Classical KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Ensemble Concerto: Invoking the spirit of South Africa

KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Ensemble Concerto: Invoking the spirit of South Africa

Presenting a programme of Western art music largely inspired by the cultural mores of Africa, members of the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra (KZNPO) choose to perform music by French composer Maurice Ravel, and two American composers, Steve Reich and David Bruce.

As claimed by the master of ceremonies, Ravel’s String Quartet in F major may contain oblique references to music emanating from East Africa, though some musicologists believe that his partial Spanish heritage may account for these influences.

Notwithstanding these academic niceties, the work received a thoroughly professional performance with each player displaying total commitment and artistic intensity.
Ably led by first violinist Joanna Frankel, this interpretation displayed close adherence to the text, flawless ensemble playing, and perfectly gauged blend with sonic space for violist, David Snaith, to penetrate the texture with artistic meaning.

Throughout this performance, evocatively hued thematic interplay emerged through the lucent tapestry. Here, pizzicato playing added a frisson of excitement (Assez vif, trés rythmé) with cellist, David Pinoit, and Snaith eloquently adding to the musical argument.

Pinoit’s attention arresting declamatory enunciations (Trés Lent) added to the music’s intense portrayal, generally characterized by white-hot fervour alternating with instances of hauntingly spaced beauty. Witnessing this performance was a remarkable experience.

Joshua Kim, Thando Nkangana and Boris Kerimov perform in the Kwazulu- Natal Ensemble Concerto. The programme included works by Maurice Ravel, David Bruce and Steve Reich. Photo: CuePix/Mia van der Merwe

Joshua Kim, Thando Nkangana and Boris Kerimov perform in the Kwazulu- Natal Ensemble Concerto. The programme included works by Maurice Ravel, David Bruce and Steve Reich. Photo: CuePix/Mia van der Merwe

To their credit, members of the KZNPO are inspired to introduce audiences to works that are too infrequently performed in South Africa. Reich’s Drumming is one such work. Performed with complete absorption by the orchestra’s percussionists, this interpretation showed their comprehensive understanding and identification with Reich’s compositional processes.

Manipulation of the texture created opportunity for rhythmic and timbral interplay to emerge through the tapestry, with inner rhythms infiltrating the texture. Working toward carefully calculated and graded climactic points, the ensemble accomplished a stunningly executed finale.

Bruce’s clarinet quintet Gumboots invokes the spirit of South Africa, especially the first reflectively conceived section. For this performance, the string quartet were joined by clarinettist, Annelize de Villiers. From the melancholic opening phrase, idiomatically scored viola ostinato, col legno rhythmical patterning, and thematic interplay, this score evokes images of South African spaciousness, its smells and feel.

Performed with understanding and appreciation with keen artistic communication between performers, musically inspired agogic metrical displacements added to an appreciation for the score’s plaintive expressivity. Culminating with five short dances – post-tonal abstract manifestations of the gumboot experience – the quintet displayed thorough identification with the score, leading to a blisteringly performed closing. Throughout this interpretation, Frankel led the quintet with security and understanding, totally immersed in the score’s intricacies, inflections and nuances.

This magnificent programme needs to be experienced by more than the appreciative audience that attended the first concert. Strongly recommended.

Jeffrey Brukman
Cue specialist writer

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