Classical Sumptuous, vibrant and starring…the orchestra

Sumptuous, vibrant and starring…the orchestra

The KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra continued their symphonic dominance with a creditable performance at the annual National Arts Festival’s Gala Concert. The orchestra responded well to Richard Cock’s unfussy, direct stick-work, revealing their consummate professionalism to handle change, Cock being the third conductor to lead them in the space of four days.

Apart from exquisitely performed orchestral solos, the orchestra’s “alive” approach to music-making made for a positive musical experience. The music of French composer, Ambroise Thomas, played a fairly significant role in this year’s programme compilation, with the orchestra performing a carefully prepared and elegant rendition of his ,em>Mignon Overture. This was followed by two of Thomas’s opera arias, performed by coloratura soprano, Magdaleen Minnaar.

In Je suis, Titania from Mignon and the “Mad Scene” from Hamlet – two technically fiendish and emotionally exhausting arias – the audience were treated to phenomenal readings that ended with full-bodied stratospheric cadential trilling and climactic flourishes.

Minnaar performed with the assuredness of a seasoned professional and well deserved the audience’s rapturous acclaim. Standard Bank Young Artist for Music, pianist Ben Schoeman’s rendition of Liszt’s First Piano Concerto highlighted his plush cantabile tone production and the work’s melodic aspects.

Beautifully honed thematic interplay between Schoeman and clarinettist David Cohen and violinist, Violeta Osorhean, revealed a high level of musicianship. Unfortunately, Schoeman appeared ill at ease and his unsettled opening cascading octave passages detracted from a thorough appreciation.

Cock showcased the strings in a stylish interpretation of MacDowell’s To a Wild Rose, in which intensely interpreted viola passages produced an astonishingly beautiful effect. Percy Grainger’s arrangement of Danny Boy, for strings and horns, was given sumptuous treatment.

The concert closed with a lavish arrangement of the Beatles All my loving, with the cello section producing the richest legato lines of the afternoon.

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