memorable work that highlights the skills of each soloist. Also featured will be Beethoven’s Fidelio: Overture.

November 13: Epic Conclusion conducted by US based Robert Maxym with soloists Linda Bukhosini (soprano), Tina Mene (mezzo-soprano) and Themba Mkhwani (tenor) with the Narrator still to be announced. They will be supported by the impressive line up of African Chorus, Durban Symphonic Choir and SA Singers. An expansive work, uShaka KaSenzangakhona tells the epic story of the Zulu King, Shaka. Using praise poetry and music, it combines two great cultural traditions in one complex piece - that of Zulu poetry and song with the orchestral tradition of Europe. Tonight it is brought to life by a notable group of singers and provides a fitting conclusion to this celebratory season.

Every WSS concert is preceded by a musically illustrated introductory talk presented by the KZNPO, in association with the Friends of Music. These talks are designed to enlighten and entertain, and each speaker is an authority on their subject. The admission price of R30 per person includes light refreshments. The Pre-Concert lectures take place at the Royal Hotel at 18h15.

More information from the KZNPO offices on 031 369 9438, fax 031 369 9403 or email: marketing@kznpo.co.za or design@kznpo.co.za Access the KZNPO site through the banner advert on the main artSMart Music page.




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