Classical Orchestra not into overdrive

Orchestra not into overdrive

The performance by the Kwa-Zulu Philharmonic Orchestra (KZNPO) was somewhat diffident, with the opening work, Rossini’s Barber of Seville Overture, setting the scene for an evening largely lacking in compelling music-making and artistic vigour. Despite finely graded dynamics, rhythmical exactitude, and stunningly rendered horn solos by Sorin Osorhean, the overture was rendered with muted exuberance. 


American mezzo-soprano Krysty Swann performs while Daniel Boico conducts the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra Concert in the Guy Butler Theatre at the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown, Thursday 03 July 2014. Krysty Swann performed famous arias as “O mio Fernando” from La Favorita, “O don Fatale” from Don Carlo and “En vain pour eviter” from Carmen. (Photo: CUEPIX/Mia van der Merwe)

Unfortunately, apart from patches of brilliance mixed with energetic flair, the concert lacked the drive and excitement frequently associated with this orchestra. Representing a kaleidoscope of musical bonbons,the programme did little to showcase the KZNPO’s real potential.

Deviating from the traditional overture-concerto-symphony format, the concert largely showcased the talents of African-American mezzo-soprano Krysty Swann, placing the orchestra all too frequently in an accompanying role. A weightier, more substantive programme would have differentiated between this concert and the upcoming Gala Concert; it seems a waste to bring an orchestra all the way to Grahamstown to have them perform a series of concerts with relatively lightweight repertoire.

Directing the orchestra with flamboyant and expressive gestures, conductor Daniel Boico did not appear to communicate his intense musical experience, with the strings seemingly ignoring numerous indications to perform pianissimo. This was especially apparent, in an otherwise beautifully sculptured rendering of the Intermezzo from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana.

Sadly the strings, in I crisantemi (Puccini) appeared rather inhibited from revelling in the score’s sumptuous tapestry. However, Verdi’s Overture to La Forza del Destino brimmed with superior musicianship, and showcased the orchestra’s ability to perform under the music’s skin. In this work the supple phrasing and fluid tone of clarinettist Annelize de Villiers’s solo offerings showcased the musicianship of a truly fine artist.

Also, special mention needs to be made of flautist Sabine Baird’s effortlessly soaring tone in a sensitive rendition of Intermezzo from Bizet’s Carmen Suite. Likewise, the sheer musicality and artistry evident from the horn section and the harpist during Donizetti’s “O mio Fernando” represented music-making from the top drawer. An elegant performer, violinist Violeta Osorhean needs to assert herself more boldly; this would have added fire to her carefully prepared solos passages during Danse macabre (Saint-Saëns).

Vocal soloist, Krysty Swann, came to light in two contributions from Bizet’s Carmen: Séguedille and Habanera, where she displayed a sense for musical characterization. Sadly, her other performances were lacklustre and showed limited ability to enter the core of the score and dramatic text. With a mature vocal quality and technical command at her finger tips, Swann still needs to develop the art of drawing her listeners nearer through emotionally communicating with the audience.

This was evident in technically correct though rather bland performances of “O mio Fernando” from Donizetti’s La Favoritaand “Voi lo sapete” from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana. Unfortunately, many of her phrases in the lower register did not penetrate through the orchestral accompaniment, something that was particularly noticeable during “Mon Coeur s’ouvre á ta voix” from Samson et Dalila (Saint-Saëns).

It is to be hoped that this programming experiment will not persist into the future.

– Jeffrey Brukman (Cue specialist writer)

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