Classical Into music’s dramatic cauldron

Into music’s dramatic cauldron

Heralding the start of the South Africa-French cultural exchange, this concert highlighted the contribution French composers have made to the symphonic genre.

That said, the exclusion of Debussy and Ravel from the programme in favour of a longwinded, structurally rambling, and densely textured Dukas Symphony in C is strangely questionable. However, the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra rose to the occasion and performed the work with élan, responding to conductor Daniel Boico’s expressive gestures, attentively and sympathetically. With commanding podium flamboyance, Boico held the work together with noticeably superior direction over tempo changes, tonal balance, and ensemble cohesion. The hallmark of this interpretation – expressively shaped phrases and directional scaffolding towards climactic points – made for a memorable occasion.

Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto in G minor was a peculiarly muted affair that never really ignited, despite obvious attention to detail. Soloist Francois du Toit produced convincing cantabile melodic projection, replete with meaningfully shaped inner melodies and compelling part-playing, despite having to battle with an out-of-tune Steinway that has developed a “tubby” sounding middle register.

Du Toit displayed a wide array of tonal colour ranging from semiquaver runs of pure gossamer to full-bodied forte expostulations. Du Toit’s was a thoughtfully considered interpretation of a war-horse concerto with his whimsical characterisation of the middle movement especially praiseworthy, as well as his communication of inner-rhythms especially within fiendishly constructed double-note passages.

Conversational detailing between Du Toit and the orchestra represented moments of sheer artistry, though Du Toit and the orchestra still need to gel during flashes of intensity.

The concert opened with Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre in a performance that showcased concert master Hristo Kardjiev’s virtuosity. Her complete immersion into the music’s dramatic cauldron was thoroughly impressive. Here is a thoroughly impressive performer who plays with passionate surety and verve. A poignantly hued interpolation by oboist Alison Lowell provided a magnificently controlled counterpoint to Kardjiev’s tempestuous reading.

 

By Jeff Brukman

Cue contributing editor

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