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DUNNER-FRANKL CONCERT (article first published : 2000-11-22)

Review of KZNPO World Symphony Series concert conducted by Leslie B Dunner with Peter Frankl as soloist on November 16 in the City Hall.

Pace, all is forgiven. From this writer’s vantagepoint, at least. After my dismayed account of Peter Frankl’s recital last Tuesday, let me hasten to pour forth praise for the Hungarian maestro’s Beethoven Piano Concerto No 4 with the KZN Philharmonic under the baton of Leslie B Dunner.

But to begin at the beginning: eccentric programming for this penultimate concert in the current spring symphony season paid off to refreshing effect, with two symphonies in the first half, and a concerto to close.

Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony had a joyous outing with Dr Dunner making a more-than-welcome return to our podium after a two-year absence. This miraculously concise work’s jocund, Haydnesque sassiness was superbly offset by immaculate discipline as Dunner drew pin-prick precision and bold incisiveness from his players in the opening Allegro. He followed this with a beautifully poised account of the Larghetto, an appropriately burlesqued Gavotte that had the bassoons tip-toeing preposterously en pointe, and a fleet-footed, finely nuanced Finale. In all, a highly sophisticated souffle, deliciously concocted from a classic recipe.

Dunner followed with a grand-scale account of Mozart’s Prague Symphony. He risked boring both his players and his audience by filling out all the “repeats” in each of the three movements. With an unflagging sense of forward momentum and keen sense of dynamic contrast his decision proved a triumph. Dunner clearly revelled in the rugged, contrapuntal writing that keeps surfacing in the outer movements and drew pristine sounds from his players throughout, notably in the richly textured Andante. The almost rude exuberance of the horns bursting forth in the finale couldn’t have been more of a delight (or, surely, more authentically styled).

If the Mozart was a revelation, so was the Beethoven 4th. The evening’s collaboration between conductor, soloist and orchestra had sparks flying, with Frankl rising from a muted opening to take the lead throughout this kaleidoscopic work. His reading of the glorious central movement was as tender as it could be (the bridge passage into the Rondo a moment of heart-stopping suspension). The pianist's abandon in the finale was a thing of joy to hear and witness: doubly so, embedded in the luxuriant sounds of the KZNPO in full throttle. The roar of applause at the end was richly deserved.




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